Dogs are everywhere.
I spent last week at an animal behavior conference called Five Go to Sea. It was an interactive learning experience on the cruise ship Celebrity Reflection. As part of the cruise experience, shore excursions were offered at each port.
Our shore excursion in San Juan brought me to this lovely lady.
I can’t pronounce her name, nor can I spell it, but she made my day. I fiercely missed my dogs, as I do anytime I’m away from them more than a day. Usually, when I’m traveling, I have the opportunity to see other dogs. On a cruise ship, though, my options were severely limited. I was thrilled to put my hands on a dog!
She was one of three “ranch dogs,” but was by far the one most interested in human contact.
It struck me how different my dogs’ lives are from this dog’s life. It appeared that she received very little veterinary care (dull coat, dirty ears) and ate only enough food to keep her moving. Her eyes were a little goopy, but overall she seemed free of major heath issues. There was nary a collar or leash anywhere on any of the dogs.
I felt a pang of sympathy for her.
Where did she sleep? Probably in the barn with the horses. Not in a bed? With a human? What kind of life was that, I pondered. Did anyone pay her any attention at all, or did she merely exist?
We took off on our trail ride and she followed us, step for step.
She hunted for iguana. She flew over the streams, not getting a toe wet — her strong legs carrying her over the stream. She’d occasionally get ahead of us and wait, tongue hanging out, flopped in a beautiful green meadow under the shade of a beautiful, tall tree with fat orange flowers.
We rode well over an hour, through groves of trees, crossing streams, up rocky hills, through neighborhoods with livestock and other dogs and she never strayed far from our group.
What a life!
While our dogs back home get top-notch veterinary care, the best food money can buy, supplements to help their joints and coat, even acupuncture, these ranch dogs, too, lived quite a life. Their coats weren’t nearly as healthy, their ears and teeth could definitely use cleanings, and their skin issues caused them to scratch a lot, they had something going for them despite that. They may not live lives as long as our dogs back here in the U.S., but they did live full lives.
Different lives, for sure.
These are outside dogs. Dogs who live amongst humans, not with them. They were free to come and go, wander the farm, laze around when they got old, accept pats from visiting riders.
They didn’t seek out attention from people, and one of the dogs never acknowledged people at all. It was an interesting study in the different lives dogs live.
I don’t think one life is better than the other. I think they’re just different.
I felt sympathy for the dogs when I arrived at the ranch, but after I saw their life and how different it was, by the time I left the sympathy had turned to curiosity and then to acceptance. No dog has an ideal life. Kinda like us people, when you think about it.