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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick

Humans 101

One very rainy day recently, Bear and I were comfortably spending some quiet time together, warm and dry in the room in our humans’ house they call the “mud-room.”  It had not been long since we lost Logan, and I was still missing him very much.  Though still too young to really understand what all that meant, Bear sensed that I needed some cheering up, and was playfully nipping at my hind quarters to try and break me out of my reverie. 


“All right Bear,’ I said with just the tinge of a sigh, “now that you have my attention, I think it is time that we begin your formal education and training to be the best canine companion possible to our human family.”


“We’ll start today with some of the basic things you should know about all humans generally.  First, you need to understand that they are not like dogs (though it seems they sometimes wish they could be!) or any other kind of animal (certainly not cats); they have been raised to believe that they are the ‘apex’ creatures of the animal kingdom, created specifically and intentionally to ‘have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’ (they got that idea from a really, really old book that some of them talk a lot about).  But don’t let the seemingly inherent arrogance of that position trouble you too much; while that word ‘dominion’ means control, it also connotes and includes responsibility for the safety and well-being of all that may be under that control (I’ll have more on that later).”


“Now you might think that, with all that power and control, humans would be happy and content all the time.  But, unfortunately, you would be wrong.  I have observed, by watching the ‘television’ with our human family, that humans in general tend to argue and disagree and fight a lot, even to the point where they intentionally hurt each other, sometimes on such a great scale that they even have a word for it: ‘war.’  And they worry a lot, particularly over things that they individually have little or no control over, and that usually never end up happening.”


“At the same time, I have observed that humans can be kind, generous, loving and forgiving, both to each other and, especially, to the animals they choose to have live with them, like us.  You experienced that forgiveness yourself recently when our humans discovered you had scratched a hole through the wall in this room (something I would have strongly counseled you against had I been with you at the time).  Frankly, I think you escaped any real consequences for that infraction simply because, in the words of our eldest female human, you were ‘so little and so cute.’”

“So, you might ask, what is our role in all this?”


“The simplest answer I can give you is a quote from many years ago by a lawyer in a Supreme Court case (more on all that later) named George Graham Vest:  ‘The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world – the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous – is his dog.’  That quote bestowed upon us dogs the official title of ‘a human’s best friend.’”


“Every dog has his or her own unique set of talents, skills and personality that can be applied to serving the best friend role.  You and I are Australian Shepherds; as such, we are considered highly intelligent (I certainly agree with that) and easy to train, and are known for being especially eager to please our owners.  By nature and instinct, we are herding animals; we are very protective of our territory and our human families and will warn if strangers approach, but we are not considered aggressive.  We are very athletic, love to be physical active, and while we will bark at passing trucks and other dogs, we generally just want to play and get attention.”


“As Aussies, we need to have a job, and if not given one, we will find one for ourselves.  Our humans do not have any sheep or cattle for us to herd, so what Logan and I (and Buddy and Charlie before us) decided was that our job is to be the best canine companions to our human family that we possibly can be.  And that is the role I hope you will choose as well.”


“Then what should I be learning to do?” asked Bear.


“Well, you are well on your way in learning not to chew on everything.  And I would strongly encourage you to learn to stop scratching holes in walls.  Other than that, I suggest you observe and study our humans in order to discover how you might best please them and contribute to making this home a welcome oasis and escape from all the noise and troubles beyond these walls.  For example, I have found that few things please the eldest male human in our family more than simply having one or two dogs resting quietly at his feet.  It is truly remarkable how effective that can be.”


“So now, since it looks like this rain will not be stopping any time soon, let’s go into the ‘family room’ and see if we can find some feet to rest quietly by!”

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