Wednesday, September 3, 2008

the animals we chose

Whenever people ask me what kinds of animals I have, I shoot off the list (sheep, chickens, geese, rabbits, bees etc.) When I finish they always seem confused and say something like "Oh, but you seem like such a dog person? I'm surprised you don't have a dog?" and I am taken aback. Of course I have dogs! Why didn't I mention them? Then I remember the initial question. They asked me what kinds of animals I have. My dogs aren't animals. They're roommates.

Of course that's not true. Dogs are animals. Happy, blissful, dependant animals I couldn't live without. But my own dogs are so removed from farmlife I forget about them when I rattle off livestock in my keep. Probably because they aren't sheepdogs or free-ranging farm mutts. They are housedogs, hiking dogs, car dogs, sled dogs. They are either with me on the couch, riding next to me in the car, or out in the middle of the wilderness hiking under pack or pulling me on a sled. Ever since I adopted them from Tennessee Sleddog Rescue in 2005 - Jazz and Annie have been with me for three states, two cross country road trips, and one book. They've tolerated Tennessee summers and Idaho winters. They've walked on crowded southern city streets and endless New England dirt roads. They've eaten chickens, broke into National Parks, and ran away at weddings. They've kept me warm on cold nights, gave me an excuse to flirt with guys at dog parks, and helped me meet so many interesting people in the mushing world. I am humbled by all they give me.

A home without a dog is a dead cell to me. A place you sleep and eat inbetween work and little trips you think are more important than they are. But having dogs changes your address (and life) in a way cats and goldfish can't. I'm sure cats and goldfish are perfectly fine pets, but let's be honest, anyone can feed your cat and goldfish. Those animals really could care less where their food comes from.

Dogs however, need us. I once questioned this, assuming most dogs would happily shack up with other owners that treated them well and fed them on time. That is until the dark day I saw a Siberian Husky waste away and die in a rescue volunteer's arms. It had been perfectly healthy a few weeks ago, but when it's owner died in a car accident it stopped eating and drinking. It committed suicide out of misery. As the withered girl's head dropped, all the other sleddogs howled together in one mournful song. It shakes me up to remember it. I can still hear the 40 other malamutes and Siberians in their runs, all wailing in unison at the death of the little girl. Never again would I see these amazing dogs, certainly not Siberians, as pets. They are the animals we choose to wander through life together. We created them to live with us, bred out their wildness, made their ears floppy, and now they need us.

And I need them.


Blogger The Old Man and His Dog said...

You get "it" regarding dogs. I love my Nala(from a shelter too), and still miss my Meg. Life is a lot less if you don't have a dog in it. They are work and responsibility, but so is any other valuable relationship. Dogs give that unconditional love that us humans all search for. I have a print by Tim Cox called "Hurry Sun Up" that says it all. Love that print.

September 3, 2008 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Sean Sullivan said...

Yours are are truely great pair of dogs. Coming from me, that's a big thing. you may convert me yet.

September 3, 2008 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Thistledog said...

As a newcomer to your world, I have to ask which one's which - Jazz the blondie/brown huskie and Annie the black/grey or the other way 'round? BTW a fabulous family photo of the three of you there...

They're your pack and you are theirs; no other way to describe it i'm sure. So they're not farm dogs so what? They certainly participate.

September 3, 2008 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Jazz is the red one, he's 7 and Annie's the black one, she's 6. I adopted both of them when I lived in Knoxville when they were four.

September 3, 2008 at 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i do miss having dogs, my neighbor has one which is nice. i would normally agree on the whole cats vs. dogs front, but my cats know when i come home. when my friends watch them when i'm away, everything's all hunky dory, they don't make messes, very pleasant. the second i come home, all couch cushions are off the couch. when i walk past magda, she throws herself on the floor for me to rub her belly. barnabus comes up every morning when i check my email to curl up on my lap.. every single morning, and this is well after the food is taken care of. also in the morning, magda will run into my bedroom and cry until i pet her. even if they're faking it, they do a good job at making me feel needed.

not sure if i lucked out or what, and as much as it's not like me to say it, i do think some cats defy their standoffish stereotypes. i'll never give up my love for dogs, but i think in some cases, cats aren't all bad.

September 3, 2008 at 11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dog has helped me through very difficult times and only asks for food and shelter in return. These beautiful creatures are faithful to the very end.

September 4, 2008 at 11:26 PM  
Blogger Alix said...

I've been reading through your blog over the last few days (found it from the barnheart article and facebook group).

Just have to say I think you do cats a disservice, as they can be just as loyal, and as much of a companion as a dog. Growing up my cat would be there when I left for school in the morning, waiting for a hug or scritch. He'd then disappear for the whole day, showing up 10 minutes before the bus was due to drop me off. When I moved away for university he lasted 3 months without me - when I went home for Thanksgiving he was so excited to see me, and spent the whole weekend just being with me. Not even a week after I'd left he disappeared. Probably off trying to find me.

So anyways, a cat can be as stalwart and loyal of a companion as a dog if you give it a chance!

February 1, 2010 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

Your dogs are truly part of your family and you're blessed to have them; but I too agree that you're doing a disservice to cats. I have actually written a response post on my own blog that I hope you'll take the time to read.

July 2, 2011 at 2:07 PM  

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