Sunday, December 6, 2009

The new dog

This is Copper, our new dog. He's a boy, at least until tomorrow morning. This is a picture of him just after finding out about our trip to the vet tomorrow.
"You're taking me where?" he said.


And, as you can see from this photograph below, he is very well trained. Notice how expertly he has plopped himself down BESIDE his new bed, instead of on it. We think this may represent some measure of artistic predilection on his part--very avant garde, very "thinking outside the bed, err--box."
Interesting note. He and Mr. Baseball both react the same way to discipline. They both get really excited, as if the embarrassment/shame/frustration/whatever of failing to live up to expectations generates a lot of energy that has to be released in some way. Mr. Baseball usually gets wiggly and starts talking in goofy voices. The dog usually runs laps around the couch and rolls on his back at my feet, as if to say, "I'm sorry, really, I am. I know I'm bad, but look, I'm on my back now, totally exposed. That's got to count for something, right? Please don't hate me, please."

He's not bad. just new to all of this "living with bipeds" stuff. He's been a backyard dog most of his life and hasn't had a lot of rules. He couldn't sit or stay when we got him (still can't really) and his on-leash etiquette made going for a walk like trying to play with a thirty pound yo-yo. But he's getting better. five days of morning walks and he's right along side me most of the way without much tugging or getting distracted by the neighborhood smells.

Can you imagine having a nose like a dog's that takes in smells like we take in the visual world around us. What a smellscape! Rain gutters and stale garbage and burning chimneys and rotting leaves and cigarette smoke and that old chewing gum on the concrete and the stale urine on the fire hydrant and the cotton seed on the wind and ketchup packet smashed into the asphalt and the broken beer bottle and the McDonald's bag in the field and maybe even the cockroach droppings and a stray bit of exhaust carried in on the breeze--all picked up by the dog's nose, all registered and cataloged and labeled with at least two questions? "What's that smell?" and "Should I follow it?" I SEE most of this on our walks, but he smells it. It's got to be an entirely new dimension, a lens on the world that gives him what I imagine language gives us, a unique view on his surroundings specially adapted to his needs as a dog--a view we can neither appreciate nor ever hope to appropriate any more than he'll ever really appreciate or be capable of using language to the extent that we do.

I've read that some autistic savants associate specific emotions, colors, energies, and feelings with numbers--I wonder if a dog can tell the difference between an angry smell and a happy smell, a safe smell and a dangerous smell, a clam smell and an energetic one. who knows. We bought some old chicken at Walmart the other day that smelled pretty angry.

He's learning...I'm learning...we're learning...

3 comments:

Lu said...

He's so cute! How fun! The stories of his shenanigans remind me of Riley's arrival and adjustment to our family years ago. Oh, the days. And, by the way, I think pregnant ladies get pretty close to understanding a dog's sense of smell :-)

Ma Fitz said...

Welcome to the family, Copper. May you and Riley have many days of romping about.

Sarah said...

LOL! I love the "he's a boy....at least until tomorrow morning." I've been laughing about that for 5 minutes. Did you ever watch "Marley & Me?"