6.29.2010

A Boy and His Dog #1

This is my dog Tiger.  He passed away quietly at the farm lying in the grass watching the sunset behind the mountains. A boy has a special relationship with his dog, (not to say that a girl doesn't) and Tiger was definitely one of a kind. Tiger came into our life late in his own. He was an SPCA dog who had been adopted twice and was living with an elderly man looking for a companion. When the old gentleman died, the family tried to get over to let Tiger out, feed him, and spend time with him but it wasn't enough and Tiger spent a lot of time cooped up alone in a house without his master. We got a phone call from our dog catcher friend asking us if we had room in our hearts and at our farm for just one more dog...

The first time I laid eyes on him I thought he was so very handsome. Handsome but crazy. He was so excited to be out of the house riding in a car that when he arrived at the farm and realized there were MORE dogs well he just couldn't contain himself-- literally. He met our other dogs and the four of them romped and chased each other around the dog pen and then Tiger would stop for a dump, chase the other dogs around again and stop for another dump. He must have made four piles in the yard before calming down enough to appear normal! I was worried in that first hour and a bit that he might be just too much dog for me, that I might not have the patience for such a hyper guy. We fed him with his new friends and he came into the house and pulled up a piece of rug and promptly showed off his ability to snore. Whew!

Tiger decided to become my dog. He would follow me everywhere and quickly became best buddies with my other dog Jake. When we would go out for walks, Jake would tear out of the dog pen and head down the hill straight for the barn. Tiger would run to catch up his jowls flapping as his head bobbed in pursuit. We could explore the forested areas of the farm for hours. He was a good listener too except if he smelled a mouse or gopher. If he got his nose in a gopher den or mouse hole he would dig and dig and dig until he caught the rodent or he couldn't smell it anymore. I don't know how many times he came up with a mouth full of dirt and slobber looking proud as all get out that he'd fed himself.

He really was a wonderful guy who loved nothing more than sleeping in the truck. Every morning we'd get up and he's go out for a pee and then come and whine to be let into the truck. He'd hop up into the front seat and look around before settling down for a long nap. I always wondered if he was waiting for someone. If there had been someone who drove him around like a king or if had been someone's companion at work every day. I remember once when my mom came to visit and left the trunk of her civic open. One half of the split rear seats had been left down for something she had transported and while she was in the house unpacking, Tiger climbed into the car through the trunk, crawled across the back seat, and was sitting in the drivers seat wondering where he might be going.

And he was a good guard dog. When he saw or smelled something that he didn't recognize or saw as a  threat all the hairs on his back would stand up in a short brindle mohawk. He would bark from deep in his throat and his front legs would get all stiff. Sometimes if one of the other dogs would start barking he'd be up in a second, barking, hair up looking around to figure out exactly what he was barking at. What a team player!

Tiger was an old dog when he came to the farm to retire. He must have been eight or nine years old so when he died he would have been twelve or thirteen. Not bad for a handsome old guy that spent some time with SPCA on two different occasions. Not all dogs are as lucky as he was. Many older dogs spend weeks in cages at shelters before it is decided that no one wants them and they are killed. It is too expensive to keep a dog alive, the cost of life too expensive. How sad when it seems that life is the one thing we hold so precious, so sacred when we are talking about people. Painful when I think of how much more I loved my dog than most people. I am so glad that he was adopted by someone with a kind heart (twice) and had the opportunity to retire at the farm and die on his own terms: happy, free, well-fed, lying in the long green grass surrounded by his family.

I spent a lot of time with Tiger and now that he's gone there is definitely a space in my heart where his memory will live. It's true that you can learn a lot by loving an animal and Tiger was an excellent and patient teacher. I have been blessed to know many animals and will shared my life with them as long as I live. My work as an artist focuses on animal spirits and animal rights and are the most important and prevalent element in my practice. Animals are magnificent spirits, friends and members of our family that deserve respect and sovereignty.

Next time you think about expanding your family with a dog, a cat or another animal, consider adopting a handsome old pet from a shelter. Save a life and adopt a shelter animal. You can find all kinds in your area here: http://www.petfinder.com/index.html or you can go to your local animal shelter and rescue someone who just might change your life.

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