One Size Does Not Fit All

I’m tired.  It’s 7 a.m. and for the third night in a row last night, my head didn’t hit the pillow until well after midnight.  I am not a night owl and I am not a spring chicken; I am a lover of sleep.  I eagerly anticipate the last loosening twitch and the psychedelic flood of dreams.  So I am tired; sorely, deeply tired.

Last night was our annual Halloween event a costumed night-hike up Overlook with friends and dogs.  Our evening included a visit to the emergency animal hospital on the way home.  Red got porcupined on the way down the mountain.  As being barbed goes, he was very lucky.  Maybe two dozen quills, not very deeply embedded and mostly external – he must have muzzle punched the poor porky and got himself a noseful.  Poor porky, poor RedCloud.

Muzzle punching a porcupine kind of sums up this dog.  Sweetly ignorant and always looking to play, finally Red seems healthy enough to develop as a member of our pack and as an adult dog.  As he reveals his true nature, the disparity between what we need him to be and what he is has become inescapable.

What we need him to be is protective, loyal, and obedient.  Life here is “nasty, brutish and short:” our forest setting is home to porcupines, bears, beavers and fishers, and there are some who assert that we share these woods with mountain lions.  The dogs function as an early warning system, alerting us whenever anyone is on out road.  A private dead-end dirt road in a lonely patch of forest, we want to know when we’ve got company.  And the dogs function as a deterrent, eliminating the easy opportunity inherent in the notion of crimes of opportunity.  And most importantly, they are my companions, my superheroes when I’m out alone in the woods.  I bushwack alone, out for hours in trailless wilderness.  I don’t carry a gun, nor much of a knife.  My dogs are my offense and my defense.

But Iske has gotten older, such that I’ve seen her tired the day after a long adventure.  She took a nasty spill on a tough section of trail, free falling 15 feet or so onto her back.  A few years ago that wouldn’t have happened.  Her ability is changing.

And so we wanted a new recruit.  I loved the idea of a young male, full of potential to start learning the ropes so that my beloved Iske could retire.  He would need to be all the key things Iske is – devoted, tireless, wise, and discriminating.  Tom says she takes on the job of being my guardian like a Navy SEAL on crack.  She is more Rin Tin Tin than Lassie.  Not a whole lot of sweetness but focused and passionate about her work.

RedCloud is just not that dog.  More like a cross between Marmaduke and Scooby Doo, Red is utterly nondiscriminating.  He loves everyone, immediately and fully.  He loves Tom, Maya and me, but he loves our neighbors and the strangers he met five minutes ago just as much.  He would have gladly gone home with anyone on the hike last night.

I see him as a perfect suburban dog.  He loves kids and he loves to play.  He doesn’t crave a day out on the trail or in the woods.  Give him a fenced backyard, a ten year old boy, and/or a dog to play with and he is all set.  His ideal family will be the type of dog owners that walk their dogs on leashes every day, every walk.  He will make a fabulous Dog Park dog with his incredible sweetness to all beings – humans and canine.

But Iske he is not.  A loaded .38 he is not.  (I read a description of a dog once that compared the dog to a loaded gun.)  I wish we had room and funds for all of them – dogs, cats, horses… I wish we could do more to give back to the rescue world and all they do so selflessly for animals.  But I am maxed out at three dogs and Red is a huge timesuck and energy drain.  He needs love, attention, guidance, supervision, training… and it will be a while before he can give back much more than a doofy grin.  He will make the right person a perfect dog, but I am not the right person.

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