We humans, with our vastly superior intellects, and being the far more evolved and civilized species, don’t need no stinkin’ animals to show us how to live life.
You’d think not — especially with Christmas approaching. Between all the peace, good will and fellowship the season supposedly brings, and all the attention, with his death, on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of kindness and forgiveness, we shouldn’t be needing, right now, any furry creatures reminding us bigger-brained, two-legged types how to get along with each other.
Yet, in the past month, they seem to keep doing so — almost as if they think the message has failed to get through.
First, it’s a goose and a dog partnering up in the UK. Then it’s an elk and a dog becoming backyard playmates in Washington state. Both pairs were shown at play, raising the question, at least in some heads, if animals of different sizes and species — like elephants and dogs, or cats and crows – can get along with each other, why can’t we?
Now comes this latest pair, a fox and a dog in Norway who met in the woods last summer and became fast friends.
Norwegian photographer Torgeir Berge was out for a walk with his four-year-old German shepherd, Tinni, when they encountered an abandoned baby fox. Since then the fox, which Berge named Sniffer, has regularly met up with them on their trips through the woods, and Berge has been taking pictures of the get-togethers.
Now he’s working on a book about the unlikely friendship with writer Berit Helberg, who told TODAY.com that the fox was probably an orphan whose mother had died, and was probably seeking food, help and company.
“Not many people are privileged to see and enjoy a friendship like this, but Torgeir Berge has both seen them in action and gotten the opportunity to catch this in images that don’t need words,” Helberg wrote in post. They hope the story will raise awareness for animal rights and the conditions that some animals are forced live in as a result of the fur trade, Helberg said.
Yes, animals of different species far more often kill and eat each other to survive. And these unlikely interspecies friendships, seemingly choreographed from the grave (or wherever he is) of Walt Disney, are the exception. It’s not like animals got together and said ”Let’s rethink this whole survival of the fittest thing, and live together in harmony, eating wild berries.”
It was from animals, after all, that we most likely learned that mindset — that the world belongs to the fittest, richest or whoever roars the loudest.
Heartwarming as these unlikely friendship stories are, they’re not messages being sent to humans by animals.
But, particularly at Christmas, they are messages worth receiving, and learning from.
(Photos by Torgeir Berge, via Today.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, book, cat and crow, christmas, dog, dog and elephant, dog and elk, dog and fox, dog and goose, elephant, elk, fox, fox and dog, friends, goose, humans, interspecies, kindness, love, man, mandela, norway, pets, photographer, photography, relationships, society, torgeir berge, unlikely friendships, wildlife
When it comes to animals, there are those softies among us who see nearly everything they do – especially dogs — as magical and motivated by love.
Then there are those – generally not ohmidog! readers — who see dogs as unfeeling beasts concerned only with their next meal and their own comfort.
When a dog does something that seems kind, noble or otherwise amazing, members of that first group will “ooh” and “ah,” while members of the second will say “so what?” Anything a dog does, in their view, is explainable solely by instincts, training and will to survive. That way dogs snuggle with you at night? They are just trying to keep warm. Those goo goo eyes adoringly staring at you? They’re just trying to manipulate you into providing a treat.
For sure, the first group may often read too much into the motivations behind a dog’s behavior. But, just as surely, the second group sometimes isn’t reading en0ugh.
I, being author of a blog on the amazing things dogs do, am clearly a member of the first group. But, also being a realist and even more of a cynic, I can sometimes – just sometimes – see the second group’s point. As soon as I watched this video, for instance — once my “awwwwwwww” came to the final “w” — I started wondering about the motivations of the lion and dachshund, and, realistically, who was getting exactly what out of this relationship.
Bonedigger, the lion, and Milo, the dachshund, live together at Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla. Milo was among a litter of puppies living a the park when Bonedigger, who suffers from a bone disease, arrived as 4-week-old cub. The pups and lion eat together every day.
After the meal, Milo licks Bonedigger’s teeth clean.
I’d venture Milo is not exhibiting love — or at least not love alone — when he sticks his head into the mouth of a lion. I’d submit, too, that Bonedigger’s dental hygiene is not Milo’s top concern. (Then again, you never know.)
More likely, Milo is after a few final morsels, and Bonedigger, for his part, cooperates because he appreciates the attention, or the gum massage, or having a wiener dog who serves as his own personal flossing aide.
Park president Joe Schreibvogel says the dogs and lion have eaten together since they were youngsters. They also cuddle with each other, and sometimes even mimic each other. It’s as if, species differences aside, they’ve become a pack.
“The dogs thought it was just a big puppy and have loved each other since,” Schreibvogel, who goes by the name “Joe Exotic,” told Today. The video of the lion and the dog has brought some needed attention to the Oklahoma zoo, which suffered about $18,000 in damage during the recent tornadoes. A spokesperson for the zoo says they’ve taken in about 100 homeless animals — domestic and exotic — since then.
But back to Milo and Bonedigger, and the question at hand.
Who’s getting what from this unlikely inter-species relationship, and who is benefitting most – the tooth-sucking canine, or the massive feline, who, rather than roaring at the little dog, says “ahhh” (or is it awwwww?) and lets him have at it?
My guess, is it’s a third species, one whose members sometimes over-analyze, and sometimes under-analyze, but still haven’t loss the ability to be amazed; one whose members – just as Bonedigger seems to appreciate a good tooth-licking — like to have their hearts warmed now and then.
Judging from the half million views this video has gotten in the past month, I’d say it ’s us.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 17th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: amazing, animals, behavior, bonedigger, dachshund, dachshunds, dog, dogs, emotions, exotic, exotic animal park, garold wayne, human, humans, inter-species, interspecies, joe exotic, joe Schreibvogel, lion, lions, love, loyalty, milo, motivation, oklahoma, pets, relationships, symbiotic, trust, unlikely, video, view, zoo
“My Dog Tulip” — J.R. Ackerley’s classic account of how a dog entered his life, stimulated his curiosity, broadened his horizons, and brightened his otherwise cranky golden years — is now out as an animated movie, and the book has been reissued in paperback.
“Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs,” the British writer wrote in what’s perhaps the most famous line of the 1956 book about the bond between dog and man.
“Sometimes love really is a bitch,” reads the tagline, updated for the times, of the new movie.
The movie came out late last summer, directed by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, who are also responsible for the hand-drawn animations that, on screen, are like a New Yorker cartoon come to life.
The film is narrated by Christopher Plummer, in the role of Ackerley, and also features the voice of Lynn Redgrave, who died in May and to whom the movie is dedicated. One review called it “the most sophisticated dog movie ever made.”
It tells the story of a lonely gay man who has all but given up on finding a longtime companion and “ideal friend” in the human world.
Enter Tulip, or, as was her name in real life, Queenie, a German shepherd Ackerley acquired from his neighbors when he was “quite over 50,” and with whom he would spend the next 15 years.
“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.”
Ackerley died in 1967, and though the book is now 55 years old, it retains a sense of freshness attributable to the fact that Queenie was his first dog. His keen observation of inter-species interaction is that of someone who just landed on the planet, as opposed to being an old hand with dogs.
“It seemed to me both touching and strange,” he says at one point, “that she should find the world so wonderful.”
We long-time dog lovers know exactly what he means. It’s what makes dogs so lovable — they see the world as wonderful, and, no matter how curmudgeonly we may be, they help us see it that way too.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ackerley, animals, animated, animation, bond, books, books on dogs, connection, dog books, dogs, fierlinger, german shepherd, jr ackerley, literature, movie, movies, my dog tulip, paperback, paul, pets, queenie, relationships, sandra, tulip
Gotta love Dundalk.
It’s Baltimore at its blue collar, unpretentious best, and it’s where, as our wandering continues, we’ve hung our hat (and leash) for the past three days as we attempt to figure out what to do next.
Once again, we were in the home of an ex (no bridge-burner me) — a modest little house on a traffic circle, across the street from the Dog House, a to-go restaurant painted highway stripe yellow that serves up hot dogs, burgers and greasy breakfast sandwiches that I eat on the front porch as Ace and his better-than-ever friend Fanny frolic in the front yard.
We sleep on the couch, wake up to the best kind of coffee (already made), take daily walks down to Bear Creek and spend most of the time on the front porch, writing.
Ace and Fanny alternately wrestle and rest in the shade, and Fanny always leaps up and runs along the fence when a motorcycle, boat on a trailer, or skateboarder passes by — those apparently being among her triggers.
We’ve gotten to know Brutus, a six-month old, but already huge, chocolate lab next door who likes to jump on (but not over, yet) the chain link fence, dangling his paws over the top rail and leaning as if to say, “C’mon over, let’s talk for a while.”
We’ve watched as the school buses roll by, and fresh-faced students head to bus stops, falling into the routine of another school year. One paused at the fence — a Mountain Dew in one hand, an open and half eaten plastic bowl of microwaveable macaroni and cheese in the other, her requisite blue uniform shirt open to display more cleavage than I would think her school would deem appropriate – and asked me for a cigarette.
“Fresh out,” I replied.
In Dundalk, people say what they mean, mean what they say, and wear what they want. If they’re feeling crabby, they show it (especially in the traffic circle), and if they’re feeling friendly, they show that, too.
Today, Ace and I bid farewell to Fanny and head back to the old ‘hood — South Baltimore, where I’ll stay again with my schoolteacher friends for a couple of days before heading to another friend’s home nearby for a few days more. She’s going to the beach, and her cat needs feeding. Even though her cat hissed at me the last time I fed it — and after I fed it, no less — I quickly volunteered for the job.
Our time in Dundalk has been peaceful, work-friendly and comfortable, but one shouldn’t overstay one’s welcome — especially with an ex, even if she is your dog’s number one fan and Godmother. For ex’s move on from the shared life and start their own and, painful as it might to no longer fit into it, that’s reality.
Like the signs say, one must yield to the traffic in the circle.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 3rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, baltimore, brutus, circles, dog house, dog's country, doghouse, dogs, dogscountry, dundalk, ex, fanny, fences, friends, john and ace, maryland, neighbors, relationships, road trip, traffic, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
The behavior he once found so annoying that he would go upstairs to avoid her — where Fanny feared to tread — Ace seems to now find mostly endearing.
Fanny was a rescue dog, fostered by my ex-girlfriend, adopted by a family, then returned for being overly rambunctious, at which point the ex-girlfriend became her forever mom. If you ever want to pry them apart, I suggest dynamite and bulldozers, but I’m pretty sure not even that would work.
Highly spirited, we’ll call her — the dog, I mean – and Ace, back then, would only put up with her in small doses. He’d be excited when she visited, and they’d romp for 15 minutes or so, at which point he would want a rest. Fanny is not familiar with that notion.
So she’d stay in his face, and follow him wherever he went, even into his crate, and bark at him when he wouldn’t play, and Ace would eventually head for the second floor.
This time around — the ex is putting me up for a few days in her sunflower surrounded home in Dundalk — he just keeps playing, and he has even added a bark to his repertoire, something he never did before. He’d make growly lion-like noises, but never would he bark.
Now he barks right back at her, sometimes instigates the play, and doesn’t seem to quickly tire of it — at least not yet. He hasn’t been seeking refuge on the second floor, but then again the second floor isn’t air conditioned.
I’m not sure if he’s just happy to see her again, or if he realizes he’s a house guest and therefore shouldn’t be selfish or surly. He is being both more playfully assertive and more tolerant, and I can only conclude that absence — as it visibly does with dogs, sometimes less visibly so with humans — did indeed make his heart grow fonder.
Funny thing, relationships.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, animals, assertive, baltimore, behavior, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, dundalk, energy, ex, fanny, girlfriend, level, pets, play, relationships, rescue, road trip
Nick Galifianakis the cartoonist — not to be confused with Nick Galifianakis, the congressman (his uncle); Zack Galifianakis, the comedian (his cousin); or Peter Galifianakis, the sculptor (his father) — paid a moving tribute to his dog Zuzu in Friday’s Washington Post:
“She was my best friend, my therapist, my tranquilizer, my daily affirmation that life is fundamentally good, and my muse,” he writes.
Zuzu, who was named after the character in ”It’s A Wonderful Life” (George Bailey’s daughter), died last week. Galifianakis frequently used Zuzu – a pit bull — in his illustrations.
Galifianakis worked as an editorial cartoonist and illustrator for USA Today and US News & World Report, and as a free-lance editorial cartoonist. He still illustrates the columns written by his ex-wife, Carolyn Hax, in the Post’s Style section.
Among the cartoonist’s memories of his dog:
“How she’d be in a park full of people and dogs, and look for me … How she rested her big, cartoonish head on my thigh … How she let me rest my feet on her as she slept under my drawing board … Her expressive eyebrows, particularly delightful to her cartoonist companion … Her weight when I carried her up and down the stairs, after her knees wore out.
“When I realized it was time, I held her for hours until the vet arrived at my home,” Galifianakis writes. “People keep saying I should feel good about the great life I gave her, but I know I was the lucky one, because she so effortlessly filled my world and unleashed in me a bottomless supply of love. If you had asked me the day before what my last words to Zuzu would be, I would have said, ‘I love you.’
“But when the moment came, the words I said, before I knew I was saying them, were ‘Thank you.’”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 23rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, carolyn hax, cartoonist, cartoons, death, dog, dogs, galifianakis, homage, illustrator, loss, love, memories, nick galifianakis, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, relationships, tribute, washington post, zuzu
Among the dogs we met in Charlotte during our visit to The Dog Bar, were Skyler and Pierce, two white Great Danes who — one being half blind, one being deaf, neither having the distinct black markings harlequin Great Danes are supposed to have — were headed to the kind of future “defective” dogs often face.
Namely, no future at all.
They were part of a larger litter that turned out to be unprofitable. All the pups were affected by a strain of distemper — but because of their additional handicaps, Skyler and Pierce, the breeder decided, couldn’t even be given away, and therefore should be put down.
That’s when Laura Moss and Fred Metzler stepped in. Laura was working at an animal emergency clinic at the time. The litter of Great Danes ended up there. She already had three dogs at home, so she asked Fred, her friend of several years, to adopt the two future-less siblings.
Fred, a sales manager for a company that makes automatic doors, agreed. But, because he traveled a lot, he often called upon Laura to pet sit the duo — Skyler, the deaf one, and Pierce, the blind one — when he was out of town.
At Fred’s house, Laura noticed, the two pups — as they did at the hospital — continued to stay at each others’ sides. When they went to sleep, Skyler would lay her head on top of Pierce.
“That way, if he hears something, he’ll react. Then she’ll be the police dog and go check it out. They’ve been that way since they were babies,” Laura said. “There’s no way we could separate them.”
Skyler, named for her sky blue eyes, is 106 pounds; Pierce, named, for his handsomeness, after actor Pierce Brosnan, is 175 pounds. Despite their handicaps, they manage, with help from each other, to do all that dogs do.
Fred and Laura have come up with a system of sign language to communicate with Skyler, including more than 20 commands. The two dogs have become a striking and familiar sight in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood. They even march in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade.
And they get along fine with Laura’s other dogs — a miniature pinscher named Jade, a Boston terrier named Halley and a dalmatian named Dax, who she also brought home from the animal hospital. His former owner dropped him off and, once learning he had heartworm, never picked him up.
Since she talked him into adopting the dogs, Laura and Fred have become a couple, and now share a residence with all five of their dogs.
Laura doesn’t give the Great Danes full credit for bringing two humans together — but maybe, on some level, the relationship between the two big white dogs represents a lesson to be learned: Having someone in your life you can turn to, and depend on, and whose strengths can compliment your weaknesses, has its advantages.
Or maybe that’s reading too much into it.
“The friendship is what brought us together,” Laura says, “but the Great Danes didn’t hurt.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 20th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, animals, blind, breeders, charlotte, deaf, dependence, disabilities, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fred metzler, great danes, handicaps, harlequin, laura moss, noda, pets, pierce, relationships, rescue, rescued, road trip, sign language, skyler, the dog bar, travel, traveling with dogs, white