Joy of Dog II

Copper has an on-off switch. Two positions: full speed ahead and sleep soundly.

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Copper luxuriating in our Durango Hotel room, Winter 2016.

 

Even when she’s being “bad,” stealing sox or slippers and playing keep away with anything she knows I want back, it’s all about having fun. Humans should be so free. Vizslas don’t fully mature until four or five. At four, she still has some of her puppy perspective. She is smart, strong-willed, and just charming enough to get her way…too often. Playful would be a monumental understatement.

Copper was only a few months old when we took her with us to visit friends staying near La Paz, Baja Del Sur, Mexico, four years ago. There, we drove to a deserted beach, planning to introduce her to water. La Paz faces east on the Sea of Cortez. The surf is very small. I waded out to coax Copper in hopes she would learn to swim. Immediately she swam right out to me, circled, and then swam back to shore, looking bewildered, yet excited. All I had to do was call her and she repeated the feat, over and over again. At 6 months, she had more to learn about swimming, but her unbounded energy and enthusiasm guaranteed success. Today, she is an accomplished surf-dog who loves playing in the surf as I did as a kid on the California coast so many decades before. (More on that in a later post.)

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Surf Dog

We were stunned to realize how much Copper loves to run. Each day while in La Paz, we took Copper to a deserted beach. Cynde and I would separate by about 50 or 75 yards along the shore and called her back and forth. We thought she would never tire. Finally, she sat down and looked in both directions as if to say, “Okay, guys, that’s it for me.”

In a couple of minutes, she was back at it. Right then we decided that taking her on walks around the neighborhood as we had done before the trip, was clearly not adequate to her running needs. She is, after all, a Vizsla, a field dog with remarkable energy and endurance.

The Fog of Play

Fog of Play

We take Copper to the dog park daily, even twice a day for the first few months, just to help burn off all that energy having fun. Copper easily learned to socialize with the other dogs and relished the appearance of other puppies with whom she could wrestle and chase. At the dog park, we would learn much more about dog social life and the humans who “own” them than we ever could have imagined.

The dog park has a way of bringing out the best and worst in people (mostly the best), highlighting the human dilemmas that make it so difficult to face both interpersonal and global crises. New revelations about the joy of dog awaited her two-footed companions at the dog park.

Joy of dog

I didn’t really want another dog.

We enjoyed Shadow for nearly sixteen years, the last couple of which were very difficult for us all. Weimaraner life expectancy is 11 or 12. Shadow was a wonderful dog, but once she passed after almost 16 years, I didn’t want to take on the responsibility again, not for a while anyway. Nor did I want my travel to be constrained by the complications of boarding a dog.

Some dogs have no problem with staying for a few days or a couple of weeks at a commercial kennel, but others do. Shadow hated kennels. So would I, if confined like that with strangers.

Finally, I relented. Shadow had been Cynde’s first dog; she wanted to get another Weimaraner, but I opposed the idea. “You cannot replace Shadow, ever; we need to find another kind of dog, a different one.” I was adamant. Cynde was so attached to Shadow that I knew another Weimaraner would be difficult, not only because of the breed’s tendency to be hyperactive and its size (females run 55-75 pounds) in context of her back injury.

My resistance had already weakening when we accidentally discovered Vizslas. We were in the lobby of the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, after an environmental awards presentation, when a young girl walked by, led by two beautiful copper-colored hounds, one older, one young. We asked the girl what kind of dog they were. We had never seen Vizslas before, nor did we know anything about them.

Vizslas are smaller than Weimaraners (females 40-55 pounds), look very similar. We soon found out that they also have sweet dispositions as well as being too smart for humans. They are an old Hungarian breed of hound. I’ve been told that the Weimaraner and the German Short Hair were bred from Vizslas. According to the AKC:

“The Vizsla is a versatile, red-coated gundog built for long days in the field. For centuries, these rugged but elegant athletes have been the pride of Hungarian sportsmen and their popularity in America increases with each passing year.”

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Copper at one year old.

Well, that was it. The Vizsla hunt was on, accompanied by my mixed feelings. Love of dogs versus responsibility aversion. When we found her, we just had to name her “Copper” because of her beautiful color. Dogs can be a great addition to a household, but ownership entails responsibilities. Humans need to be trained to properly relate to dogs. No other animal has a relation to humans anything like that of a dog.

In the U.S., the consumption of commercial pet food parallels that of human food; it is a huge carbon-intensive industry. Dogs evolved as domesticated animals because some former wolves gradually over generations, as scavengers, entered a symbiotic relationship with humans. The feeding of scraps became a central feature of our inter-species bonding. We certainly have enough food scraps these days to sustain our pets. Do we really need a major industry to supply specialized diets for the world’s greatest scavengers? Dogs and cats account for a quarter of the carbon emissions of all “animal agriculture.” For more on carbon emissions and the global costs of affluence, see various posts at www.thehopefulrealist.com.