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Book excerpt 9

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Shit Daisy – you’re a dog!

How can they say you have no soul?
When you touch the lives of all you meet
Your love is pure, it knows no boundaries
Your presence makes me whole.

“Shit Daisy … you’re a dog!”
This unforgettable statement was uttered by Robyn, a friend of mine.
Robyn is an intelligent and successful person but like many of us she forgets from time to time that Daisy – her Staffordshire Bull Terrier – is a dog. And Daisy, like most dogs, takes full advantage of this oversight.

Now some people would say that this is ridiculous, how could anyone mistake a dog for anything other than a dog but I’m sure people who share their lives with a special friend can easily relate to this. And I should stress, it doesn’t have to be dog.
When an animal becomes a part of your life, it becomes a personality – a unique character. And this character has an incredible hold over everything you do. You know this character so well, you can read them like a book, and you know their facial expressions and their moods. As you can see, it’s no wonder we start to lose sight of the actual body in which this character is contained. And every now and then when we do notice, it is exactly how Robyn described ……“Shit Daisy – you’re a dog.

I believe this is one of the reasons why animal lovers become so passionate about animals. It is almost like there is this wonderful collection of characters that is available only to them, a bounty hidden to the rest of the world.
I try to imagine not being able to appreciate a sunset or a waterfall, not being able to smell a rose or an autumn morning. That helps me understand what it would be like to not be able to recognise an animal’s personality and what I would be missing. It also helps me to understand why I consider animals so important and why I need to be around them.

However there are many people who do not see themselves as disadvantaged for not knowing an animal. They vehemently deny that animals have any form of consciousness, let alone a personality. They maintain that human beings are the most advanced, civilised and important species on the planet and that animals are just mere biological entities. Any attempt to sway these peoples’ opinions about the existence of personalities in animals, is met with claims of anthro-pomorphism – the act of projecting human qualities onto non-human things.

Personally, I don’t understand what humans are so worried about. Why do we like to consider certain traits the exclusive domain of human beings and why are we threatened when we realise that some animals aren’t really that different from us? Do we relegate animals a sub-human status to help us justify the treatment we inflict on them. Or does it threaten to erode the “made in the image of God” ethos that permeates much of our civilised culture?

Whatever the reason, there will always be a percentage of the population that are aware of the range of emotions that animals possess and are able to appreciate their unique and sometimes complex personalities.

To illustrate this fact, I will focus on one of my beautiful Golden Retrievers – Dylan. Dylan is an amazing character – so rich and complex that he is every bit as interesting as most of the people I meet.
In fact, I firmly believe (and so does Dylan) that he is actually a person trapped in a dog’s body. You can imagine my surprise then when one day, a lady at the local produce store upon seeing Dylan, knelt down on the floor beside him and began hugging him – saying “Oh, he’s just like a hairy old man”. I didn’t enquire whether she hugged all hairy old men (although the thought did cross my mind) but I marvelled at the effect that Dylan has on people. Another person that I had just met informed me that Dylan was an “old soul” and children, particularly little girls, seem to gravitate to him.

Joshie and Dylan at 9 weeks of age

Joshi and Dylan at 9 weeks of age

I hope you enjoy the following insight into Dylan’s personality and I’m sure you will be able to relate many of the stories to your own special friend or friends.

1. Lies and deceptions…

I have seen animals display the most underhanded, conniving behaviour that any human being would be proud of. And I’m sure, like us, the animal would prefer to call it “creative problem solving”.

My own dogs Josh and Dylan, provide me with a perfect example. Josh loves his toys and cannot tolerate Dylan playing with any of them but the astounding thing is that Dylan uses this to his advantage. If Josh is getting too much attention, then Dylan will quietly slip outside and get one of the stuffed toys. He then walks back into the room and parades up and down unassumingly. Josh looks at the toy and then the inner battle begins. He knows that he wants the toy but this will mean sacrificing his prime position with me or whoever is patting him. It is always the same, the look on his face becomes more and more strained until finally he can take it no longer. He runs over to Dylan who happily hands over the toy and triumphantly assumes Josh’s position.

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