Chigger Lake: Dogs
by Donna Schoenkopf
I live by myself in the country.
Actually, I don't live by myself. I live with three, sometimes four, dogs.
Some days I don't go to town for days so the only mammalian companions I have are the dogs.
We have our own language which is part body language and part vocalized dog language and part spoken human language and part facial expressions.
Joe Biden, the yellow part-Lab, always looks deeply into my eyes. He is gentle and timid and wants to stick close. When I make him go outside because he's a dog and it's daytime and it's good to go outside and do dog things, he sits for a long while on the other side of the glass door just looking longingly at me. In the eyes. Through the glass door. He is patient, too. He suffers. Then I suffer. One time I tried an experiment and put my hand over my eyes. He almost immediately looked away. He's an eye-contact kinda guy.
Abby, the Neighbor Dog, a black Lab, can't look me in the eye. When she's outside and wants to come in, she just waits. Doesn't look at me. But she watches my feet go to the door. She has just started to look me in the eye. It's only for a tiny look. A glance with a little hesitation. She loves deep massage and speaks a low gutteral pleasurable sound when I do it. She's language capable.
Angela Davis, malamute mix, was kicked/ignored during her first year but she was free to be free and became part of our country neighborhood. When I took her in she was rough-coated, unused to being touched, was very sensitive to loudness, cowered a lot. With her ears back. In a fetal position. She has shards of that still. But now she loves deep massage, too, and loves to have her face and ears touched, deep petted, massaged.
She is the boss of all other dogs.
Shadow, black Lab mix, Orval and Shirley's found on the road to the dump, covered with fleas and mange, starved, almost dead dog, comes over for a look-see now and then.
Angela Davis gives her the “I am the boss of you” treatment.
They all take good care of me. They have no idea how safe they make me feel. They hear everything and charge into the forest or down the hill or around the house.
They love all people, smiling and wagging and adoring anyone who drives up, which is rare. But all other animal interlopers are killed or chased away. They almost got a hawk yesterday. I used to feel distressed when that happened. I still do. But mostly I see the whole thing as natural. And it does keep the armadillos from burrowing under my concrete foundation and making it crack. And they do keep the snakes away. Sorta. And they do get all rodents. And they do keep the coyotes at bay.
The dogs have come home more than once, smelling of skunk.
Last night Angela Davis wouldn't come in for the night. When I finally got a good look at her in the darkness I saw that she had a dead squirrel lying next to her. It was the same size as a puppy. When I stuck my head out she picked it up and laid in on the ground on the other side of her and looked back at me with a look that said, “Do not touch my squirrel.” And she was serious.
These are all things that don't involve a corporation. I didn't have to buy anything. Or hire a service. Or call anybody. I just let nature take its course.
This is the way the world should be.