September 30, 2008

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Let me tell you a story.  Once upon a time, there was a man who took photography classes.  He was a dog loving guy, as all good guys are.  He needed something to take pictures of for his classes.  A friend suggested he talk to a nice lady from the Woodford Humane Society about taking pictures for their website and for Petfinder.  So the man met the nice lady and they became friends.  The man took lots of pictures for the humane society and met some very special animals.  One of those animals was a scrawny terrier mix named Samantha.  Samantha was adopted and returned to the humane society twice.  Twice the man took her picture for Petfinder.  Samantha fell in love with the man and insisted that the man and his wife adopt her.  So they did.  About a year later the man took pictures of a little hound dog named Rasha.  Rasha was adopted and returned to the humane society so the man took his wife to meet her.  The wife fell in love and Rasha went to her forever home. 

So what is the point of my story?  Samantha is Spring.  Rasha is me.  And the very nice lady who is a good friend of the bosses now has her hounds right here on Dogster!!  Welcome, Copper, Sybil, and Sally!  We are so happy you are here.  Everyone please give them a super warm Dogster welcome for me. 

I have another story for you:  Merle's Door: Lessons from a freethinking dog, by Ted Kerasote.

This book comes to us as a recommendation from Baxter.  Thanks, Baxter!  Merle is a mixed breed pup who finds Mr. Kerasote on a camping trip.  They quickly develop a connection which becomes a strong bond over the years.  Mr. Kerasote explores with Merle, and in trying to understand Merle's world better, finds that he is able to experience his own more fully.  It is a story of their life together and their adventures, with a sprinkling of doggie facts and research. Mr. Kerasote adds his own opinions about dog training and the lives of city dogs, some of which may be a little heavy handed for some readers.  The fact is, Merle is a special dog in special circumstances:  the "door" in question is an actual doggie door and a metaphorical door that allows Merle to wander freely through life.  Obviously not all of us can wander through town leashless and at our leisure!  But as Baxter reminded me, "...if a book like this can influence dog owners to spend more time engaging their dogs in stimulating activities then we think it is great! We know many dogs that stay in their crates all day, and their exercise is limited to their own backyards or the same daily walk around the same block....we want all dogs to be able to get out and enjoy the great big world - whether they are roaming the great expanses of Wyoming or trotting along uncharted territories with their owners at the other end of the leash - to us it is about providing new experiences for your dog and enjoying the time spent together doing these things!"  Well said, Baxter!

Mr. Kerasote ponders about what makes Merle (and all dogs) happy.  He looks to research about wolves and wolf packs, and studies his own dog very carefully to determine what fulfills him most.  One of his reflections:  "What do dogs want, then?  The company of dogs, or the company of people?  For many dogs who have the freedom to be themselves, both.  Dogs with choices exercise their individual tastes, picking dogs or people, depending on which group meets their needs at a particular moment.  Such behavior destroys the illusion that a dog's love is unconditional, but so what?  Our love--at least a significant part of it--is conditional, just like theirs.  We prefer to be with those who respect our selfhood, who do interesting things, and who smell right."

And of course the obligatory Kleenex warning--the last few chapters of the book are truly a love story.  Ted is devoted to Merle and the reader cannot help to grieve with him at the loss of this remarkable companion.