Friday, April 8, 2011

Pondering Pooches

Warning: this post is about RVers and dogs. If you're prone to light-headedness, fainting, or fits of rage whenever someone says anything negative about dogs or dog owners -- even in jest -- please DO NOT read this blog post.

According to a recent Escapees Club survey, almost half of it's members travel with pets. Personally, I think the percentage is much higher. Based on observations alone, I'd say a strong majority of RVers have pets and almost all of those pets are dogs. I've never completely understood this. Sure, many people like having a dog around when you have kids, especially teenagers, as the dog continues to provide love and companionship long after the kids don't want anything to do with you. I can understand that.

But once the kids are off on their own, you're feeling freedom like never before, and you're now living in less than 300 square feet, what's the point of having a dog?

One afternoon recently, I pondered this situation... pondered why people have a need for dogs at all. Sitting on the banks of the Arkansas River in my comfortable chair, adult beverage in hand, warm sun shining down, and river lazily flowing by... I could come up with only two reasons why a person would want a dog... and the reasons are different depending on whether you're a man or a woman. I'll get to those in a minute.

But first, com'on, let's be realistic. There are a lot of downsides to keeping dogs. They can be expensive... food (nothing but the best for little Fluffy), vet bills (annual check-ups and repairing injuries from run-ins with the neighbor's cat), and all the gear and little outfits necessary to keep a dog in the style to which it's owner has become accustomed. Dogs can also be messy... all that shed fur and hair collecting in the corners and under the furniture, in the heating vents, and on your pillow and all over your clothes. And how about that time when Fluffy jumped up on the Thanksgiving Dinner Table? Controlling a dog presents it's own set of problems. Some dogs bark a lot, prompting their owners to yell "Fluffy, NO... STOP IT Fluffy"... as the quiet of the darkening night is broken with a repeated alternating duet of barking and yelling, dog and owner, rising to a crescendo along with the rage of nearby folks trying to rest. Dogs also run away... not that they're trying to escape the very comfortable and worry-free life they're living. No, it's just what dogs do. They see a squirrel and they're programmed to go after it. They see a deer... ditto. Or a rabbit or a biker or a jogger. That's just what dogs do. But it all creates headaches for the owner who must then chase the dog who's chasing the squirrel all around the neighborhood yelling "Fluffy, COM'EAR... NO... STAY... HERE Fluffy, HERE boy!"

So for all these downsides, there must be some upsides, right? Well this is what I came up with during my time along the Arkansas River.

First, if you're a woman, there are only two reasons I can come up with for you to want a dog... both of them primal. First, as something that feeds a need to nurture -- a surrogate child perhaps... something cute and cuddly that you can take care of. Second, for personal protection... mostly from men (yes, guys, we're the problem once again!)

And if you're a guy, there are only two reasons I can come up with for you to want a dog... both of them primal. First, as a way to attract and meet girls. (No need to go into this further... it clearly works.) Second, as a hunting partner and companion (you see, the dog jumps into the frigid water and retrieves the dead duck -- a fair trade for that little pat on the head it gets when it climbs back into the boat, soaked). Speaking for myself, I don't hunt and I already have a girl... and therefore, no need for a dog.

I should probably add, in fairness, that many people do get a positive dose of simple companionship from their dogs. And then there's the heavy dose of physical exercise from all that walking and running after Fluffy while he's chasing the squirrel. At our age any exercise is a positive thing.

On the lighter side... Some years ago I came across this hypothetical scenario:  Ultra-intelligent beings from another world are observing the planet earth. From their probes and UFOs high above the Earth's surface, they peer down and can see movement... indeed they see life itself. They observe a wide variety of life-forms and start to focus on the interactions between two of them. They observe that when one of these creatures wants to go for a walk, the other creature stops whatever it is they're doing and goes for a walk. On the walk, one of the creatures poops and the other creature bends over and carefully picks up the poop and puts it, like so much stolen treasure, in a bag before continuing on. If you were the distant observer, which of these creatures would you say is the more intelligent being?

Now please, all you dog-owners out there who, despite the warning above, read this post and are feeling a need to throttle me right now:  please, please remember that liking dogs and owning one are two totally different things. I do like dogs. But I like them even more after they've gone off with you, their owners.