Saturday, July 8, 2006

THEN YA HAVE DOUGLAS

I have written about Douglas in the past frequently because he's my friend and buddy. He has kept me companion here in Tennessee for the past two years. Sometimes, when I lived in the cabin in the hills of Cherokee Forest, he got me through a couple of long winters. Not much going on in them thar hills. Douglas can be a real trip at times. Theres always something new. The fifth week after I got him he appeared at his kitchen dog bowel with a small kitten. I would always leave the kitchen door open just enough for Douglas to come in. I guess I thought this slight opening would save on the air conditioning. But this one day I looked out in the kitchen and watched Douglas on one side of the bowel and the kitten on the other side of the bowel eating dog food. Then Douglas walked out into the yard and the kitten followed. This was the start of a tight bond between those two that goes on to this day. When I moved from Smoky Branch I took that kitten (now a cat named Homer), and Douglas to our present location in Lewisville. They are inseparable. The fact that Douglas accepted Homer back then indicates that dogs and cats are not born to hate each other. They are creatures subject to learning. They respond to what we teach them, and what we do not teach them. A dog left to his own devises will do as dogs do and will respond totally on instinct. They can pick up bad habits if left unchecked. Having a dog as a companion requires commitment from the owner. Not just casual appearances from time to time and a pat on the head. If one selects a dog as a partner then the dog should be treated with respect and dignity. Training time must be set aside to make sure the dog understands his roll and expectations. Not simply tied to a post and fed and given water. Quality time! I am amazed at Douglas continuously. He is constantly growing in his abilities to absorbe information partaining to what I require of him. I think this is because he is getting older now and is more mature. He has become more receptive to my commands and wants. Sit, stay is instantly adheared to. He will now sit and stay when I give the command and I can walk hundreds of yards away and he still will be in his sit/stay position. Oh, he is watching me carefully for the "come" command. He knows he will get his reward of kind words and a pat on the head combined with a scratch behind the ears when I say come. We have refined this little game to where all I have to do is raise my arm and do a "come here" with my hand. He bounds instantly to me for his scratch behind the ear. He is wonderful. Get in the truck and get in the boat. He loves those commands as they offer adventure for him. I constantly change his fun options. When I say get in the truck now, he does not know what to expect. Sometimes its to the fields and woods where he can chase squirrels and sometimes its on to the boat where he stands tall on the deck at the front and feels the wind at 40 miles per hour. I enjoy him. And thats how it should be. He is my friend and I truly love him. I constantly worry that I am not doing all I should to keep him happy. I now have a job that takes me away from the house for ten hours a day. He has to sleep or lay in the yard until I come home. I would like to go fishing or motorcycle riding to unwind. But I always have a guilt complex. He has been patient all those hours and has waited for his human to return to him. I pull into the driveway and he is looking out the livingroom window at me with eyes bright with excitement. When I lift the garage door he runs out into the driveway and sits beside the right side truck door waiting for me to let him in. But at times I dissappoint him by selecting the motorcycle. Its tuff on the emotional nerves at times to deny him. All he wants to do is be with me. His intelligence is amazing at times. If I don't take him out for an adventure for three days, he becomes bored. He will come into my bedroom at three in the morning and lay his muzzle down on the edge of the bed at my face and emit a low, gentle, gutteral growl. If I do not respond he will raise his tone. All the while staring at me without moving. If I still ignore him, he will bark almost inaudibly. He needs to do something outside pertaining to adventure and it has to be now. I never dissappoint him. He doesn't do this often but I respect his mental state and get up for an adventure somewhere at that ungodly hour. We usually jump in the truck and go to the lake shore. He loves to swim. But he really shines when on the boat. He stands tall right on the most forward tip of the bow and raises his muzzle into the air to absorbe the wind and the smells of nature. I sometimes think he enters a primative state of mind. His eyes are bright and the wind waffles his coat as we speed along. He does not miss a thing. His head moves to face the water as logs and debris passes beside the boat. No bird flys close without his attention. The deer at the edge of the shoreline receive super scrutiny. He is hunting without exerting any energy. But he can not give chase. He has learned to lean with the boat when in turns and he braces himself when we approach wakes from other boats. He knows that wakes are dangerous to him. He will leave the bow and come to the rear of the boat if a wake appears huge, as some are. A year ago he got tossed out of my boat when we hit a wake caused by a ocean size yaut on Fort Loudoun Lake. He never forgot. We stop often at islands so he can run on the beaches and swim. He comes out of the water and does happy laps up and down the beach until tired. Its his way of saying thanks for all this. He is wonderful. I have varied my life for him, but not too much. He is part of me, and I part of him. He is gentle but has a wild side that is wonderful to watch. He is a Golden Retriever and does have those hunting tendencies. He is not one to walk casually by my side. He ranges out but always watches where I am. Never too far. And when I call, he instantly returns. I really dread the time that must surely come when Douglas must depart from me on his final adventure alone. I really dread it. He is so innocent and dependent on me now. And I guess I am dependent on him too. I try not to dwell on that eventual terrible day but I do. Maybe its because I have so much alone time. Especially when on the boat. Theres lots of time to think. But my boy will pass on someday and all I will be able to do is hold him on my lap and caress his face gently so he does not panic, and hope his passing is soft, painless and quick. Then, what will I do? What will I do?