Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A dog and her human.

I have often found it hilarious to sometimes try to see life through a dogs eyes.  In fact, we usually see them as, "our dogs".  The reality of it is that we are "their humans"!  This is a very present philosophy here at our home.  We have three dogs.  All three are Alaskan Malamutes, with one being a female husky/malamute mix with a hint of lab in her, one being a male wolf /malamute mix, and the third being a female pure bread malamute.  If you google the word 'stubborn', surely 'malamute' will come up somewhere in that description!  But they all three are good dogs, very loving, obedient....most of the time...and very protective of their pack....their humans....their family.  This story is about the first dog I described, the alpha of the pack.

Around here we refer to ourselves as a pack, rather than the traditional 'family'.  This is because our dogs see us as a pack, as pack oriented animals usually do.  In order to understand them and for them to understand us, simple human/dog communication, we often have to interact with a pack mentality.  All this dog logic set aside, more times often than not, we have watched our dogs' expressions in any number of given situations, and can actually see the wheels in their brains turning, looking at us as 'their humans'.  In know, unless you are a dog person you are probably thinking I have lost it!

When we moved to our new home it was an out of state move, a complete transition....a life change for us all.  Many relatives thought we should rent before we bought a home just in case we didn't like it here or things didn't work out.  Among many other reasons that we decided to stick with our gut and purchase a home during the move, one huge thing on our minds were our dogs.  At the time we only had two of them, while the pure bread malamute joined us a couple of years after the move.  But they were a huge part of the family and what if the place we rented wouldn't take dogs??  No, we needed to have a place of safety, a sanctuary were we could live, with our dogs, freely with no conditions or restriants.  Besides, being homeowners for so long we just couldn't imagine renting.

Our little alpha girl has always been the protector and has overseen our safety.  When we would all go out and hike, she would always be the one to run around like the little general, making sure we were all in sight, and when one of us wasn't she would make sure to it that everyone else was aware of it until we all rejoined.  She met her match one cold morning here with a cow moose protecting her calves here on the property.  That was an eye opener for her!  She had to swallow her pride and walked on eggshells for a couple of weeks after that episode!  She was never hurt in the ensuing melee, but had to stand down turn face and run from that one.  Now she will bark at the moose, but at a good distance, just to let them know she is still the chief around here and for them to mind their P's and Q's while on our property.  Funny girl!

One thing that has baffled me about her since we moved here is the way she will absolutely watch over me like a hawk whenever I am splitting or cutting firewood.  We need a steady 12 cords of wood each year to keep our home comfortable through the cold winters.  Most of it is dead beetle kill or stands that are undergrowth and don't stand a chance to grow.  Some of it we pull up from our property, and some we obtain in other areas where we can access it freely.  But no matter, it all ends up out front in the processing area where we buck and split the rounds and wheel it off to be stacked.  And every single time this process is done, no matter the day, time of day, or weather it is done in, there is our little alpha girl, watching over me.  I mean she literally doesn't take her eyes off of me.  An occasional twist of her head into the breeze, but she lays there with her paws crossed....she is very much a lady...in an upright position watching me sometimes for hours at a sitting.  Occasionally she will walk up to me while I am at work with the firewood, tail wagging, almost as much as to say, "ok dad, it's time to take a break....".

And the point to this story is??  Well, I don't really know!  It just seemed like a cute story to tell.  And being that I have been splitting wood for the past 2 hours before she came up to me, tail wagging, telling me to break this afternoon, I decided to take my appointed break and tell the story!  Mind you all three dogs are always laying out when the pack is out in the yard working or playing.  They are all right there in the mix.  Being that they are trained they are always off lead and free to roam about the yard with us.  They know their bounds.  Well, the newest one, you know, the stubborn pure bread...she is still work in progress at times, but gaining a sense of understanding....slowly!

The utmost love that these three guys give to us is amazing, and would have to be seen to be fully understood.  But our little alpha girl definitely seems to be my guardian angel when it comes to processing wood.  She fears not the saws, or the splitter....she will stand there being sprayed with wood chips from the chainsaw to no avail....she knows what it is all about.  I have watched her over the years and she knows when we start working wood heavily that the cold is coming.  She absolutely loves to curl up and lay out in front of the wood stove!  She has even been known to sit up in the bulldozer with our son or myself when we are skidding out logs!  She will stand up on top of a log pile, like king of the heap, looking over the pack when we are all outside.  She seems to be a real wood dog.

Which brings me back to the thing with her watching so intently over me when I am working firewood.  When I think back on it, even before we moved here to Alaska, we lived in the mountains and firewood was a huge staple for us there as well.  But she never seemed to be so vigilant with me there.  No, there is something about being here.  Since the move here she has become so much more watchful, and most especially when I am wooding around.  Maybe it is something simple like she is just doing her job.  Or, maybe she knows I am not getting any younger and senses the physical exertion I'm putting out.  Maybe it is because she knows there are animals that roam about that are much bigger than her!!  I really don't know, but I am here to tell you it fills my heart with warmth knowing she is always watching over me.  I never feel alone out there with daddies little girl very close to me.

I remember one night many years ago I was working under my truck late at night trying to fix a wiring problem.  Our male wolf/malamute was then and still is very much my buddy.  He may sit back and let alpha watch over me with wood cutting, but every other time he is right there with me.  This particular night I was tired and didn't want to crawl back out from under the truck and called my wife to see if she could work the controls in the cab whilst I traced wires underneath.  I called out to her several times, as the front door to the cabin was open, but still, she didn't here me.  Low and behold, our male comes crawling under the truck with a look of concern and semi-panic in his eyes.  He had been laying up on the deck watching me.  He wouldn't leave my side!  I think he thought something was wrong.  I pet him and assured him I was fine and told him to "go get mama".  He did....he crawled out and ran to the front door screen and acted erratically until my wife who was on the phone, noticed him and came to open the door for him to come inside.  He wouldn't go in though, instead he ran down the steps and stopped looking back at her until she came outside at which point I heard her and called her over.  It wasn't until later that night when I came in that we compared notes and we both realized what had just transpired there!

Dogs are amazing animals, and ours have proven more than once over the years how they truly are man and woman's best friends.  We couldn't imagine life without them.  They are a huge part of what makes our home, "our home".  There are dogs scattered and spread out all over the floor behind me right now!  It's hard work watching over their humans!!  I can see where a little rest is imperative for them before I head back out for round two of wood splitting today.  But I won't be alone.  Whatever it is that drives them, most especially my girl, it is a mystery to me, but assurance that I...that we, are never alone.