Thursday, March 31, 2011

Animal Attraction

Yesterday I was driving to an appointment and saw 2 dogs (a basset and a beagle mix) wandering the street.  I got out and saw that they were VERY friendly and both had collars.  Before I had the chance to look at the collars, though, the basset walked to the gated front lawn of a nearby house, where another dog waited (in the yard), and turned to look back at me.  I figured it was his way of telling me that he lived there, but I checked his collar just to be sure.  And yes, both he and the mutt lived there.  So I opened the gate (luckily the 3rd dog had zero interest in running out) and let the dogs back in.
I always seem to attract lost dogs.  Most of the time I'm able to get them back home, but sometimes I have to call the SPCA.  I don't know if I'm some sort of dog whisperer, or just a sucker for our furry friends.
OK, scratch that (no pun intended): I absolutely DO know, and it's the latter.
When I was a kid, I'd often go for walks around the neighborhood, and every time I did, the cats would find me.  We had lots of cats in the 'hood, and I'd attract at least 2 or 3 on every walk.  Not the same 2 or 3, either.
In my early 20's, when I started at the Shakespeare company, I continued my walks.  This time, however, the dogs, cats, and even a horse one time, would often follow me.  It' was a fairly rural area and the critters would always amble back home, eventually. It took some getting used to, as I had just moved there from Manhattan.  One time I was out walking and heard a rustling in the bushes next to me.  I immediately jumped away, into the middle of the road, tore the headphones off my Walkman (this was 19 years ago, lol!) and crouched, waiting for my would-be attacker, ready to strangle him with the cord.  Well, my "assailant" turned out to be a cow.  Looking decidedly unworried by my ninja-with-deadly-headphones stance.

In grad school I met my husband.  A few days after that first meeting, we met up again at a bonfire.  He had his dog with him, a big, fluffy, husky-looking guy.  Having been dogless for 9 years at that point, I fell in love at first sight.  When Future Hubby asked me to watch Tundra (the dog, who turned out to be a 2 year-old Alaskan Malamute) while he got something out of his car, I heartily agreed, not knowing that it was a ruse, that FH was planning on spying on us to see if we got along.  Luckily, the love-at-first-sight thing went both ways, and Tundra was soon sitting in my lap, all 95 pounds of sweet malamute-ness of him.
Tundra would end up being OUR dog, and my constant, faithful companion.  He lived for another 8 years before succumbing to cancer, and in that time he was my protector, my baby, and my best friend.  He was filled with personality, and universally admired, everywhere we went (and, boy-howdy, did he know it!  That guy was SHAMELESS!)  He was also a gigantic flirt, and liked to put on a show (like the time he jumped into a water fountain at an outdoor mall in Santa Barbara.)  He taught our current dog, Luna, how to howl.  And when he passed, I dreamed that he was in a huge dog park, fit and healthy, running happily.  In the dream, he sat in front of my and I crouched down to be on his level: he put his furry forehead up to mine, as he had so often in life, gave me his big paw, and then turned and ran off to play with the other dogs.
A couple years later, his best friend Nanook joined him.  And Luna is now nearly 13; who knows how much longer we'll have her.  But when I get sad about that, I remember that her buddies will be waiting for her when her time comes.  And in the meantime, she has Chopper, a 65-pound pit bull, to boss around.  And she does! Lying on his bed, eating his food, and generally giving him a "don't-mess-with-me-kid" attitude. (I'd like to introduce anyone who's afraid of pit bulls to Chopper; the only dangerous thing about him is his tail, which causes gale-force winds because he wags it so hard.  Well, that and the fact that he thinks he's a 6-pound terrier and tries to climb onto your head.)

Finally, you all know by now about my feathered friends.  Well, the other day I saw something I'd NEVER seen before: A duck running.  In all my 41 years, I must admit I'd never seen that.  And this guy was moving at a pretty good clip!  It wasn't the most graceful movement, but, hey, it got him where he wanted to be (by me, the bringer of bread) before the other ducks and geese, and he got first dibs.

So does this mean anything?  I honestly don't know.  I DO know that I still get excited when I see the bunnies out on the field near our house at night, and I think it's adorable to see water fowl swimming in the pool, and I LOVE May because all the ducklings and goslings are presented to the world.  I'm quite proud of the fact that one goose not only ate out of my hand, but even let me pet her.

If it DOES mean anything, I guess it's that I'm a big ol' softie.  Show me an animal or a child and, well, I get all gooey inside. And, yes, I often use baby talk.  I admit it.

I also know I'm not alone.  Two years ago one of our neighbors installed a wooden ramp on the side of the lagoon so the baby ducks and geese would have an easier time getting in and out of the water.  And when some ducklings were in the pool and couldn't get out, another neighbor used the hot tub cover as another ramp for them.  There are signs all over that say "Caution: Duck Crossing" and show a picture of a duck walking across the street, carrying a satchel.  Traffic often stalls because drivers are waiting for the geese to cross.

So when I start to despair about the state of humanity, I think about all this.  About the time I was debating a guy on Facebook about politics and we ended up discussing our dogs.  About the fact that even though I disagree with 99.99999% of what is said on Fox News, I LOVE that they do stories on laughing babies and extraordinary animals (like the Corgi who's good at math!).

And then all is well again, at least for a little while.  The amazing Temple Grandin  wrote a book called "Animals Make Us Human."  Ain't that the truth?!


Charlotte said...

Aw! So true about animals being the antidote to pretty much everything bad. Like babies, they are so innocent and funny and sweet - you just can't help but smile!

Geosomin said...

A ddduck ramp - I love it!
When I was in undergrad, J and I lived near a lake and for some reason some ducks made a nest by our building. When the mom duck walked the ducklings to the lake you could see them parade across the road and over the grass to the lake -it was adorable. On more than 1 occasion J and I would stop traffic so they could get over safely. :)
I'm waiting for the first batch here on the river this's what I miss most about running. So much wildlife to see in the mornings...