Monday, May 9, 2016

For The Love Of Dogs

My Labrador Retriever, Maggie
When I moved to Palm Springs, one of the things I wanted as much as anything else from my old life was my dog Maggie. We really do design our lives whether we want to call it that or not. And one of the things that you quickly discover, on your morning walks, here in Palm Springs and just about every other city in the Coachella Valley, is that there are dogs. Lots of dogs. Usually in multiples everywhere.

In the condo complex where I live you meet everyone pretty quickly as we all seem to walk our dogs at about the same time. Most are friendly but then there are those that aren't.

For me, living alone for the first time in nearly 40 years, a dog sort of grounds you into a daily routine, whether you want one or not. I've discovered its not unlike bringing up a child all over again! However, they also provide great company and are so happy to see you when you return. Feed them, give them walks every few hours and they make the best companion ever.

Palm Springs Dog Park
In the Coachella Valley you discover that dog lovers abound. You see them in stores, on leashes at the street fair, your morning walks. They have many many fundraisers for animal shelters and it is a source of pride to point out at the city dog park that the dog was gotten at the SPCA. The weekend newspaper even features dogs and cats that are available to be adopted ... usually a full page of them.

We started walking to the city dog park when I realized it was about a 20 minute walk away from the condo. Maggie has spent most of her life alone with me and has never been particularly interested in other dogs. Not aggressive to them, she prefers going up to the owners and getting a free pet instead! Each visit however she becomes more dog sociable and that gives the owners a chance to chat and pet whatever dog happens to come up and want petting. Soon you realize most do.

Lizard Patrol
Here at the condo she has discovered the joys of catching lizards to such a degree that I now call our pee breaks "doing the LP " (... lizard patrol.) Bred as retrievers she has no problem looking up at trees, the numerous walls as well as the ground and moves so fast they are in her mouth before I can even react. How can an 9 year-old dog move so fast? I try to get her to drop them and she pretends to do so then later I spot them on the living room floor. She doesn't eat them but trust me, they ARE dead. One of the funniest scenes was when she managed to capture a pretty large one. In the process of stunning it by shaking her head it got out of her mouth and ran towards a rock near me. She looked the other way and missed the escape.
After breakfast - she sleeps you are awake!

Currently we have a small problem. While I used to always wake up quite early, say around 4 - 5 am, she still thinks that is the proper time. I would get up, feed her, make coffee and begin my day. I don't need to get up that early anymore but well, she still does. It starts at the appointed hour, say 4:30 am with half of her on the bed. Her cold nose finds a vulnerable spot, the tongue comes out and then paws. It doesn't do any good to discourage her because, well, I am now awake.

Oddly, once fed, she is content to go back to sleep again and leave you awake. So there I sit, coffee in hand and catch up on the email I have ignored all day the day before.

There is a short LP, then later we have a good 30 or so minute walk that she is insistent on having. Actually, I need it too so after delaying it if I'm involved with something she comes up to you with "the look." First its just "the look." Then she grins and if that doesn't do the trick up come the paws on your
The look!
knees. Usually that will do the trick so I put on walking shoes and off we go.

I'm not really sure here who is training whom. I would say that she has done a pretty good job of getting me to do her bidding. While we haven't had 100ยบ+ weather yet, I would imagine soon that feeding time and our long walks will coincide. This week promises to be the hottest one since I moved here in January and so far she doesn't seem to be affected. I'm concerned about the heat on her paws though.

Already I am beginning to look for walks that have more shade. I've discovered that while palm trees are impressive and quite large here, they are useless for shade. Palm Springs has been tearing up the grassy sidewalks and replacing grass with desert landscaping. That includes trees that do give some shade. Actually this desert landscaping is far more colorful than grass and provides even more interesting places for critters to hide, much to Maggie's delight. Their world must be so different from ours. They say a dog has a 100,000 % greater sense of smell that humans; watching her sniff a spot in the dirt, this must be so.
Riding shotgun.
After the long walk

She is also a great travel companion ... always riding shotgun if she can. Sitting up and looking out the window, like a people, she causes more than her share of stares as she looks down from the truck's high window. After awhile, she will sprawl across the seat and really stretch if I pull up the center armrest. Now that the truck is gone though, she will have to be content with her new front seat. The center console doesn't move anymore. Sometimes she will stretch out in the back but she seems to prefer getting as close as she can, putting her head on the console,  making sure she gets her petting quotient.

Qiang and Maggie
A friend recently visited who, growing up in China during "The Cultural Revolution," never had a pet. I was surprised and he admitted that well, they had rabbits and chickens ... then ate them. He was nervous about being with a dog, his first time. However, she took to him like a long lost friend letting him bathe her (the first time since she came here) and groom her everyday. I must admit she never looked better. He would feed her in the middle of the night and even walk her. They became best buddies. Labs are like that. Being around people seems to be their greatest joy. And yes, it is a joy!

One of the best things about living here is that I don't have to worry about her escaping as before. She is an escape artist. I probably got her because she got out of her previous owners yard. She can easily climb a chain link fence ... a constant source of worry leaving her alone in the yard. Now I have a concrete patio with high walls and a high wooden gate. I can leave the slider open so she can sleep in her kennel, have access to water or roam the condo when I am gone.

A man's best friend!!!
There are many ways we create a lifestyle ... I prefer saying "design" our lives. We can be single, single with pets, married, married with pets or married with children and oftentimes pets. There are dog people, cat people, bird people even fish or bird people, often having several of the above. I never truly realized how much they bring to our lives until alone again. Like an unruly child they can be a pill but what they bring lovingly to you far outweighs any other thing.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out earlier blogs as they all, one way or another, talk about the way we and our world designs how we live.

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