We got word this week that an old Baltimore friend had passed — Lucas the Lab, with whom Ace and I logged more than a few slow-paced laps around the paths at Riverside Park.
Whether he was a moseying around the park with his owner, Tobey; waiting to be tossed a treat by Stan,the biscuit man; or visiting me as a houseguest, as he did once or twice, Lucas was an easy going guy. I don’t remember him ever meeting a person, a dog, or a mud puddle, he didn’t like.
Rest in peace, Lucas.
Where Ace and I are living now — just down the road from Mayberry — episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” were being shown nearly all day long today after news broke about the actor’s death.
There are those who will tell you there is no real Mayberry in North Carolina. They’re the same ones who will tell you there is no Santa. In truth, in North Carolina, Mayberry is never more than 30 minutes away from wherever you are.
You just head down that country road, away from the big city — the Charlotte, the Raleigh, the Greensboro – and stop in the first town big enough to have gas pumps and a barber shop. If you’re greeted with a smile, and it appears genuine, you’re in Mayberry.
Mayberry is a state of mind — a zen-like destination, reachable only by slowing the hell down, caring about your fellow man, letting yourself think in an unrushed manner and having a second piece of pie.
And one man was the sparkly-eyed epitome of that. Andy Griffith, who died peacefully at his home this morning and, according to the local sheriff, has been laid to rest on the family farm on Roanoke Island.
The “Andy Griffith Show” always struck me as a lot like a dog — able to calm me down, and make me smile, and be convinced, for 30 minutes at least, that the world is a good place, and mankind not too shabby a species.
Dogs had center state in only a few episodes of the show, like the time Opie and a friend rigged a walkie-talkie to a dog and convinced Goober his dog could talk, or, my favorite, the time the sheriff’s office was beseiged with strays.
Of all the smallish towns in North Carolina, Mount Airy — Griffith’s birthplace — is the one that makes the most of its link to Mayberry, and, true to form, it’s only a half hour up the road. We’ve been there for a couple of visits.
But most times we get there via remote control. If you keep flipping, you can usually find Mayberry and, for half an hour, go back to a time and place where folks managed to be social without “social networks,” where the pace was slow, things were black and white, and life had just the right amount of complications — enough to keep it interesting without it being overwhelming.
That’s what I liked about Mayberry: Almost every problem could be resolved calmly, kindly, with unrushed reasoning — even what to do with a pesky pack of stray dogs:
PART ONE: In which Otis gets his breakfast and Opie finds a dog …
PART TWO: In which Barney takes the dogs — 11 of them now — to a happy place …
PART THREE: In which the strays save the day …
Posted by jwoestendiek July 3rd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: andy, andy griffith, andy griffith show, andy taylor, animals, dead, died, dogs, episodes, icon, mayberry, memory, north carolina, nostalgia, opie, pets, sheriff, stray dogs, talking dogs, taylor, television
The homeless and formerly homeless gathered on Skid Row in Los Angeles late last week to remember one of their own — Sheba, a shepherd mix who spent 17 years living on the streets.
On Tuesday, at about 11:30 p.m., Sheba was struck by a car and killed on Alameda Street.
About a dozen current and former street dwellers and animal activists showed up Thursday at a sidewalk memorial service for Sheba on Gladys Avenue.
Among those paying respects was Georgina Warren, who, homeless and addicted to drugs at the time, heard Sheba’s cries while living in a tent on a Skid Row parking lot 17 years ago.
She went to investigate and found a young German shepherd mix chained to a pole, unable to reach a bowl of water someone had left. Warren borrowed some bolt cutters from a nearby mechanic and freed the dog.
It was Warren who, noting how protective the dog was of her shopping cart, came up with the name Sheba, because she seemed to be respected like a queen.
Warren spent the next 10 years with the dog, Downtown News in Los Angeles reports — minus those periods she ended up in jail. When that happened, fellow street dwellers pitched in to take care of Sheba.
Warren left Skid Row in 2008 and is now in recovery. Sheba stayed.
“Sheba was the community’s dog,” said Lori Weise, founder of Downtown Dog Rescue, which provides services for low-income dog owners.
Weise helped care for Sheba, and arranged for the dog to be spayed and microchipped. She was registered on the microchip as the official contact, and there were 11 times that Weise was called to pick up Sheba from animal shelters, always returning her to the streets and the person who was taking care of her — if not always keeping her leashed — at the time.
Weise and others are making arrangements to have Sheba’s ashes buried in the garden at the Hippie Kitchen, a Gladys Avenue service center where Sheba often hung out.
(Top photo: Georgina Warren, left, and Catherine Harris of the nearby Hippie Kitchen, at the memorial service; by Gary Leonard, Downtown News)
(Bottom photo, of Warren and Sheba, courtesy of Lori Weise, Downtown Dog Rescue)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alameda street, animals, car, chained, community, dog, dogs, downtown dog rescue, freed, georgina warren, hippie kitchen, hit, homeless, killed, lori weise, los angeles, memorial, memory, mix, pets, queen, service, sheba, shepherd, skid row
I’m as absorbed with taxidermy and its variations as the next guy (unless that next guy is Charles “Speedy” Atkins), especially when it comes to using it to preserve our pets.
I was fascinated enough to make it a chapter in my book, and curious enough to take a peek at “American Stuffers,” Animal Planet’s new series that each week follows people who are getting their pets, to use the common but erroneous nomenclature, “stuffed.”
But do I want to watch it every week? No.
“Stuffers,” I think, falls into the ever-expanding category of shows we watch to see humans behaving bizarrely — so strangely that we, by comparison, feel normal. You know the ones I’m talking about, those that focus on dysfunctional, obsessive, extreme behavior, like hoarding, kiddie beauty pageants, excessive tattooing, or just the travails of being a punk on the shore of New Jersey.
Flipping the remote these days, it sometimes seem as if Jerry Springer is choreographing what’s on every channel.
The Learning Channel, despite its name, has become one of the worst offenders — offering nearly a steady diet of human dysfunction. Animal Planet, despite its name, is getting more that way too.
I’ll admit that I’ve always been drawn to the bizarre behavers among us, but what makes them interesting to me is why they’ve become that way and the ramifications of it. Those aspects, and any context at all, are almost always missing from these shows, be they weekly series or pseudo-documentaries. Rather than advancing knowledge, they simply gawk. They just put the camera on the oddballs, and we learn nothing except what we already knew: People are weird.
Net gain: Zero.
“American Stuffers” centers on a taxidermy shop in Romance, Arkansas — one the show incorrectly describes as the only one of its type — where Daniel Ross freeze dries dead pets for bereaved owners.
Ross is founder and owner of Xtreme Taxidermy, which he operates with assistance from his wife LaDawn and his three sons. There seems a steady, sideshow-like stream of customers, and a steady stream of drama — real and manufactured — as he freeze dries pets and unveils them in their finished poses to their owners.
The show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m.
“While nothing can bring back these animals, Daniel and his artistic team attempt to come as close as science and art can allow,” Animal Planet says on the show’s website. “They recreate the illusion of life, and clients return home with their pets for eternity.”
That science these days allows much more than freeze-drying is shown in my book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
But the book also looks at how, through history, our inability to part with our pets has led us down some other strange roads, including stuffing them.
“Stuffing,” in the 1800s, was an apt name for the process. Almost every town had a tanner, who would cater to hunters seeking to memorialize their kills. They would remove the innards and sew up the carcasses, filling them with rags, straw, paper and cotton, then use sticks and brooms to beat the animal into something resembling its original shape.
By the early 20th century, taxidermy had become far more sophisticated. Mounts of the original animal were made of wood, wire and later plastic, and the animals pelt was stretched over it.
Freeze drying, an invention of the 1970s, began being used by some taxidermists by the late 1990s, including one in West Virginia, Perpetual Pet, who was featured in my book. The process involves removing the animal’s organs, posing it in the desired position, freezing it and then putting it in a vacuum chamber that removes all the moisture.
The point, as with Victorian-era pet portraiture (sometimes painted after an animal was deceased), as with modern day “digital photo urns,” and as with the most technologically advanced method of all, cloning, is the same — to keep at least a semblance of a departed animal around.
It was while researching “DOG, INC.” that I came across the story of Charles “Speedy” Atkins, who, though he died in 1928 in Paducah, Kentucky, remained above earth, intact and upright (when leaned against a wall) well into the 1990s.
Atkins was an active 50-year-old bachelor. His nickname was said by some to have stemmed from his work habits at a local tobacco factory, but others maintain it described his way with the ladies. He drowned one day while fishing on the Ohio River.
His body was taken to the black-owned funeral home in Paducah operated by A.Z. Hamock, who, inspired by methods the Egyptians used on mummies, had been experimenting with ways to preserve bodies for longer periods.
Speedy wasn’t stuffed, but he was pumped full of Hamock’s secret long-lasting embalming fluid. Hamock’s motivations were practical: Preserving a body with the fluid would allow him to wait for the families of his clients, usually poor, to raise enough money for the funeral.
No family ever came for Speedy, though. And time didn’t reclaim him either. Hamock died in 1949, taking his secret formula with him. But Speedy Atkins stayed above the ground, pickled and preserved, for the next 66 years, most of which he spent stashed in a closet, though funeral home operators would sometimes put him on display for tourists.
He was finally buried in 1994. It was time, Hamock’s widow, Velma, decided. “Sixty-six years is a long time to be with somebody,” she said in an interview with Jet magazine, which covered the funeral.
“It was all an experiment, but it was a success,” she said. “Speedy’s never been duplicated, he’s the only one that we know of. He’s not stinking, nothing. The amazing thing is he hasn’t lost all of his features. He doesn’t look like a corpse laying up in the casket for 66 years.
“I never saw a dead man bring so much happiness to people.”
(Freeze dried pet photos of Tiny and Cisco, courtesy of Perpetual Pet.)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 25th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: american stuffers, animal planet, animals, arkansas, behavior, bereavement, bizarre, bodies, cadavers, charles atkins, cloning, corpses, customes, daniel ross, death, dog death, dogs, dysfunction, grief, human, kentucky, loss, memorials, memory, paducah, perpetual pet, pet death, pet preservation, pets, preservation, preserving, semblance, speedy, stuffed, stuffers, stuffing, taxidermist, taxidermy, television, xtreme taxidermy
They both killed dogs, then went on to even greater achievement, fame and fortune in their respective professions — Vick as an NFL quarterback, Otterness as an artist.
But both are still dogged by their pasts, and both seem to imply that’s wrong — that those who keep bringing up the dogs they killed should forgive and forget and let them get on with their lives.
Boo. Freakin’. Hoo.
Otterness, a Brooklyn artist who once shot and killed a dog and called it art, has just landed a $750,000 city art contract for the Central Subway in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
Vick, meanwhile, will have to subsist under the terms of the $100 million contract he recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In June, the board of directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved a contract with Otterness for 59 bronze sculptures for the proposed subway’s Moscone station. (The board was unaware of the incident in Otterness’ past — even though it has reared its ugly head several times before.)
“Tom Otterness is a world-renowned sculptor who has been commissioned by government agencies around the world to create major permanent public art projects,” Susan Pontious, who pilots the San Francisco Arts Commission’s public art program, said in a statement. “The Central Subway Artist Selection Panel chose Otterness based on the strength of his proposal and his impressive portfolio of past sculptural work.”
We can only guess Otterness doesn’t list his dog-shooting movie on the resume.
Otterness has repeatedly apologized for the 1977 film project. He was 25 when he bought a small black and white dog from an animal shelter, chained it to a fence and then shot it. He filmed it for a work entitled, “Shot Dog Film.”
But the artist, like the football player, has learned that — no matter how much remorse is expressed or, in Vick’s case, time is served — some people aren’t willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to slaying dogs.
“You do not let an animal shooter put up 59 sculptures in your subway system,” said Anita Carswell, director of the Guardian Campaign for In Defense of Animals. “This is a slap in the face of the city. It’s going to be offensive to everybody that rides the subway, a reminder: ‘People who shoot dogs for stupid reasons get rewarded.’”
As Carswell noted, San Francisco is named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
In a recent New York Observer article, here’s how Otterness responded when the dog killing was brought up:
“What the f— do I do with this? Certainly the scene it was part of, it was in the context of the times and the scene I was in … It is something I’ve grown to understand that nothing really excuses that kind of action. I had a very convoluted logic as to what effect I meant to have with that video. Whatever I had in mind, it was really inexcusable to take a life in service of that.”
Posted by jwoestendiek September 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, apologies, art, artist, contract, criticism, dogs, killed, killing, memory, michael vick, moscone station, past, pets, quarterback, remorse, san francisco, shelter, shot dog film, subway, tom otterness
Brain Strong is a DHA supplement that promises to nourish your brain, helping you remember all those things little things that keep slipping your mind — like where you put your sunglasses.
In this ad, the dog, in addition to being a mind reader, has all the answers.
Of course, that’s no help — at least until they invent a pill that lets us understand what our dogs are telling us.
All of our “Woof in Advertising” selections can be found archived here.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ads, advertisements, advertising, brain strong, commercials, dha, dogs in advertising, forgetfulness, marketing, memory, memory boost, mind reader, supplement, woof in advertising
It’s not something the typical dog owners does, but with enough sheddings and some hard work you can make a shawl out of your shiba inu, a cowl out of your collie, a scarf out of your Schipperke, or even an afghan out of your Afghan.
Denise Rothwell of Great Falls, Montana, has turned the fur from her two Great Pyrenees — Bella and Windsor — into scarves and throw blankets, with a litle help from her mother.
Shirley Rothwell spins Bella and Windsor’s hair into yarn, and her daughter does the knitting. Denise got the idea from a book, and asked her mother to make the yarn.
“The fur is white and beautiful. Great Pyrenees are double coated, with a long top layer and a short downy under layer. It’s really quite pretty. I first made her a scarf and I am working on an afghan,” Shirley told the Great Falls Tribune.
Shirley, with Bella and Windsor at her side, demonstrated how to spin shed dog hair into yarn over the weekend at the Montana State Fair.
Denise combs her dogs on a regular basis and collects the hair in plastic bags. She turns it over to her mother, who washes it with Dawn dishwashing soap and places it in a lingerie bag to soak in 140 degree water.
Dawn, Shirley said, takes out that wet dog smell.
Shirley has started an afghan made up of the coats of all six of her Great Pyrenees her daughter has owned. Denise sees it as a way to preserve her memories of them.
“Some people keep ashes or other mementos for their pets, and this is my memento,” Denise said.
(Photo: Larry Beckner / Great Falls Tribune)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: afghans, animals, bella, denise rothwell, dog, dogs, fur, great falls, great pyrenees, hair, hobbies, knit, knitting, mementos, memory, montana, montana state fair, pets, pyrenees, scarf, scarves, shed, sheddings, shirley rothwell, spin, spinning, sweaters, windsor
John Steinbeck and I — in addition to traveling with our dogs, being about the same age when we set forth on our journeys, having the same first names, and a lot of the same letters in our last ones — share something else as well.
I have trysted with her three times — as a reporter in the early 1990′s, as a visiting professor in 2007, and as whatever it is I am now. She’s as beautiful and inviting as she was the first time we met — and, I’m sure, as she was 50 years ago, when she seduced John Steinbeck.
“I am in love with Montana,” Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley. It was his first trip to the state. “For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, and it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”
He babbled on, as people in love do: “…the mountains are the kind I would create if mountains were ever put on my agenda … the calm of the mountains and the rolling grasslands had got into the inhabitants … the towns were places to live in rather than nervous hives. People had time to pause in their occupations to undertake the passing art of neighborliness.”
“Of all the states it is my favorite and my love.”
Steinbeck — apparently getting into being “out west” — stopped in Billings and bought a cowboy hat. In Butte, he bought a rifle. He dipped down into Yellowstone National Park, but after seeing Charley’s reaction to bears that approached his car — “He became a primitive killer lusting for the blood of his enemy” — he turned around and spent night in Livingston.
Ace and I stopped in Billings, in Bozeman, in Butte, and have arrived in Missoula — with no new hats and no sidearms. I am considering investing in a pair of gloves though. Winter is clearly on the way. People are stacking their wood, squirrels are hoarding their nuts, and the sky is taking on that steelier glow it does here in winter.
Once again, the return to a place I briefly called home has triggered memories. The closer I got to Missoula — winding through the hills alongside the Clark Fork River — the more of them resurfaced, leading me to wonder how I could have temporarily misplaced them, especially those that were only three years old.
I guess, they go into deep storage, like the earliest nuts the squirrels gather — pushed to the back to make room for new ones. But I don’t think I get a vote in the matter; it just happens. Returning to a place seems to make them accessible again; I can — with a little help from a familiar sight, sound, or smell — pull them out of the disorganized file cabinet that is my mind, open them up and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember that now.”
It could be something as simple as the lay of the land — they way grassy golden hills climb up into the big blue sky, a sharp curve in crystal clear river, the golden outline of Tamaracks among evergreen. Just seeing the general scale and expanse of it all triggers Montana memories — even memories that have nothing to do with the scale and expanse of it all.
Nearing Missoula — and (after North Dakota turned bleak) getting to experience fall all over again — I was surprised how the yellows were popping on the trees, and by how many things were popping into my head.
Some of them were from nearly 20 years ago — visiting the Unabomber’s former, still forlorn, shack in the woods; hanging out in radon mines, where people soak in radioactivity to heal what ails them; documenting the influx of celebrities to the state, which back then were becoming as common, and unloved, as deer.
Some of them — memories, I mean, not celebrities — were only three years old, and less dusty: long hikes in the mountains; the little house we rented, dubbed the “shack-teau,” while I was a visiting journalism professor at the University of Montana; the peaceful (mostly) campus; my earnest (mostly) students; and how we chased the muck train — as it began transferring mining waste that had collected in the river outside Missoula 100 miles back east to a little town called Opportunity — for our class project.
Memories that had faded like ghost signs kept returning — of fellow professors; of time spent at the student newspaper, The Kaimin; of a party, or two, or three, or four; and how I didn’t (really, really didn’t) want to leave when the semester was over. Because I flat out loved it.
And therein — on top of returning to a place, seeing and smelling it — is one of the keys to recalling times past, at least for me. Your brain alone can’t always take you back there; sometimes, it needs an assist from the heart.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, billings, bozeman, butte, charley, john steinbeck, journalism, love, love affair, memory, missoula, montana, nostalgia, pets, recollections, road trip, senses, steinbeck, students, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, triggers, university of montana
What weary motorist couldn’t use a jolting cup of Joe, a $5 footlong and a peek into the life, times and works of a long dead novelist?
Exit 127 in Sauk Centre spills you onto Main Street — and it’s not just any Main Street. It’s THE Main Street.
The Sinclair Lewis book of that name, published in 1920, was — though labeled fiction — based on small town life in Sauk Centre, renamed, to protect the not so innocent, ”Gopher Prairie” in the book.
A biting satire that exposed the hypocrisy of small town life — showed that, in fact, it was not as carefree, pure and idyllic as it was often portrayed and perceived — the book was denounced by the town, many of whose residents saw themselves and their indiscretions show up within its pages.
With time, though, and in light of the phenomenal success of “Main Street,” not to mention the Nobel Prize for literature Lewis won in 1930, Sauk Centre decided to make the most of its newfound fame.
Since 1930, its population has tripled — it’s up to about 4,000 now — but much of it is unchanged since 1960, when John Steinbeck, a fan and acquaintance of Lewis’, stopped by while crossing the country with his poodle for the book, “Travels with Charley.”
- Steinbeck read “Main Street” in high school and, late in Lewis’ life, Steinbeck would meet him. They’d get together for coffee at the Algonquin in New York. Lewis, an alcoholic, died in 1951 in Rome, at age 65, and his cremated remains were shipped back to Sauk Centre and buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
By 1960, Steinbeck noted, Sauk Centre had realized that, whatever embarassment Lewis had caused, he was their claim to fame.
“I don’t know whether or not it’s true, but I’ve heard he died alone. And now he’s good for the town. Brings in some tourists. He’s a good writer now,” Steinbeck wrote in “Travels with Charley.”
Another 40 years after that, parks, streets, campgrounds and more in Sauk Centre bear his name. His boyhood home is a tourist attraction (though closed in the winter). There’s an annual Sinclair Lewis festival, and it seems like every other business uses ”Main Street” in its name.
The 21 white pages in the Sauk Centre phone book list a Main Street Real Estate, Main Street Theater, Main Street Cafe, Main Street Chiropractic Center, Main Street Coffee Company, Main Street Photo and more.
Ace and I checked into the Gopher Prairie Motel, operated by Wayne and JoAnn Thorson. They’ve had the motel since 1976, and in 1979 renamed it after the fictional town in “Main Street.”
It was part homage to the book — no one perturbed by its original publication is alive anymore, Thorson noted.
Originally, when he and his wife took it over in 1976, it was the Starlight Motel, one of many Starlight — or Star-Lite — motels in the 1970s, none of which were connected to each other in any way. But when a guest told Thorson she almost didn’t stop there because of a bad experience at another “Starlight,” he decided it was time to change names. So he grabbed one out of fiction.
We willingly coughed up the $5 pet fee and, as directed, refrained from relieving ourselves in the grassy front lawn. The next morning I stopped for breakfast at the Ding Dong Cafe on Elm Street (using a two dollars off coupon from the motel).
There, the world’s most attentive waitress filled my coffee cup nearly every time I took a sip. The only other customers were seven men sat at a long table, alternating between talking politics and playing Yahtzee. The quintessential small town, judging from the quick glance we had, remains one.
We cruised by the high school, and saw that, as we’d heard, the football team is called the “Mainstreeters.” Supposedly, opposing teams gave them that nickname, and they later officially adopted it as their own.
Then I popped into the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center, located at the end of the I-94 exit ramp. There, in addition to restrooms and the Chamber of Commerce, there’s an exhibit on Lewis in the back room, featuring old photos and handwritten outlines, maps and character lists.
Because of its valuable, close-to-the-interstate location, there has been talk of closing or relocating the Interpretive Center. The City Council has voted to sell the property, but no buyers have come forward.
At Greenwood Cemetery, Lewis’ cremated remains are buried next to the graves of his father and mother. His gravestone says:
1885 — 1951
Author of “Main Street”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, author, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fiction, gopher prairie, john steinbeck, legacy, literature, main street, mainstreeters, memory, minnesota, non-ficition, novels, pets, reputation, road trip, sauk centre, sinclair lewis, small town, tourism, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley
Ace remembers the park he used to play in, the places he liked to poop, the street he used to live on, the people who gave him treats. Ace remembers which rowhouse windows cats lived behind, which dogs once snapped at him, where his favorite bar is, who’s a friend, who’s a foe and, most of all, how to get a handout.
Watching him back in the old neighborhood, after a three month absence, I was impressed with just how much he remembered — from the moment we returned to Riverside Park and he ran up to Stan, the biscuit man, recognizing him even though Stan was in a new motorized chair.
When he saw one morning, from across the street, his friend Lori in the park, walking her dogs Chi Chi, Lola and Vinnie Barbarino (a foster), he bolted. Of course, she, too, had been a frequent treat provider — so much so that Ace’s ears would always perk up when he heard Chi Chi barking in the distance.
Nearly all dogs remember where they’ve gotten handouts — that’s pretty much how dogs became dogs in the first place, scavenging the outskirts of villages as wolves, then befriending residents who would throw them some leftovers.
I don’t think a dog’s memory is entirely food-based, or even entirely scent-based. I think dogs tend to recognize a good, kind soul when they meet one, and that somehow they register that information in their memory banks. That said, I think that the largest part of it is food and scent-based, and is instinctual, which is maybe why they remember better than we do, or at least I do.
Pehaps if I ran into an old friend in the park, and was struggling to remember his or her name, I would be better able to do so if I knew a free dinner would be involved. When one’s survival depends on it, one is willing to put more energy into being sociable.
I know that has been the case with me, on this journey. One can’t be a guest in someone’s home and then keep to oneself. One can’t just eat and run. One can’t just sleep and blog. That just wouldn’t be right. As our travels continue later this week, and we start month four, on the road, on a shoestring, after our layover in Baltimore, I would be well-served to keep that in mind — to, once again, be a little more like Ace, who once wandered Baltimore’s streets as a stray.
It’s not feigning love to get a treat (or a meal, or a bed, or an RV); it’s not purely reward-based affection, it’s more a case of loving both the person and the treat. That’s how I like to see it: “I am so happy to see you again, and thrilled just to be petted by you, but if perchance you have a treat in your pocket, that’s good, too.”
Wolves could have gotten their leftovers and ran; instead, they ended up bonding with humans and becoming dogs — not purely because it would mean more treats, but because, I like to think, the two species saw something in each other.
Just as wolves would return to where they’d gotten handouts, Ace made his rounds last week in the old neighborhood. At the park, he’d run up to anyone who had ever given him a treat, poking his nose in their pocket or purse to remind them in case they’d forgotten. Ace paused for a longtime when we passed Bill’s Lighthouse, a restaurant near my former home where a man name Jack — once Ace poked his head in the door and made his presence known — used to always come out and him bring a treat. Across the street, at Leon’s, Ace — as he only rarely does — went into overpower-the-master mode and dragged me inside.
He must have known that Donna, one of the bartenders, was there. Every day, before we left the neighborhood, she would see him coming, take a break and feed him a Slim Jim, unwrapping it, and breaking it into small pieces. I’m not saying eating Slim Jims improve memory, but they sure did in Ace’s case.
Another block down, on my old street, I let go of the leash and let Ace run up to the door of his old house. He stood there waiting to get in, and when that didn’t work he went and stood at the door of the neighbor’s — waiting, waiting and waiting.
He fully remembered which dogs in the park were his friends, and avoided the ones he had always avoided. He remember what games he played with whom — with Cooper, it was biting her back legs; with Darcy, it was biting her front paws and taking her entire head into his mouth.
Walking down the sidewalk, Ace remembered every rowhouse in whose front window he had ever seen a cat, and paused to look inside — again, not because he likes to eat cats, but because he loves them. He can stare at them for hours, he’ll play and cuddle with those who permit it, and just maybe, late at night, when nobody’s looking, he’ll go and eat their food.
We are scavengers at heart, my dog and me.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, animals, baltimore, behavior, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, domestication, evolution, food, handouts, humans, instincts, love, memory, ohmidog!, pets, road trip, scavenging, species, survival, travels with ace, treats, wolves