OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - "Angelie"

(01/21/2001)

By Tony Russell

We have a dog named Angelie. She belongs to my daughter Hannah, who already had two cats and a dog, and didn't need another pet. So it's not clear to me why we said she could have the puppy. Those of you who are parents may have similar blank spaces about such decisions. It is thus with a mixture of emotions that I confess: Angelie is the best dog I've ever been around.

She's some sort of collie-mix, or maybe Shetland Sheepdog rather than collie, given her size. Her coat is long, mostly a collie's gold and white, with some darker hair thrown in. Her head and muzzle have a collie shape, except that they're broader. None of that matters much, except to give you a mental picture to which you can attach what does matter. And what does matter is the perceptiveness and intelligence she brings to human relations.

Some folks will argue that animals don't have intelligence, don't have emotions, and so forth. Such folks operate from a set of beliefs that acts like blinders on a horse. Since all beliefs are matters of faith rather than reason, and argument is at best reasonable, why argue with them? I just want to talk about this wonderful companion.

I have a shelf full of books on training dogs. It's right next to the shelf of books about repairing automobiles. All theory and no practice. We've never tried to teach Angelie anything that I can recall. What she does is based on a sweet-natured desire to please, and a constant sensitivity to how people respond to her behavior.

Examples. Anglelie spends most of her time outside, although we will occasionally let her in. She comes when called and stops doing something if you tell her No. She has never been chained. I yelled at her a few times when she was young and wanted to follow me. Now she seems to know our property boundaries, and doesn't stray much beyond them except in our company. She barks when strangers come, but is totally unaggressive. She just announces their arrival.

She has never been housebroken. She never needed to be. She trots a few feet inside the door, then drops down, as if to say, Thanks so much for letting me in. I won't bother anything or get in your way. She has never chewed furniture, never bothered food, never had an accident, no matter how long she was in. She wants to be petted, and pushes her nose into your hand. If you want to move on to other things, let her know. Shell accept it, and patiently wait for another chance. She defers to the other animals, including the twelve-year-old five-pound poodle. If the poodle wants to eat out of her dish, fine. Shell take whats left.

I know that a lot of dog owners are insufferable. They dote on their pets as if they were children, and you suspect that a huge need to love has met a curiously unimpressive recipient. When I hear people go on about their dogs, I humor them the same way I would anyone who is delusional. If I sound like that, dont tell me. Im enjoying the experience too much.


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