Dog Sense

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By Tank Hoover

Dogs Can Tell Us A Lot If We Would Only Listen…

I’m a blessed man! I have a wonderful wife and daughter, along with 2 dogs, Ruger and Cooper.

Ruger is named after my favorite manufacturer. He’s a 12-year-old black Labrador retriever. He’s deep chested, stout, strong, protective and plays a mean game of tug-o-war! He’s starting to slow down a bit and is more selective about doing the stairs, with food being his big motivator to use them. He’s been healthy as a horse, despite a repaired torn ACL last year. His age worries me, I know that final day is closing in, which makes us appreciate him all the more.

Ruger is very protective of the family. He will stand vigil at the front door until all family members are home, safe and sound. He sleeps between my wife and I every night on our king sized “Sleep Number” bed. His head is always facing the door as he keeps an eye on any possible intruder. His preferred sleep number is 85. He sleeps back to back with me, relieving both of our arthritic backs with traction-like pressure. When aroused he has a beautiful, rich bass bark starting as a low guttural rumble from his diaphragm, sounding like a distant thunderstorm, until it reaches peak crescendo, as a long, deep-pitched bark, while puffing up like a dominant silver-backed gorilla,. As sweet and gentle as he is, I have no doubt he would be all business should any intruder be dumb enough to enter our home.

Ruger acts like he only has three brain cells at times, one to wag his tail, one to eat and one to lick you. He has the manners of a saint though! He stands near us during our family meal, never begging, but drooling in long shimmery strands. Ruger takes pleasure in carrying dead, rotting rodents and birds he finds in our yard. He also enjoys rooting through the dirty clothesbasket for my unwashed underwear, then carrying them around the house like a prized retrieved treasure. Is there is a parallel connection between the two?

Cooper, named after Col. Jeff Cooper — my wife wouldn’t go for Elmer or Skeeter — is a rescue dog. He’s half border collie/golden retriever mix. His coat is a thick orangutan orange with an accent of black on the tip of his tail, ears and eyebrows. While Ruger acts like he only has three brain cells, Cooper is a full-blown genius, of Einstein-like proportions. He rings sleigh bells hanging on our back door to alert us when he needs to go out. He also lets us know, to the minute, when its time to eat breakfast and dinner, or take my daughter to and from school. He has us all well trained. He spends his day herding the squirrels in our backyard, and herds his brother, Ruger, a bit too.

He will nip Ruger’s heels to get him to go inside. When Ruger’s had enough, he’ll grab Cooper by the throat, slamming him to the ground, and hold him there as he scolds his younger brother to stop the nonsense. Cooper thinks this is great fun and continues his herding duties regardless.

Doggie Personality

When Cooper was rescued, he was a tad on the wild side. He had a tendency to nip, growl and nudge us as he herded everyone into the house. Perhaps this is why such a great dog was a rescue? My wife reads that bad behavior should be corrected by ignoring the dog by turning your back on the wayward pup. Cooper has nothing to do with those shenanigans and promptly bites her in the behind, sending my wife running to the house with Cooper in the chase. I never laughed so hard in my life. Alas, with lots of love and work, he’s a great dog. The old adage about we all get the dog we deserve in the end, is true.

Cooper’s eyes are intense, with the vision to match them. I’ve watched him track something in the air, moving his head, seizure-like, only to discover a gnat buzzing around his air space. He too is very protective. When anyone is within 100 yards of our yard Cooper charges the fence while barking, looking over his shoulder for Ruger as back up. Smart boy!

Both dogs go bonkers, defending their turf, when someone rings the doorbell. Sales people choose to leave, rather than face the wrath and fury of our beloved hounds. Some consider this rude. I tend to like it.

Lessons

So what can we learn from our fury four legged family members? A lot, actually. When outside, act like Ruger. Be friendly, outgoing, well mannered and gracious, but have eyes like Cooper, constantly scanning your surroundings for any threat. When you see a potential threat, make eye contact like Cooper, but puff yourself up like Ruger. Don’t be afraid to bite someone in the butt if they need it! Keep track of your loved ones. When something doesn’t feel right, change your behavior so the situation is the best, and to your advantage. Wait by the door to see what’s going on. If someone grabs you by the neck and throws you down, get back up, unfazed, and continue the fight. Be protective of your comfort zone. If someone encroaches your yard space and you feel uncomfortable — bark, and look for back-up! Never travel alone if you can help it. Stay with the pack, it’s safer!

Our dogs act on instinct. Do the same. Reprogram yourself to be defensive and always on high alert. When someone has their ears pulled back, baring their teeth, get ready. Retreat, if at all possible, to avoid the confrontation. Be flexible and well trained. Be cautious at your front door.

Think like a dog. Follow your gut instincts.

It just may keep you out of trouble.

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