a kennel and loving dogs, I’m lucky enough to
meet a lot of people they are important to; people from
all walks of life. Today, the dogs we love and care
for have a great affect on how we look at the world
around us. Dogs are in the news, in movies, books, and
all kinds of advertisements. What is their appeal? We
know the answer to that. Dogs appeal to every sense
we have, from visual to touch, and the magical result
is the most powerful appeal of all … emotional.
Forget about the evolutionary history of
dogs and worrying about how they may have come into
being. Forget about making television documentaries
about which breed was the “Original Dog”
and traveling to exotic places to find the last remaining
members of that breed on Earth. That’s all grand
in a National Geographic kind of way, but the truth
is lost in so many forgotten memories that it doesn’t
matter to the dog in your life right now. What matters
is the diversity of this species, and the possibility
that there was no single original breed.
Do I believe in spontaneous genetics and
things like that? Oh, yes; very much so. I also believe
the emotional make-up of a living creature, and its
mentality, are affected by its physical appearance.
But, that could be my years of dog shows, raising just
about every breed of dog there is at one time or another,
or the artist in me speaking.
We all know our own personalities can rub
off on our dogs. We know dogs are different from cats
or birds or horses and other animals in their basic
nature. Along those lines, customers at our kennel often
ask which puppy in a litter is the ruler, which is the
most loving or which is the most playful. Sometimes,
when looking at a puppy by itself and searching for
an emotional connection with this prospective fur-child,
customers will ask if I think the pup will turn out
this way or that. When I say it depends on them more
than anything else, they are often surprised. “The
dog is going to learn from you,” I say. “You
are the greatest teacher.”
Here at our kennels, sometimes we raise
whole litters together and we have a graduation system,
like in school. Littermates start out together, but
as they become more dominant, or according to their
growth and the special feeding they may require along
the way, they move up the ladder into the next run.
They haven’t lost sight of their littermates because
they are in the next kennel run beside them. And the
new kennel mates aren’t strangers either because
they’ve been housed next to each other for a while.
The result is, our litters don’t have just one
dominant pup with a bunch of followers. Instead, what
we have is a bunch of confident, independent thinkers.
When I say, “You are the greatest
teacher” I’m not speaking about rigid discipline
such as one endures in Obedience classes. Maybe “rigid”
isn’t the right word for that, but I think it
illustrates the difference between fundamental training
and the invisible “something” beyond that
which develops between you and your dog just by traveling
the same path in life. In my novel “Fate of the
Stallion,” this mysterious bond is expressed in
a scene where Dan Marshall senses the presence of an
Arabian stallion running along the river beside him.
The horse seems to be calling him, as if saying “Find
me! I am yours!” and the story reveals the parallels
of their lives, showing how man and stallion share the
same fate. Likewise, in “The Blue Ribbon”
a novel set in the competitive world of dog shows, there
is a scene called “Miles To Go.” In this
scene, Robert Sheffield, a dog show judge loved by two
different women who own rival kennels, is hiking in
the Canadian woods with his dog, reflecting on love.
If you’ll notice, the path in the woods symbolizes
Robert’s own path in life, and his dog is right
there beside him. Like many of us do, Robert is thinking
to his dog in a mental conversation, wondering if he
has made the right decision by letting the woman he
really loves slip through his fingers. Among the trees,
the dog sees a deer, runs after it, but, of course,
the deer gets away. “She got away?” Robert
asks. “It’s OK, fella. We’ve got miles
to go.” In those miles, will there be other deer?
Will they see the same deer again? I wasn’t sure
when I wrote that scene how it would turn out.