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My dog people tell me….

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People who study these things say that dogs were first domesticated between 14,000 and 29,000 years ago. Before that, there were wolves, which there still are. One can imagine the process being something like this: I’ll give you some food if you’ll bark and wake me up if a strange car pulls into the driveway.


Enough of this fascinating dog history. I just got a dog a couple of weeks ago and I’m deep in the throes of trying to encourage him to be a proper, well-mannered companion. I grew up with dogs. My dad was partial to Springer Spaniels because they were most apt to swim out into the cold water and bring back the duck that he had shot. They were pretty good-natured about dealing with my siblings and me, and would bark if a strange car pulled into the driveway. When they got older, their back hips wouldn’t work quite as well and they got a little cranky. They slept much of the time and saved their energy for hunting or swimming out to fetch the stick.


My new dog is named Bert, although the actual spelling of the name is only important to the veterinarian’s receptionist who is going to start the vaccination file. This is the third dog I’ve had named Bert. At some point, when he’s older, I’ll show him pictures of Bert I and Bert II and tell him stories of their exploits and some of the silly or dangerous stuff they did. I’ll save that for later, though.


My last dog, Max, was a yellow lab and a great companion. He loved hunting and hiking as much as I did. He would ride in the front of the canoe and take it all in, conveying to me that, “I’d love to help you paddle but, hey, I’m a dog”. He had an idyllic life, living on a rural farm where he never had to be chained up. He was a gentle soul, but when strangers pulled into the driveway, many of them would not get out of the car until someone came out to tell the dog “it’s okay”. He spent his last couple winters down in Florida and I’m not sure he was any more comfortable with that environment than I was. Gone were the familiar woods to go roaming around in. For the first time in my life, I had to pick up dog poop to keep peace with the neighbors on our island.

I’ve been dogless since Max died 9 years ago. I couldn’t bring myself to replace him with some kind of lapdog like many other Floridians had. Once we made the permanent move to Oakridge 2 years ago I started thinking seriously about getting another dog. A lot of new variables entered into the equation now that I’m no longer 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Will I be able to give the dog sufficient exercise by taking him hiking with me? Will I be able to lift him into the back of my truck when he’s full grown and I’m even older. I’ve rationalized that if he lives to be 10 or 12 or 14 years old, he will be a big factor in making me stay active until I am probably too old to get any more dogs. Sad, but true.


The dreaded house training was a non issue. I caught him in the act of peeing in the house once, the second day he was here. I explained in detail why he can’t do that anymore, and we’ve had no more accidents. He’s a smart little guy and, aside from puppy rambunctiousness, he seems to get most everything we’re trying to instill in him. The serious training- stay, come, heal, get down and quiet has already begun with some success. He and the cat have reached detente. To no one’s surprise, he likes people food even better than the food that comes out of the bag with the picture of a big happy dog on it.


I’d go on about dogs in general and my dog, specifically, but I need to take him out for a long, long walk so he can burn off some of his excess energy.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo

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