Hunting is important where I live, and today Mike and Chuck, two neighbors came by to ask if they could continue to hunt on my property during deer-hunting season, as Florence permitted them to do for years. I like these two right away. They are very fond of each other, and the three of us were quickly laughing and trading stories on the porch today.
I am happy they will be hunting on my property. I do not hunt myself, but I respect the men and women who take it seriously and hunt ethically and carefully, as these two clearly do. They promised to let me photograph them in their hunting garb when the season opens in November. Mike has a deer stand in the trees on our property and I think they were nervous about whether Maria and I would grant permission. It is not a problem, I am happy to have these two and my neighbor Albert hunt, they all hunt together. They are good friends and quick to smile, two things I notice.
We are settling into rythyms. Work on the house, visits from neighbors, scraping wallpaper, painting, cleaning up. I cleaned off all the wallpaper in my office this evening, and then Maria and I went to our new favorite place, Momma’s on Route 22. Had turkey wrap and a rare drink, vodka and cranberry juice. I needed a drink tonight.
Every place has their own rythyms. We are finding ours, a month before we move in.
I have never had three dogs who were as different as Frieda, Lenore and Red, never had three dogs who were as comfortable with one another as these three are, never had three dogs who present, each in their own way, training challenges and opportunities.
There are a dozen best-selling dog training books on various lists online and in stores right now that promise their buyers ten or twelve or a half-dozen steps towards having the “Perfect Dog.” If somebody wrote a book like that promising parents the “Perfect Child” in just a dozen steps there would, appropriately, be an uproar at such an idea. I find the notion of the “Perfect Dog” as offensive as it is ridiculous.
There is no such thing as a perfect dog, no agreement on what that would be, no book that could or should guarantee such a creepy thing. I was thinking about what a perfect dog is to me. We all love our own dogs and sometimes see them a bit unrealistically but I have my own ideas about perfection, and it has little to do with obedience.
For me, a perfect dog is socialized. With other dogs and with people. He or she is loving and intuitive, can read my moods. A perfect dog does not hurt animals or people unless profoundly provoked.
A perfect dog knows its name, comes when called, stops when asked.
A perfect dog waits for the human to go in and out of doors first, and does not crash ahead of them without permission.
A perfect dog eats his or her own food and leaves other food bowls alone. And never eats from the table or pesters people while eating. A perfect dog does not jump on people or frighten them.
A perfect dog understands that a person directs his walk, that he is not a free agent free to lunge and pull whenever he wishes.
A perfect dog can lie down and stay for two or three minutes.
A perfect dog is quiet in the house, leaving people in peace to relax or do their work.
A perfect dog knows how to be calm, to be in crates, to be alone, to be in kennels, to stay with pet-sitters.
All three of my dogs do these things. They are not perfect. Frieda will take off after deer and rabbits if she can. And she barks too loudly at too many things. Lenore is not crisp on her come or stay commands, especially if there is something to eat. Red…well, I haven’t found too many things yet that Red doesn’t do properly. He gulps his food down and runs into doors, but so far, that’s about it. But he is not perfect either, and I would not damn him with such a pressure-filled and ridiculous label.
Everyone has their own ideas about what they want in a dog, and everyone is entitled to pursue them, as long as other living things are not harmed.
I am learning to train my dogs, every day, with commitment and purpose. But my goal is never for them to be perfect. Just to be good enough for me in my life, and safe and healthy in theirs.
Ben sanded, spackled and put some sealer on the walls of the living room, and tomorrow Maria and I will begin painting it. A dusty mess. We are lucky to have Ben, he takes so much pleasure in doing great work.
So this is why I am here, truthfully, to find this old and faded wallpaper, get it back to my computer, turn on my Aperture photo editing program and bring out the colors, back from the dead, back from a century ago.