Jake out of a weekend stroll at Miller Point.
You can learn a lot about people from dogs.
I remember once many years ago an acquaintance came to our house to see Steve about something and pushed our dog, Nicki — a lovable, hairy Muppet come to life if there ever was one — away with impatience when she came to greet him, her tail wagging and a canine smile on her face. I never really liked that person from that point forward. I didn’t expect him to love our dog, but it was her house, not his, and I expected him to respect her.
A couple of weeks ago, another acquaintance jokingly asked me, when a third person mentioned Jake, if I had a “cat dog.” For some reason, which I couldn’t fathom at the time, I was insulted, possibly even a little angry at the comment. I’ve thought about it more since then and, while I know the person was only teasing, I think what bothered me is the assumption and the prejudice behind the joke.
Jake is no lap dog. He doesn’t cuddle. He doesn’t snuggle. He doesn’t sit on my lap or even lie on the sofa beside me. He’s just not into that. The best I ever get is, once in awhile when Jake is tired or upset, he’ll sit in my arm and put his head over my shoulder. It never lasts more than three or four minutes and it’s usually more like 10 to 30 seconds. And every so often when Jake is lying on the living room floor and Steve lies down beside him, he’ll stay there and let Steve pat him for a couple of minutes.
Our Cairn is independent and he doesn’t let us forget it. He is, as I’ve often said, a big dog trapped in a small dog’s body or, more precisely, a big dog with short legs.
That’s not to imply that there is anything wrong with snugly lap dogs of any size. I’m fine with that. Jake just isn’t one and, just because he weighs 20 pounds, I don’t like people assuming they know his personality.
And we all make assumptions. I admit, I’m afraid of pit bulls. I don’t trust them and, probably unfairly, I’ve painted them all with the same brush. A few years ago at Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, we came across a pit bull that appeared to want to have Jake for lunch and I haven’t trusted one since. Ironically, that same afternoon, I let Jake make friends with a Jack Russell only to look down seconds later and find the Jack’s teeth on our boy’s nose. I carry my own assumptions and I was fooled by the dog’s size and seemingly friendly manner and the fact that it was being walked by young teen. Now I’m careful of Jack Russells, just as I am of pit bulls. I know there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, but I’m still wary for Jake’s sake.
Steve and I often have a similar experience travelling as much as we do with Jake. There are lots of hotels and other accommodations that won’t allow dogs. In some cases, perhaps they’ve had bad experiences with dirty paws on beds or furniture damaged by dogs left alone in rooms. Others simply have blanket no-pets rules. That’s their prerogative.
But we’ve also had a lot of owners and managers tell us they’d much rather have dogs than children. In their experiences, they’ve said, most people who travel with their dogs look after them, while some people get into a hotel and let their children run wild, yelling and racing through hallways, jumping around on the furniture and disturbing other guests. Steve and I have sat in a number of dog-friendly restaurants where dogs were lying quietly under tables disturbing no one, while children screamed at nearby tables ruining the dining experience for those around them.
Not all children behave like that. Not all pit bulls and Jack Russells want to snack on Jake. Not all dogs with short legs are “cat dogs.”
We all have prejudices we carry around with us, but I guess my point is that we should maybe think about them a little more and practice them a little less. It’s just another lesson I learned from my dog.