An early morning walk with Bosco today - the dawn is coming later and later of course. Today's early start was rewarded by dodging the could and rain which rolled in not long after we reached the comfort of home. here is a view from our walk to enjoy...taken on the phone camera...
On a morning when, having slept fitfully despite being sleep-deprived, I woke early and started the day by walking my faithful hound Bosco around one of our local picturesque woods, I sat down at around 0900 hours (can you tell that I used to be a police officer?) in a soemwhat less than contented frame of mind, and began to trawl through the BBC and CBC news websites. As some of you may remember, this is how I choose to obtain my updates on the craziness that surrounds me, having some time ago given up on local TV news programs, which typically kick one local and one international news story to death, and then for the rest of the program follow up with a series of 'human interest' pieces (I won't call them news stories) which are little more than neighbourhood tittle-tattle. My 'poor ickle puppy-wuppy' threshold having been overwhelmed, I now pick and choose news items which interest - or even better intrigue - me.
This strategy also has its pitfalls, as I have a very bad habit (which, as you may also remember, I've touched upon before today) of scrolling down the page and starting to read reader's comments. Having dealt with a great many traffic accidents over the years, I have little interest in gawking at such things at the roadside (and zero tolerance for anyone who does wish to do so), and I'm coming to the conclusion that this is my substitute for that distressing habit. I know I'm going to dislike what I see, but I look anyway. Needless to say, today was no different from any other, and within a short time, I had graduated along my personal scale of pissed-off-ness from a starting point of 'Mildly Grumpy' (level two on the 'Pissed-er Scale) to a state of 'Irritated and Fidgety' (level four).
It was in that condition, therefore, that I happened upon a small story from Ontario, where a woman has come from vacation to find that her garden - which she was (somewhat defiantly) growing as a wildflower meadow in order to attract insect and small wildlife - has been mown down to a lawn by persons unknown. Level five, based on those facts alone...
This lady, going to battle with her municipal authorities, had come to an agreement/compromise with the local conservation/environmental folk which allowed her to keep a portion of her garden as wildflower beds, so long as she mowed around them. In the interim, somebody (apparently NOT the municipality) has mown the lot, creating a lawn that she had no desire to have, on her own property. A solution had therefore been agreed upon, yet someone in her neighbourhood was still moved to take matters (the 'matters' in hand being wildflowers) into their own hands and destroy what the lady was trying to create. You can probably guess how I feel about that, since we grow nothing but a permaculture-style vegetable garden on our steeply-inclined property. If you still can't guess how I feel, hopefully this will help:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the comments on this story (as in every other story, no matter what the subject) degenerated into verbal abuse within a very short space of time, the most interesting of which drew a direct link between an unkempt (i.e. no orderly rows of non-native plants and a totally unnatural grass lawn) garden and her ability/suitability to raise children. Level seven - I skipped six at that point.
Leaving aside the smaller issue of gardening preferences and conventions, I find myself increasingly alarmed by the apparent need of many people - and so often the people with the loudest and most obnoxious voices - to have everyone conform to their idea of 'normal' or even worse: their version of 'nice'. People use the word 'nice' as some kind of objective measurement of acceptability, but I have yet to find a standard level of niceness, even among groups of white-haired little old ladies who sip tea from 'nice' china tea cups and saucers inside 'nice' tea rooms, and quietly, discreetly make their sinister plans to control the hearts and minds within small municipalities like my own, in order to make things 'nice'. Somewhere, I fear (perhaps hiding behind Jupiter) there floats a 'nice' Death Star, made of Victoria Sponge and encircled by a ring of lace doilies, it's 'nice' ray at the ready and pointed at the earth in the event that the undercover agents of lace and tea and false teeth (little old ladies) should fail in their mission to brainwash us all.
Why must we all conform to this mystical, completely arbitrary notion of 'nice' or 'normal'? One of the most abused words in our language at the moment is the word 'freedom' (you thought I was going to say 'nice' again, didn't you?). Our politicians, in the midst of telling us all what we really want - and curiously enough, that never seems to be what I was actually thinking about - frequently wave the 'freedom' thing in our faces, as if to suggest that we all already have it, we all cherish it, and we should all vote for that particularly slimy twerp if we want to keep it.
It seems to me that in a country where freedom is such a fundamental principle (at least in theory, and politician's speeches), it should not be impossible for a person to grow a wildflower garden on their own property, even if it is to the distaste of their up-tight neighbours. The neighbours don't like it? So what? Why do the neighbours have some kind of entitlement in such a matter? If you're scared of seeds spoiling your lawn, pick the bloody things up or even better, weed your lawn! People face similar challenges with regard to growing - whether in regimented, amazingly ordered rows, or like us, more haphazardly - their own food on their own land. Apparently, doing so in a suburban setting is offensive to some people. Again: so what? In fact, so fucking what? Why are flower gardens (filled with imported species) acceptable, and other things not? Why are water - soaked grass lawns (a completely unnatural landscape, maintainable only by excluding native species, either by chemicals or fastidious labour) acceptable, yet wildflowers are not?
To me, it seems like insanity, and worse: it's a symptom of our modern western society's need to have everyone - everyone - conform to some kind of vague 'nice' ideal. Since that is an entirely subjective concept, what's the betting that 'nice' begins to change over time, and will eventually become the preserve of the most powerful groups within our society? I want to be able to preserve my version of life - that's my freedom. I want to be able to live quietly, without bothering anyone, and without them bothering me. That doesn't mean that I can take any measures I choose to make that happen, but it does mean that I am responsible for finding my own happiness, rather than expecting others to create and/or maintain my ideal world for me. My choice - and the clock is counting down on making this happen now - will be to find a few acres somewhere nowhere near anybody else, fix up the house (which, by virtue of what we can afford, will probably be on the point of collapse) and grow as much of our own food as we reasonably can.
One thing that the internet illustrates to me every day is the depth of intolerance for difference. The degree of antagonism, belligerence and downright viciousness directed at people with a different point of view is frankly alarming. It's true that the overwhelming majority of this behaviour is conducted by cowards who have probably (to use my dear old dad's phrase) never tasted their own blood, and who would never dare speak to anyone in the same way face-to-face. However, words can be powerful weapons: they coalesce into ideas and soon become conventions and accepted norms if they go unchecked. We are living in a world where anyone can say almost anything and hide with no likelihood of being made to face consequences for their actions, where cowards have voices that they do not deserve, and where difference - contrary to the mush that we're fed through the TV every day - is rarely celebrated or even accepted, but is consistently trashed.
I worry about what this means for the future - in particular for my children and my grandchildren. It bothers me that every kind of extreme view can be spread so widely, and with such hate behind it. Hate does not deserve a wide audience, and neither does intolerance, bullying and discrimination. The problem we face right now is that all those destructive attitudes are free to proliferate among the (distressingly) uneducated, ignorant and the plain stupid members of our society.
Is, I wonder, the genie permanently out of the bottle?
Yes I am, because I've done so little here this year - effectively nothing. The stats are still good for th esite, which is encouraging. If you've enjoyed what I do here, you may (emphasis on the 'may') also enjoy one of my other sites which is rather new, and helps explain why I've been almost completely absent from this one.
Check out www.liamsamolis.com
It's rather self-explanatory.
Good grief, I haven't given you the attention you deserve! In my inadequate defence, I've been very busy writing a book (not about dogs), starting another book (about a dog) and blogging elsewhere, as well as working and having Bosco inflict a truly debilitating injury upon me (unwittingly, of course). I'll not bore you with the details, suffice to say that until today, typing for longer than a few minutes has been excruciatingly painful. Actually; it still is...
Never mind: here are some pictures of our walk a couple of days ago: as ever I hope you find them enjoyable.
A useful article for our consumption and consideration:
Bosco seems to fly in the face of some of these: he's a physical contact junkie and throughly enjoys having his head stroked, scratched, rubbed etc., and uses it to make his presence felt. If my lovely wife and I are having a hug, wrestling (yes, I know!) or even close to one another, he usually notices and will try to insert his bulk excitedly into the moment somehow...
The point in this article which most catches my eye is - as you may guess - the one about walks. The other day, while waiting for my teenage daughter to pack the car with an amazing amount of bags, I watched a woman of a certain age walking her toy something-or-other. I couldn't tell what it was because it wasn't much larger than a big squirrel and I didn't have my glasses on, but the poor little thing had the head of a cocker spaniel - albeit on a microscopic scale. The lady wasn't walking particularly quickly, but because of the terrible mismatch of scale, even her leisurely stroll meant that the tiny little dot was scampering along just to keep up with her.
As I watched, the dog/puppy would stop occasionally as it came across an interesting smell on the pavement/sidewalk. Mrs I-want-a-dog-that-I-can-treat-like-a-baby/cat/dolly was having none of that, and each and every time (they were in view for a full five minutes) the dog tried to sniff something, she almost took its head off simply by continuing to walk at the same speed and allowing the leash to tighten.
There is no way that dog was having a satisfying walk; neither physically (restrained on a leash and walking along on concrete) nor mentally (not being allowed to use its instinctive skills and senses). I'm sure that the lady feels that she walks her dog like a good and responsible owner should, but really; haven't we evolved enough intelligence to understand that a dog's needs are different from our own? If we don't have the means to give our dogs proper fulfilling exercise, firstly seriously consider whether it's fair to even keep a dog in such circumstances, and secondly; let's dop our best to make the walks we do provide for them as
He's more than four years old now, this silly pooch of ours. You'd think that the world would be settling into understandable and predictable patterns for him...but apparently it's not that simple.
Bosco seems to be the dog most likely to be surprised by pretty much anything - anything at all.
He's surprised to see me arrive at the bottom of the stairs even though he's just heard me walking down them, and even if I've been talking to him (as, I admit, I frequently do in a sort of invented-conversation kind of way) as I approach. He's surprised to see me or my lovely wife even though he's watched us walk up to the front door, and he's run (well; I say run - more of an enthusiastic amble, really) to the door to greet us.
He's surprised to be given his dinner even when he's watched me (pretending to not care at all whether or not he gets any food) making it from out of the corner of his eye. He's surprised by every single noise he hears when out walking, every noise outside the house (usually imaginary - he's obssessed with Raccoons and those pesky Squirrels and will move heaven and earth - or the glass in the window in the picture above to try to get to them) and everything he sees through the window.
Basically, he seems to live in one of two states; either torpor or shock. It must be quite stressful for him, but he seems to enjoy himself and occasionally the surprises are fun as well as...surprising. Travelling in the back of the truck (under a canopy, people; relax) to or from his daily walk in the local countryside, everything is new and wonderful, his ears shooting up to the top of his head every few seconds as things come into view (I just accidentally typed 'thongs come into view', and I have to admit that my ears shoot to the top of my head if that happens).
The thing he most likes to be surprised by is a squirrel - squirrels appear to be the things he would most like to get to know, mostly from an omnom-omnomnom perspective, closely followed by the aforementioned raccoons, although since he's never even got within fifty feet of a raccoon, I suspect that if he did, things might be...well...surprising. The thing he least likes being surprised by is a snake. If he comes across a snake - let me start that again; if he comes across a snake AND realises it's a snake, he rapidly levitates about a foot, darts away looking mightily alarmed, and then stands off with an "I don't like the look of THAT!" expression on his face. I should mention that the snakes around here are typically harmless garter snakes, at most the thickness of my index finger and about two feet long...oh dear.
Oddly enough, the 'surprise' stuff doesn't seem to work if anyone walks into the house unannounced. If that ever happens (one of our kids' boy/girfriend for example), he tends to react with a level of complete indifference and calmness that I find a little unsettling. Anyone could stroll in and he'd probably just give them a dirty look for waking him up. We are clearly on our own in the event of trouble, and at the mercy of the zombie horde.
Sometimes I think he's just toying with me.
Go here; you'll enjoy it!
A quick rant about the trend for 'fur babies'.
I'm not sure if it's a sign that society in the west (I don't know if this goes on elsewhere) is devolving or that simply some kinds of people are regressing to their teenage girly personas, but the idea of having apet which is your 'baby' is really rather strange.
No; really - it is. I mean; come ON! Dogs are NOT babies. They're animals. They do NOT think like people or even baby people! Who decided that they do?????
I see so much stuff online - and of course in TV commercials which deliberately exploit the delusion - telling us that our pets 'love' us (and - for example - so, therefore, we must buy them brand X dog food, to show our love in return, because otherwise who knows how bad the animal might feel???). I wonder where this delusion comes from? Could it be human wishful thinking, perhaps? Of course it is - we shower affection and attention on our pets, we love them, and as sentient, emotional beings, we hope for that love to be reciprocated. In the case of dumb (unable to speak) animals, we invent the meaning behind their responses. Let's just be HONEST about our pets.
I love my dog - which itself may be a little strange, but I know that I'm not alone. Whenever I've lost a pet I've been devastated by it, because of the emotions that I - not the animal - have invested in the relationship. Dogs are pack animals by instinct - they are most comfortable when not alone, and their behaviours are geared to living in a pack.
When Bosco approaches me for a stroke/a cuddle/ a play, he's doing so for two reasons: firstly because he enjoys it (play is a major part of a domestic dog's psyche, since they rarely get out of the puppy phase of mental development) and secondly (and this is circuitously linked to his own enjoyment and feeling of safety/security within the pack) because it emphasises his lesser status in the pack (he does as I direct him to do) while ostensibly pleasing the perceived pack leader. He does not play with me because he 'loves' me, for goodness sake!
The tendency for people to turn their pet animals into baby humans is disturbing and contradictory. After all, if the animal were indeed as sensitive and emotional as a human, would you really put a leash around their neck? Feed them from a bowl on the floor?
There is SO much wrong with the whole 'fur baby' idea and the industry that exploits it - honesty about animal instinct and behaviour seems to have been thrown out by such people. It can only lead to trouble and increasingly weird lives for the dogs we choose to be our companions.
A husband, dad, stepdad and someone who has enjoyed living with dogs most of my life. I enjoy exercising the hound and getting a very mild workout at the same time!