The place to come to wag more and bark less...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dog Is My Copilot II

...Sophie’s a good family member who seems able to read minds. When she senses that someone is up to something, she is not diplomatic and points them out immediately. She looks warily at them, giving them the stinkeye as she walks slowly around them in a wide circle and sniffs the air. When necessary, she'll even bark once. It gets everyone's attention, and we all tend to look at the person under scrutiny as if to ask "What have you done to get this dog's attention. Make it easy on yourself and confess now, before you get hurt..."

As long as nobody tries to hurt us, Sophie would never hurt anyone either. But strangers don't know that, and they often find themselves offering an explanation in the face of Sophie's gaze. "He can probably smell my dog on me," they say of her (it's hard for a lot of people to believe that Sophie is a boy dog, given her apparent ferocity. Another one is "I used to carry treats in my pocket..." At this point, Sophie skeptically backs off, having pointed out the threat, though she reserves the right to investigate further if necessary.

Perhaps this trait is common to dogs of her breed, as they annually win Europe’s Top Police Dog awards. These awards are usually given to the dog that has helped police seize make the most drug busts, and capture the most bad guys. Sophie, who is not a trained police dog, seems capable of doing most of that at first glance and without a second thought. It's not hard to imagine how efficiently a well-trained Belgian could do it. All I can say is that I am glad Sophie is on my side; I wouldn't want her coming after me.

While I am not afraid to go anywhere with Sophie (within reason, of course), her agreeable temperament and her good looks make her noteworthy and quite welcome wherever she goes. Her reassuring blend of polite friendliness certainly helps everyone feel comfortable, even safe.

But that’s Sophie’s human side, the side only strangers see. Deep down, however, she has a doggie side reserved for special humans – like me – and for other special dogs. For example, Sophie seems to have a terrible weakness for male police dogs, particularly a German Shepherd named Deuce. Deuce is a prominent member of the Boulder County Sheriff’s elite K9 Unit.

When it comes to other dogs, Sophie is not very lovey-dovey. But when she saw Deuce, she had a strange, faraway look I'd never seen from her before. Could it have been love? No, I don't think that word's strong enough. Infatuation, maybe. Or maybe Puppies. I don't know; I'd never seen it before.  

Deuce didn't seem to share Sophie's interest. He sat expressionless in the back seat of his police SUV, his tongue hanging out as he looked out the window. Some dogs look dopey with their tongue hanging out of their mouth and maybe some drool too. Not Deuce. He was a stately specimen, and he couldn't be bothered with another pretty face like Sophie. He'd probably already pegged her as just another sucker for a dog in uniform. If so, I'm sure he was right.

But that was the only time I ever saw Sophie act that way, even around other male German Shepherds. I guess Sophie's just holding out for true love and dogs with panache like Deuce don't come around very often.

Good beer and great bicycle racing aren't Belgium's only first-class contributions to the world. Sophie's right up there with them all. Though she's never had a beer, cannot ride a bike (I've tried it), and has never been to Belgium, Sophie is as Belgian as they come. To strangers, Sophie can look like a fearsome guardian, worthy of their respect. To those of us she considers family however, Sophie is a sweetheart who only wants command of our attention. And, like me, Sophie's deep, inner passion for the sport of cycling, standing along the race course, watching the riders go by is something that we share.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dog Is My Copilot I

To illustrate the seriously needy state of my poor memory, consider that I have entrusted more than some of my mental energies to Sophie, my four-year-old Belgian Malinois. While I love Sophie, I am not a doting dog owner who must write in fawning terms about his beloved pet, for that’s not the kind of relationship we have. It is much deeper than that, and it’s worth mentioning  because I spend more time with Sophie than with almost any other being. 

Sophie is a working dog who, when not taking a nap, thrives on having something to do. For her, that something on her to-do list is me. I love Sophie and I love that she loves being my helper. It’s the best of both worlds for us; Sophie is a registered service dog who can go anywhere with me and, in exchange, Sophie also gets to be with me. 
A highly intelligent dog, Sophie is has both intuitive and visceral qualities, which she only acts upon shrewdly. She and I communicate well, as only a dog and person can. Think of Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie for examples. 

On one hand, Sophie she is a foil to my cerebral side, listening tirelessly to me as I massage my memory by speaking of memories I would likely be unable to make otherwise. And, of course, I rely heavily upon her intuitive side as well. She can always tell if anything within me is out of sync, usually by raising or lowering her ears. Just as I am sure to heed the sound of Sophie’s bark, I am equally mindful of the motion of her ears, for they almost always foretell of something within me I might not have recognized yet. 

It’s not a coincidence that Sophie – a dog – plays this important role in my life, for her intuition is sufficient enough to serve us both, which is the only way it can be for us to work together so well. 

Sophie may have a lot going on inside her head, but make no mistake - she’s no pushover. She looks fierce and she has a mean bark that says “Don’t push your luck; you’ve had your warning, now what’s it going to be?” She is a visual deterrent to anyone - human or otherwise – who may have even the slightest iota of wrongdoing in mind, and she is dead serious about her role as protector of both Kami and me.