It’s amazing to me how much I learn about human life from what our dogs exhibit in the conduct of their own. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who sees this – but, perhaps, I’m the only one who is looking.
My visiting Golden Retriever father, Bubba sired four litters. He is now neutered. Although he is one of the most gentle creatures, constantly looking for a gratuitous caress or insisting on one by marching between a person’s legs so they cannot ignore him, he doesn’t do well with un-neutered male dogs.
The dog park, with its requirement that all animals over the age of four months must be spayed or neutered in order to use the facility, should be a safe place to take all four of these creatures on our three outings a day. But it isn’t. During four of the last seven days, there have been one or more un-neutered males at the park.
I guess it’s possible that the people who brought their dogs didn’t see the sign specifying this rule. But in most cases I honestly doubt that. And because I believe that the dogs in my charge have the right to enjoy their time in a non-threatening environment I have felt obligated to point out to these folks the fact that they are violating the rule.
One gentleman apologized and said he didn’t realize that and immediately left with his dog. The other three found excuses why this rule didn’t apply to them. As a result, seeing that they were going to stick around, I took my charges and left. I have decided that if I see them again, having brought this to their attention, I will call the Park Marshalls and let them do their job. I’m sure they will bring a greater sense of urgency to this than I have been able to achieve.
Since I first met the three golden family about six months ago, Gracie and I have enjoyed their company as guests for almost half that time. Of course, mom, dad and baby already had a bond – but that bond now includes Gracie. It is remarkable to me and to others how, when they are visiting, she literally has a smile on her face. And I think that of the three, she has most closely bonded with papa, Bubba. The two of them, when we are home, can usually be found sleeping next to each other.
On an evening visit to the dog park the other night, a neutered male, I think an Australian shepherd mix, came in. He was about three years old and extremely playful. But he also wanted to do the dominance game with Gracie. We had completed four laps around the park and were seated in the shade for a few minutes before we began the drive home. Bubba was sitting in front of me and I was petting him.
When he saw this dog jump on Gracie he stood up and began snarling and barking and snapping his teeth. Fortunately, I was able to grab his collar. He definitely had blood in his eye and I know that there would have been an awful incident had I not been able to hold him. The shepherd continued trying to mount Gracie and Bubba kept up his protest until the other dog’s owner came over and pulled him off. When she had walked him a safe distance I took the four of them home.
It is clear to me that Bubba has identified Gracie as a member of his pack – or in human terms, family. He is the alpha dog and he is going to defend his family from any intrusions or threats from others. He is a devoted papa. While I certainly don’t want any dog fights to happen, it does make me feel good to know that Gracie, who hasn’t a mean bone in her body and I doubt would know how to defend herself, has him to look out for her.
Then I thought about my childhood – and how I had my own father who would have done anything and everything necessary to protect me from harm. Dad was a slight man, only about 5’ 8” and 160 pounds, but I know that if I were threatened he would have turned into a giant. How fortunate that Gracie has Bubba and I had my father to provide for our security.
And then I think about all those children who are abused, left to fend for themselves without a protector – a father figure – a role model. Although when we speak of child abuse we generally think about the infliction of active physical damage, I would argue that neglect and abandonment convey their own very deep scars. Those may be invisible but they cut like knives through the makeup of the children of our one parent families – whose numbers are increasing daily.
Could the disintegration of the basic family unit be one of the reasons that we live in an increasingly more self-centered society? Could it be one of the reasons that our children and young people engage in more and more horrible random acts of violence? Could the abdication of principle and morality explain so much of what is happening in world? And can our continuing along this path lead to anything other than our own destruction?