by Lucky Garvin
He has no sense of being less than any other. He is tolerant and urbane; and though we have many animals in our home, I swear the most solitary and unsung of them is our gerbil [Actually, my `step-gerbil’; he actually belongs to Sabrina.] But issues of legal ownership aside, this inoffensive little quadruped impresses me.
Now, it’s true I could fertilize the White House lawn twice a week with what he leaves on the bottom of his cage [I’m somewhat surprised a vegetable garden hasn’t sprung up spontaneously in the corner of his cage, given his diet of seeds and the amount of ‘mulch’ available]; and yes, he beats noisily on his water bottle when he wants me to put him in his little exercise ball and let him roll around the floor. He pounds with an imperial displeasure, feeling he has been most patient but said patience has been completely and justifiably exhausted. “Thank you very much, and it’s about time you showed up!” But I would fuss too.
He refuses to allow his sleep patterns to be dictated by his species. To wit, he snoozes whenever he bloody well wishes, and stays awake for periods of his own choosing. But for the most part, his little life is rounded by sleep.
This precious little creature is growing slowly older like the curling of a leaf stem [not unlike someone else I know.] Blithely ignoring the fact that he and his kind seem to have been set on earth for the specific purpose of rounding out the bottom of the food chain, he cheerfully lives his little life, relishes his fresh food and water, demands little, runs on his wheel for miles, burrows under his bedding and is content with his lot. He is one of God’s more self-sufficient little creatures.
THE LAW OF THE PACK
Several years ago, a friend of ours wisely judged he could no longer be a fit owner to his little black and white bird dog, ‘Brandi.’ He asked if we would take her on. Yes, but not without some misgivings. The rest of our dogs are Dobie’s; eighty pounds and up. From her perspective, little Brandi must have felt like a prairie dog among buffalo.
But Brandi knew a trick: she fully understood and abided by the law of the pack. That law gives order to a group which might otherwise tear itself apart, destroying the hopes and the life of any individual involved therein, and thus, the group itself. Perhaps this is why, over generations, the law evolved; it forges the group to a common purpose and order. Only rarely can an individual creature in the wild survive on its own.
In terms of ranking, there are leaders, or alphas [not necessarily male], then betas, gammas, deltas, etc., down to, and very much including the lowest-ranking member of the pack. For a human two-some who might own a single dog and feel themselves excluded from this law, they should think again. In any dog’s mind, there must be a pack; no exceptions. There must be an alpha; no exceptions. One or both of the humans must be the leader, or the dog will assume that role; this is the dog who will not follow commands. Why should the boss obey subordinates?
Although Brandi has more energy than a potful of coffee, she knows her place; she was the littlest, the weakest; so that’s how she acted; and since then, has gotten along just fine. Watching her, I am moved to wonder if any human being has been so happy with so little. Her long tail, a metronome of her overall happiness, beats so rapidly her hindquarters are drawn to this extravagance of pure joy as to make you fear for her vertebrae. When she gets excited she dances, her front legs beating a staccato on the floor any drummer would be proud to call his own. She vocalizes, “Row! Row! Row! Almost like the old children’s’ rhyme about the boat. But for the want of a few consonants, I’m convinced she could speak fluent French.
She is the last dog in or out of the door; the last one up the hill on the morning run [although I would surmise she’s holding back those after-burners of hers.] This is all part of knowing her place. The rules, while unwritten, are nevertheless inviolable. This is neither condescension nor a stark violation of political correctness. This is a law which governs dog packs, and, in the animal world, may well spell the difference between survival and expulsion, or worse . . .
The world has its ways, doesn’t it.
Look for Lucky’s books locally and on-line: The Oath of Hippocrates; The Cotillian; A Journey Long Delayed.