Some Dogs Are Like That: A Love Letter

I’ve mentioned before that dogs are ubiquitous among RV travelers. To be sure you will also find cats, birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, real pigs and all manner of other critters cruising the highways with their owners, but the predominant companion animal is the canine.

Traveling with a dog or any animal requires infinite patience on the part of both humans and pets as routines are disrupted, time changes delay meals or you absolutely cannot find your pet’s favorite food on the road and it hasn’t eaten for three days.   There is another facet of travel with canines that relates directly to character—yours and your dog’s.

Outsiders (otherwise known as non-dog people) tend to lump dogs into two categories; “bad dogs,” or “good dogs.” I’m not going into great detail here, but to these people bad dogs bite, bark, pee or poop in what they deem to be inappropriate situations. Good dogs do none of those things and fetch your paper/slippers in addition to performing tricks. There is a third category of dog that dog people identify easily. This is the “some dogs are like that with their people” dog. Let me define this for you out there who may not be dog people.

Some dogs are like that with their people. That phrase is rarely a compliment.  In my analysis of the use of  this phrase, it isn’t so much an indictment of dogs as it is an statement aimed directly at YOU, the owner. YOUR dogs are like that, and it’s YOUR fault, but people are too polite to say that to your face. If you have a bad dog, someone will get in your face and tell you so. If you own a some dogs are like that kind of dog, you’ll never hear about it unless you sneak around and eavesdrop on people. Here is a case in point:

We were parked with our RV group in Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta. I walked over to the wagon master and his crew who were parking rigs as they arrived. As I stood with them we all heard a coach approaching. The engine was quiet enough, but the sound of little dogs madly barking increased in volume as they approached. “Oh, boy, we got a load of yappers” said one of the guys. “We’ll be getting complaints about them all weekend.” The wagon master was more circumspect. “Yep, well, some dogs  are like that with their people.” The men exchanged knowing looks, and proceeded to park the noisy coach, welcoming the couple with warm smiles. Sure enough, the RV had 5 little dogs onboard, and boy did they ever bark all week. The simple act of walking by within a 20-foot radius was a sure way to start a chorus. All week, you could hear variations on the the following exchange:

Person A, observing five little dogs flinging their bodies at the glass window of the RV and barking madly: “Those dogs sure do cause a ruckus. You’d think it would drive their people crazy.”

Person B, responding with a knowing look: “Well, some dogs are like that with their people.”

Are you with me so far? We have good dogs, bad dogs, and “some dogs who are like that with their people” dogs. Now let’s talk about my dog. My dog is a “some dogs are like that with their people” dog.  Don’t get me wrong, he is a wonderful dog, happy, full of fun and in his three years on this earth he hasn’t met an animal or a human he doesn’t like. He doesn’t harbor bad dog qualities, but there are times when I catch a glimpse of eye-rolls and I know when I walk away people say “some dogs are like that with their people” about us.

Four obedience school programs and a slew of private lessons later, my red dog and I have worked through a myriad of behaviors I attribute to doggie ADD and an overabundance of enthusiasm. There is only one thing we have been unable to address. He cannot accept the constraint of a leash when we’re outside. He will walk around Lowe’s for hours staying nicely by my side, causing passers-by to remark “what a good dog.” In the obedience classes he learned to do as I asked. I have a “most improved” trophy from his first obedience class. I harbor thoughts of hanging all his obedience school certificates around his neck so people will know I’ve been a diligent dog parent. Once we get outside and on a leash, those carefully conditioned brain cells shrivel and all he knows is that his world is larger than the 6′ lead will allow. He pulls and bucks against the leather, yearning to explore the interesting nooks and crannies just beyond his reach. Pause too long to chat with someone and he breaks his sit to fling his body to the ground where he rolls in exasperation. People think it’s cute until inevitably he slams into the legs of whomever I am talking to. As the hapless victim staggers for balance, I apologize profusely for my wild man. He’s so excitable, I say. That’s my cue to take my unruly dog and slink away–though actually I take a couple slinky steps before we resume the leash war.

In Albuquerque, doing an impression of a well-behaved dog.

We practice walking outside several times a week. I do all the things I learned to do with him: change directions quickly, rewards for walking nicely, etc. We’ve been through every harness, halter and leash on the market. I have even tried the technique every frustrated owner of a “some dogs are like that with their people” dog uses–the lecture. “Why can’t you be like that dog over there? “Why do you keep doing this?” “When are you ever going to learn?” “When am I going to get through to you?” One day I hope he will answer me.

A TV dog trainer is fond of saying that you get the dog that is meant to teach you a life lesson. All I know is I love this particular dog very much. We have spent so much time together, he and I that I can’t imagine being without him. He is my hiking buddy, and we tromp endless miles in the woods without the encumbrance of the blasted leash. He wears a cowbell so that I can keep track of him crashing around, though he rarely goes very far from my side. I call him and he runs to me with his big smile, and I am awash in his happiness. He sits and looks at me, tongue lolling, waiting. I tell him to “go play” and he runs off.  Our hikes always end the same way. I call him to me, saying “leash time!” I clip him to the lead, and we head back to civilization. That’s the time you can find me lurching through the campground with my big red dog. Observers will notice the dog is having the time of his life, grinning madly and filled with enthusiasm, while I probably look a little grim. I stop and make him come back to my side. He returns immediately and stares into my eyes with his big smile. I smile back. He is my boy, my red dog. “Ryder, walk,” I say, and he does so for about 20 yards, giving me just enough time for false hope until the next distraction. Some dogs are like that with their people. I love that he is like that with me.

On the trail in hunting season.

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