Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dogs See Things We Don't

It's been a while since I've written much of anything, here or elsewhere. Life has been piling on the challenges and I'd been doing the swan thing, looking all calm and graceful above the water (at least I hope so), but paddling like crazy underneath. Needless to say, stress has been the name of the game lately. So taking a good walk seemed like a good idea a few weeks go at the height of the hassle. I pulled on my walking shoes and headed out the door under the early morning overcast.

Now, some of you might know that I enjoy a good garage sale. I won't say as I go out every week and chase down all the bargains people put out there, but if there's a sale along one of my pathways I will usually drop by and poke around a bit. Might even buy something every once in a while. So when I saw the yard festooned with stuff I might be interested in about halfway through my walk I made a mental note to stop on by on the way home.

I've written several times in the past about the changes in our neighborhood. Fewer and fewer of us, more and more of them. It gets to feeling a mite lonely sometime. But this block was still majority White, and I'd waved to the young woman and her mother a few times as I strolled past. Nice folks, very pleasant. Had a dog, too, a sweet middle-aged Weimaraner with a smooth grey coat and intelligent eyes. She always trotted up to me and sniffed my hand, then rewarded me with a friendly lick or two before going back to her assigned spot in the yard. I like this dog. There should be more like her. Short coat, easy care, no jowl dribbles like the English Setter on the next block. Good dog.

So when I saw the sale in their yard, I thought it a nice time for a shop-and-chat. But when I finished the exercise portion of my walk and moseyed on back to the sale, I was surprised to see the dog held quite literally on a short leash, at attention next to the younger woman, her owner. In the yard, inspecting this that and the other were three Mexican gardeners, each wearing a safety vest with bright stripes. Now, I speak some Spanish and will verify that their conversation was limited to the virtues or price of some bit of kitchen equipment or tool. Nothing threatening about it. But try telling that to the dog, who strained at the leash and seem inclined to run at them and make them feel somewhat less than welcome.

I greeted the young lady, and we chatted briefly about the reason for the sale. It would seem they were moving out of state and were cleaning out the house, which was why the sale was as good as it was. I wandered up close to the dog, who seemed not to notice me, but still pulled on the leash towards the men. "It's the stripes on the vests," the girl said. "She doesn't like unusual things." Well, I was wearing my pink and purple jog suit, and if that isn't unusual I don't know what is. But the dog paid no attention to me.

So I poked around a bit and found a spurtle I could use. For the uninitiated, a spurtle is a spoon with a hole in it, great for stirring soups and oatmeal and the like. I'd been looking for one for a while, and the 25 cent price was right smack in the middle of my budget range. The gardeners bought a few small items and then proceeded to their truck, put the items in the back with the rakes and lawn mower, then drove off. I took out my quarter and gave it to the mom.

As we were chatting, the dog relaxed and curled up behind her owner, who said, "See! She's fine now. I guess she just doesn't like the stripes on those vests."

The mom laughed a low laugh, and said, "Honey, I just don't think the dog likes Mexicans."

I smiled and thought that might be true. The daughter tossed her beige blond hair and quite literally hissed at her mother. "Mama, there are some things you just don't shout out in public!" She looked carefully up and down the street.

Both I and her mom smiled the same tight little smile. Neither of us said a word, but I did look twice around me as I made my way home. Sometimes dogs see things we don't.


kinswoman said...

It is amazing how "racially aware" dogs are... but I guess what is actually amazing is how racially UNaware some humans are...If one of our ancestors from two hundred years ago had been standing there, he would have been incredulous, not at the dog's behavior,but at the dog's owner's behavior.

Anonymous said...

They used to always joke about it growing up...but, my grandparents had a German Shepherd that would not let a black man come into the yard!

And...they say dogs are color blind!

Laurel Loflund said...

@KW: I was not surprised at the young lady's response. It is the classic one I see in White people under 30; they've been trained well in the "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" mode of communication that political correctness requires. Sad, really, one cannot be honest any more.

@Shotgun: I think dogs often know what we do not; that their masters are worth protecting from obvious (and not-so-obvious) threats. If there was a threatening person of another color nearby, I'd want my dog to let me know.

Dogs may be "color" blind, but I am sure they can see shades of light to dark. Probably better than we can!

Anonymous said...

Spurtle, huh?

Well, you learn something new every day.

I have a few of those things myself. Thanks for the vocabulary lesson (and the race observation was a goodie, too!)

- Fr. John

Laurel Loflund said...

There are actually two kinds of spurtles, one like I described and one that is a relatively simple turned wood rod with a gentle point on the end which is used in Scotland to stir oatmeal. I learned that little bit of food trivia from a Scot.

Thanks for the comment,Fr. John

sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia said...

We have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. If you know the breed, they are the most benign, sweetest of all dogs breeds. Not a single whiff of an aggressive bone in their bodies. They look like The Lady In the Tramp dog. Neighborhood children will run towards our dogs, and Adults bend down when they see our dogs coming.

Not Negroes. Our dogs stand closer to us and even become demure - exactly opposite of their gay demeanor.

But then again, Negroes aren't known for their fondness towards dogs, and you always can sense that wary vibe from them even when they see seemingly two cartoon characters like our dogs.