Saturday, February 26, 2005

Trust And Dismay

Our oldest, and largest dog, Klondike, is the most trusting (albeit I'll admit I once thought stupid) dog I've ever owned - by the way if the concept of people "owning" dogs offends you, I'm sorry it was unintentional, feel free to substitute whatever phrase is currently in vogue amidst the San Francisco city council or PETA. Klondike is a trusting creature, let's put it that way.

Quite often, he will plop himself on the floor beside where I am on the couch yet when I attempt to get up, he has no instinct to move. Zero. None. He knows my feet are potentially headed for his body. He knows I am one of the few creatures in the house slightly larger than him. He even knows that if I step on him it would hurt...but he doesn't budge...ever.

It took me many years to get used to the fact that if Klondike was sleeping on the floor next to my bed that I would have to "step over him" when I wanted to get up because he certainly had no intention of doing so.

Early on when I noticed this odd trait I thought I could "train" it out him. I would step on him a few times and he'd get the message.


Every other dog I've ever had quickly learned that lesson. They knew to keep at least a small fragment of their limited attention focused on the people on the couch, or the bed, etc....because otherwise people might step on them resulting in pain.

Not Klondike. You can step on his head (something I haven't completely ruled out as the root cause of this characteristic) and he will look at you with wide trusting brown eyes that seem to say, "Why would you do that?"

When he adopted us (actually there is some debate as to whether Amy stole him) at about 10 weeks old, he sat down on the stairs, usually the fourth or fifth stair, and if we attempted to climb or descend the stairs he remained sitting. Unphased and unmoved. I mean he wouldn't scoot over a fraction of an inch. We had to step over him or go around him. It never dawned on him to actually get off his rear and make way for us to pass by.

When he was a relatively small puppy it was cute.

When he grew into young adulthood, it was tolerable but slightly annoying.

Today it is an expected constant in our lives...on the stairs there will usually be a big black roadblock with dog breath.

It's a behavior to which everyone in the house has adjusted, even our little dogs. They will scramble under Klondike, between his legs or attempt to squeeze by him. They don't jump on him; they find a way to get by him without requiring him to move. To them he is part of the stairwell.

I will say training has worked a little...for Klondike. He has trained us to speak. We'll say, "Klondike MOVE!" almost every time we leap, stumble or trip on his 90 pound frame. He'll look at us with those big brown eyes and keep his fanny planted like it had roots.

You can be running down the stairs in a mad frenzy because you're late for work, or be dashing up the stairs in a pressing panic to find an open bathroom and Klondike will still stake his ground - completely oblivious to your sense of urgency, although occasionally I swear I detect a bemused look on his face but that's probably my imagination in overdrive.

I will admit that even after all these years there are times when I find this behavior annoying, but in truth I'm also fascinated by it.

I suppose folks who have dogs that are well trained - a concept completely foreign to this household, would simply consider this disobedience. I don't. I consider it in its highest form.

Klondike knows beyond any doubt in his mind that we will go out of our way, no matter how inconvenient, to avoid stepping on him or harming him. It's not something he learned gradually. It was a decision he made about us when he was 10 weeks old. He would trust us...completely.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but perhaps this old dog can still teach me a thing or two.

I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me
. - Psalm 13: 5-6