Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hers, Mine and Ours

(The Dogs That Come When Called Are Mine!)

There was a time when I thought a mixed marriage necessarily involved a difference in race, religion, politics or social status. I was wrong. In recent years I’ve discovered that I am in a mixed marriage of a different sort.

Where the family dogs are concerned, my wife is a devout believer in unconditional love. In contrast I am committed to a form of love that is at least structured, if not downright tough on occasion. I’m a fan of the No Free Lunch protocol; she prefers what I guess I’d call the No Earned Lunch approach. She’s the fairy godmother who grants all wishes; I’m the benevolent dictator who does what’s best for his subjects’ well-being – whether they like it or not.

During my working years I was blissfully unaware of our fundamental disagreement regarding the relationship between humans and their dogs. There was no room for dogs in my life or, so I thought, in my heart. My wife had dogs, but for the most part I ignored them.

However, six weeks after I retired I had become a shelter volunteer, fallen in love with a brindle, mixed-breed dog named Cindy, and adopted her as my own. (I’ve already told that story in detail on Cindy’s Dogster page, #622395.) Unlike my wife Cindy did not mind my snoring. Shortly after she entered my life she began sleeping in my bed. She became my constant companion, thereby cementing the idea that she was my dog, just as the other dogs had always been my wife’s.

Although Cindy and I never went to a training class together, it was only natural that I would apply some of what I had learned while exercising other shelter dogs. Within a few weeks after I met her at the shelter she learned to respond to several cues.

She knew sit, down, come, come along (move in the general direction I’m going) and heel. Because I never taught stay as a separate cue, she also knew that sit really meant sit-and-stay-until-released. With the help of trainer Terry Long, whom I’d met at the shelter, I also taught Cindy to wave and bark on cue.

One day on a whim I signed Cindy up for Canine Good Citizen evaluation. Not only did she pass with flying colors, she won a cheesy trophy for Best Performance by a Rescued Dog that day. I was so puffed up that it was hard for me not to gloat.

I hoped that my wife would be moved to follow the same path with one or more of her dogs. I was disappointed. The truth is that nothing could make her love her dogs more than she already does. So why bother?

Several years have passed since Cindy’s one and only award. She is now a little, old lady, at least 13 years old. All but one of my wife’s dogs from that time have gone to the Rainbow Bridge, and of course she has adopted others. I have added another, a red pit bull named Brewski (Dogster #620859), who has changed my life even more than Cindy did.

However, some things don’t change. Brewski is my dog, in the same way Cindy has always been. Brewski knows basic commands and walks well on a loose leash. Captain, Chelsea and Benji are my wife’s dogs. They are all well-loved and lovable, but not one of them reliably responds to a single cue – other than keys jingling or the sound of the electric can opener.

If you ever stop by for a visit, you’ll have no trouble picking out my dogs. They’re the ones who come when you call them.

~ Dave Morefield


Suzi said...

Dave, I enjoyed your story. You have quite a sense of humor, a little on the dry side but you just crack me up sometimes.

I think I enjoyed the fact that I will know your dogs if I ever see you...yours are the ones that come when called...priceless. Your a good guy and your dogs are lucky.

Micah said...

I really enjoyed and identified w/ your story. I adopted a tri colored staffy/pit almost 5 years back after fostering him and falling in love. We named him Archie and he was followed by my wifes Boxer Madison. Who listens to me very well just like Archie, but when momma comes home Madison forgets everything and Archie doesn't. We continue to foster bully breeds and other breeds that are found on any BSL list. We recently adopted Annie who was a surrender by a military person because of the recent BSL put in place in all bases. We have only had Annie (a pure bred brindle and white Staffordshire bull terrier who we think cost a pretty penny, its always been weird to me how much the previous owners spend on their pets and then dump them) anyway we had her a few months, but she has taken to all my commands just like Archie and since she considers herself my dog, she doesn't loose her head when mommy comes around. We currently have a Great-Dane pit bull mix as our new foster. my wife has always wanted a Dane and I believe he views her as his leader and has begun to do the same as her Boxer. I gather it is who ever the dog sees as their leader, that is the person who's rules matter to them. Sorry for the long comment, but the title of your story is exactly what i told our new neighbors the other day on how to distinguish witch dogs belong to me. Great story!