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All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir

February 20, 2021

Another Way for week of February 12, 2021

All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir

Are you a dog person? Cat person? A no-animals-in-the-house person?

I just finished a book that has opened my eyes to the inside workings of a pretty amazing dog, Merle, as seen by the human he adopted. Just in case there’s a question, in this case the dog did adopt the human and not the other way around after a rather rough start in the deserts of southwestern United States where he was most likely mistreated. The book is called Merle: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote (2007). It spent months on the New York Times bestseller list but I found it recently in a “Little Free Library.”

This author has written numerous books on the relationship between humans and animals, many articles longer ago for magazines such as Audubon and Outdoor Life, and now focuses on book writing. He lives a pretty idyllic life if you like mountains, rivers, hunting, and skiing in Kelly, (population 135 in 2007), Wyoming, on the edge of Grand Tetons National Park. In Kelly, dogs run free as long as they are well behaved. Merle made the rounds of his village almost every day, tall and proud, wagging his tail in greeting and nicknamed “Mayor” by the neighborly residents.  

One reviewer said “Kerasote’s penchant for translating Merle’s subtle tail wags and facial tics into English is one of the book’s many great joys” (The Oregonian, Portland). For instance, I never thought about a dog’s panting sounding like “Ha ha ha,” but it does! So overall, “ha ha ha” means a dog is happy—usually panting after running or playing. What dog doesn’t love that?

We feel lucky to live in the country. When we are working outside, our dog Velvet, an Australian shepherd mixed breed, gets to run free on seven acres of hayfield and woods, and sticks pretty close to the boundaries. It did take a while for her to learn them. She loves digging, running, and herding—mainly us, her two humans. She hates the sound of equipment: the lawn mower, snowblower, chain saw, vacuum. When we’re inside, she barks loudly when someone knocks at the door. But she also complains “woof, woof” loudly if we hug or kiss.

Velvet poses from her busy day greeting visitors.

When visitors come, we’ve worked hard training her not to jump up on them. She does well except if our friend Joe comes over (he’s in our bubble). Joe loves her greeting him with her paws on his shirt. I think Velvet understands the rules about not jumping on anyone else. She is a bit anxious or skittish when our grandchildren come to visit. She loves them, loves to play with them and be tenderly petted. Yet she has had to learn—and they too—that they MUST not pet her if they have crumbs on their hands. They’ve learned that lesson especially well now with Covid to wash hands immediately after eating. She used to try to lick their hands clean of any drippings which sometimes felt like she was nipping them. But she’s done better now that they’re old enough to understand they’ve got to wash their hands.

Grandsons love doing doggy care for Velvet.

Velvet irritates us when she wakes us up with “woof woof” (time to take me outside you sleepyheads!). After that, there’s no sleeping, we might as well both get up. Better, is a much softer “Buh, Buh” which is a milder form of barking for her. Then one of us can usually slide out of the bedroom without waking the other one.

But all the way down our hall, she wiggles her backside, so happy I’m up, and looks over her shoulder to make sure I’m coming behind her. “Shush,” I scold quietly, so she doesn’t wake my husband. We’ve tried to train her to sit down and wait for her dinner, or else she gobbles it down. Stuart makes her wait for him to go to the basement, and not make us fall by trying to run in front.

Velvet has been a challenge for us as older adults now, but the marvelous thing about books is how we can learn from other people how to do better, whatever the topic. Whether it’s taking care of dogs or a marriage or a child. Do I get a woof woof? If you want to learn more about dogs, you might enjoy this book, available from many libraries.

The McGlaughin family, who I once interviewed and photographed for a story for Valley Living magazine. I love this photo of fur-baby family love.

A blogger friend and neighbor, Sharon Landis, has written her own wonderful children’s dog story, Who Will Come for Pup. I love her tales on Facebook of training her three dogs!

Dog lover? Not so much? I’d love to hear your stories.

For dog lovers, how many dogs have you owned–either at one time, or over the years? Velvet is our fourth dog as a couple.

Comments here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

6 Comments
  1. We are dog-free right now though our kids enjoyed Me-Too, a mixed breed, in their growing up years. We now live in a community with dog lovers, and from my desk I see neighbors promenade their dogs up and down the sidewalk, both getting exercise.

    One of the former colleagues, Steve Piscitelli wrote a book about a dog who provides emotional support for friends and neighbors. He is also certified to go into hospitals to help patients there: https://www.stevepiscitelli.com/media-written/roxie-looks-for-purpose-beyond-the-biscuit

    • I wonder how he got the name Me-Too?!

      We witnessed the wonder of therapy dogs last year (one) during Mom’s hospitalization. It’s fascinating about how excited people get when they see/find a dog in a place like that. I will check our your friend’s book link! Blessings.

      • We got the dog from a community newspaper “for free,” The owners said the dog always wanted to join in with whatever activity the family was involved in, even riding in a car – hence, “me-too”!

      • Cute! I love it.

  2. Silver, Beverly P - silverbp permalink

    Makes me remember our 2 doggies when I was young. Lolly and Garry! Thanks. Beverly

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