Thursday, February 4, 2010

Companionship - A Fairy Tale

If I were to list the top five reasons I have dogs, companionship would sit right up there at the top. Cats make wonderful companions, too, and I have been a servant to many over the years. One, in particular, stole my heart, and the memories of the love and devotion he gave me during his long life will remain with me forever.

But (stating the obvious here) cats and dogs are very different. One such difference is that a cat usually resides at home while a dog is often more willing and able to accompany its people to a variety of public places.

Assuming he or she is socially acceptable... whatever that means.

What immediately pops into my mind is a little old lady (let's call her Granny) and her little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sarah.

Once upon a time, Granny and Sarah go to town to buy some quilting fabric. Granny probably doesn't need any more fabric, but all her friends are there, with plenty of good chit-chat, so I suppose this is really more a social call than anything else.

Sarah rides nicely in the car, happy to be going out but not so happy as to be hazard to Granny's already iffy driving. Once parked, Sarah waits patiently until Granny gets herself, her purse, and her reusable shopping bag (Granny being environmentally friendly) out of the car. Then Sarah hops over to the now empty drivers seat, waits until Granny snaps her pretty pink leash on, and then hops daintily to the ground.

While Granny fumbles with her keys, Sarah passes the time quietly sniffing the ground, being carefully not to tug on the leash lest she unbalance Granny. Then the two head off toward the store. Parking being hard to come by in town, they have a bit of a walk, but Sarah doesn't mind and she trots merrily along, pausing here and there for a quick sniff but never causing the leash to tighten nor get in Granny's way.

Other people pass them on the sidewalk, some with dogs and some without, but Sarah has good social skills and greets all with a friendly sniff and a wag of her plumey tail.

... well, you can see where I'm going with this. Sarah is obviously going to be welcome in the store as she doesn't make a mess, bark, or bother other patrons. She's welcome at the Hair Salon as she isn't afraid of the loud hair driers. She's welcome at the outdoor Cafe as she doesn't beg or steal food. She's a favorite with the waitresses there because she gently takes tasty treats from their fingers, leaving the fingers just the way she found them.

Sarah is fine walking back to the car. The fact she doesn't tug on the leash making it easy for Granny to manage her and the overstuffed reusable shopping bag. She's fine walking past the elementary school when the kids get out and go running past. Some stop to pet her, some don't, and she accepts them either way. Sarah is fine a the post office, where she waits in the car for a minute while Granny drops the letters into the curbside mailbox.

In fact, Sarah is good everywhere that Granny takes her, and Granny takes her everywhere since Sarah is so good.

Sadly, this is just a Fairy Tale for many of the people and dogs I know. The irony is that so many loving companions can't actually accompany the people they love due to questionable social skills, and yet their social skills will never improve because they are never taken anywhere.

I don't want Zachary to be one of those dogs.

I got him off to a good start when he was puppy, taking him many places and having him meet many people and things. But as I'm not a social person myself (huge understatement) I admit to letting serious socialization slide of late... like... the last six months of late... or so...

But I will let it slide no longer. This week I'm going to finish writing up the Extracurricular Activity (Elective) for Companionship, keeping my little Fairy Tale in mind. Note that this is not the same as Obedience. Granny never specifically asked Sarah to do anything.

All that was desired was for her to be a good companion.

( Stay tuned for the next episode, where I try to figure out what I really want from my own canine companions. )

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