JD Allinder

Alive and Kicking

In Posts on December 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Moving into our fourth year together, Jane and I pretty much exist in concert with each other. I anticipate her needs, she finishes my sentences for me. We’re comfortable, like a well-worn pair of boots. She’s more or less satisfied with our living arrangement (though she insists I underfeed her), and takes care of the house with the pride of a peacock. She sleeps when I sleep, eats when I eat, and walks when I walk. Ours is a satisfying and inspiring example of interspecies symbiosis, though there’s a part of Jane or me or us that will forever puzzle me. Sometimes there’s a disconnect. Sometimes we just don’t completely mesh. Sometimes we seem like strangers to each other. Sometimes she looks through me like I’m not there, then two seconds later she’s giving me the full-body wag and dancing for my affection. In sum, Jane’s a nut.

And that’s all the more reason I’m thankful we found each other. First, I’ve got my own (pronounced) nut characteristics. For every quirk of Jane’s, I’ve got at least one of my own, and she takes them all in stride: she models unconditional acceptance. Second, I badly want Jane to be content and whole – truly satisfied as a dog, and a hound dog at that – and of course I feel I’m the person best suited to try and meet her needs. I guess I feel I’m more tolerant of differences than some or many, so that makes me a good companion for a quirky beast. But often, like when I (daily) scold Jane for foraging and she bows her head in pathetic shame only to instantly rebound from prostration to immediately commit the offense again, I find myself comparing her behavior to the behavior that I expect or desire from her, or the behavior I intrinsically associate with dogs. And this is wrong. Yes, she oftentimes puts a perplexing Jane twist on things – I constantly call her my odd duck – but I need to expand my definitions or ideas or concepts of what it means to be a dog, what it means to be a hound dog, what it means to be a dog who did not have the head start in life that she deserved, what it means to be Jane.

Back in fall 2008, Jane and I attended basic dog training classes at Northfield Dog Training in Ann Arbor. Our instructor was Adele, the same teacher Georgia and I had years ago. I was concerned about Jane’s apparent disinterest in me (what I’ve always referred to as her cat-like demeanor), and I asked Adele if it was something I should be concerned about. She told me that, yes, I should. It could indicate that Jane and I are not a good match, Adele told me. She warned me to give the relationship plenty of time, however. She said that Jane just might teach me more about dogs than any other I’d ever known. She was right. Jane has redefined dog for me. I only hope I’ve been able to as profoundly redefine human for her.

  1. I too, have a coonhound (named Blue) I got him when he was a pup and he is now 2. He has the same “cat like” personality that you mention…as a puppy I was worried he didn’t like me, haha. As time went by I realized that coonhounds are simply not an attention-driven breed, like labs or retrievers. He is definitely food driven though : ) But that doesn’t mean they don’t love their owners. Blue’s greatest form of attention is not walking away when you rub his back, sometimes he even leans into you and you know that he is happy where he is! I’m sure your dog is too : )

    • Thanks for your comment. It made me laugh. Jane’s the same as Blue. Our biggest moments of affection are when she allows me to briefly rub her belly before dashing off to more important things, like searching for crumbs in the kitchen or sitting sentry at the living room window.

  2. Very insightful. I believe that your dog thinks. She tries to understand you completely but it puzzles her. Basically, she emulates your higher cognitive functions. I noticed this kind of “thinking behaviour” and detachment in some of my pets who were very much in tune with me.

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