Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Oscar's first day of school was last night. Our little scholarship student.

Some background on Oscar. Three weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take a walk. We've lived there together for over 6 months, and had never taken a walk, but this night we would. And not 100 yards from our house, an inquisitive face popped out of the weeds across the highway. The name "Oscar" flew into my mind as though whispered by a long lost friend (if I told you who's voice it was, you'd never believe me). Once eye contact was made, that face became a dog, full of enthusiasm, and that dog ran into traffic. GB and I coaxed him over to us, took him to our yard, and set upon finding his owners. No luck with the police, animal control, or any postings we made in several public places, this dog's owners did not want him back. Of course, I could not speak that whispered name out loud, because any fool knows that naming something makes it yours, and giving up a bundle of love that is yours is enough to break the most steely of hearts... and mine is more like a fluffy raspberry mousse than steel. Oscar (as he has been known in my heart from the first eye contact) was fairly healthy, un-altered, and with no training at all. A 50-pound dog who didn't know "NO", and jumped. I'm sure that his first family bought a puppy that was cute and friendly, and then didn't train him at all. When he got big - shock and surprise - this dog won't behave like I want him too! And they dumped him somewhere.

Add to this frustration that Oscar is a bull terrier mix. This is a polite way of saying "Pitbull". Perhaps the most misunderstood breed going, Pitbull's are amazingly sweet dogs, able to tolerate the most amazing circumstances - which makes them excellent with children. They actually used to be called the Nanny dog, and were once the number one recommended dog breed for families. But someone decided that this dog of amazing strength should be beaten, starved, abused, and taught that the only way to survive would be to fight other animals. And as a matter of survival, some pits did that. Most are still amazingly sweet dogs, but it only takes a few well-placed publicity shots to ruin the world's view.

Because of this, we couldn't take Oscar to our local pound. This sweet soul, this bundle of love, this being that wanted nothing but a fraction of his love in return, would have been killed before my car left the parking lot. Because of the body he was born into. I simply couldn't let this happen, and GB... Well, he knew that about me when he married me. And so we have a foster dog. Foster because I know that in the long run, we don't have the right home for this guy. We have a VERY small home, with very little land. GB travels frequently. I work odd hours. We are owned by two precious cats already, who have made it clear that they don't want a dog. So it is my job to help make Oscar the best dog that he can be, so someone else can benefit from his love. Mine, because there are no accidents, and Oscar was meant to find me the day of that first ever walk.

And so to make an already long story ever so slightly shorter, the Harford County Humane Society has been an amazing help to us. There is a link to them along the side - I do hope you'll go there and support them (at last check Oscar was on page 4 of the dogs)! Oscar and I have enrolled in a dog training class. Most people go to these thinking "finally my dog will learn to behave". Any dog trainer worth his salt will tell you it's not so much teaching the dog, but teaching the trainer. Human beings expect everyone to speak their language. Dog "training" is about learning the language the dog will understand, and using that to ask your dog to do what you want. We stood there in a room with 15 other dogs and I watched how people behaved, and how their dogs mirrored them. Those who sat in chairs, just watching, had their dogs sitting quietly on the floor near them. Others chatted with a nearby student, their puppies playing together with abandon. The two women who sat most apart from the group each had a large dog who was very aggressive - but only when a stranger came near "mom". And the woman who came over to tell me that she'd been watching and thought that Oscar was getting spoiled too much at home? Her dog kept walking between two others and nipping at them. Each and every dog wanted only to please their "parent" - nothing more. And that was so evident in their eyes. I see it in Oscar, too - Oscar wants so badly to be accepted and loved, he just doesn't know how to do that.

Animals are forced to learn our language, and often punished when they don't. But communication is a two way street. If I expect someone else to respond to me, don't I need to first learn how to speak to them? And shouldn't that be the same with animals? I'm trying to learn Oscar's language, and to give him the best upbringing, to show him what humans expect from him so that he has a chance at a family that will love him as much as I know he will love them.

All anyone wants is love. Those of us that get that love from animals are blessed many times over.

Thoughts for the Day:

Unknown - "He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."

Woodrow Wilson - "If a dog will not come to you after he has looked you in the face, you ought to go home and examine your conscience."


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