Working Dogs

I have always had admiration and deep respect for working dogs. Their sense of duty and their loyalty is truly admirable. Their one-pointed determination is sometimes amusing and always inspiring.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I realised that many dogs, and perhaps even all dogs, need to work to some degree.

I had been treating a couple of canine patients from different families who both presented to me with the overwhelming sense of needing to ‘have a job’. In my work with animals much of their presenting ill health is attributed to lack of fulfilment in behavioural and emotional areas.
These two dogs, seen within days of each other, were both telling me the same thing. They needed to have a job. For some dogs fortunately, this is just a simple matter of playing with the kids or walking them to school twice a day.

Without a purpose in life some animals will just not be well. In these cases, one had developed skin allergies as a sign of misplaced energies that would otherwise be channelled into constructive activity.

Boris, a short haired tall red dog, was very agitated partly because he couldn’t ever seem to get approval from his owner for the things he did to try to help around the house. He would dutifully alert his people of the approach of any threat by barking at any sound that heralded the possible arrival of an intruder, for example. Unfortunately this would become more of a nuisance to the people than of assistance and they would, not surprisingly, forget to acknowledge and thank Boris for his good work in guarding and alerting them. Conversely, they would often be so embarrassed by his insistence that they would actually chastise him for his exuberance. Partly as a result of his frustration and desperation to seek approval his energy became self destructive and he began scratching and chewing at himself. His skin disease was a symptom of his concealed distress and his lack of suitable employment of his good intentions. He needed a job and a suitable outlet for his energy. Dogs in human households from the dawn of time have always had a role in domestic affairs.

We often, inadvertently, modify dogs behaviour to suit our own means and we forget that they have to have a healthy canine outlet for their energy. Whilst the process of domestication of dogs has brought huge advantages to us both, it has also deprived dogs of much of what they need and know. They are mostly no longer able to dig, hunt, breed, roam and fight. Most of this is of course, from our perspective, a good thing. But some of them are telling us that they need more than they are getting. Largely for this reason, as well as for the nutritive benefits, I have been strongly recommending the chewing of raw meaty bones as a positive outlet for these animals to good effect. They are becoming calmer and using their energy constructively.

Chewing is a job for dogs as those of us who have dogs that try to chew everything will testify. Channelling this into constructive use of the canine teeth has enormous health benefits for them and also for our furniture that is spared. Chewing raw meaty bones improves all aspects of a dogs health.

Then, of course, there are the dogs with full time jobs in the human world. Our farm dogs, guide dogs, police dogs, hearing dogs and dogs that put their lives on the line to assist people. When we think of working dogs these are the ones that usually spring to mind.
We also seem to be finding new jobs for dogs with dogs who alert their owners to impending seizures and dogs being taken into hospitals and elderly citizens homes to bring some solace and joy to these people who find comfort in their presence.

As a closing tribute to all working dogs and with the kind permission of the author, I would like to present the poem by Sumangali Morhall that inspired this particular dedication to our working dogs.

The Guide Dog and her Man

He squints and frowns
In tones of unknown light
Reveals what could amount to sight
In shadow shape worlds

He dreams serene in headphones
Her eyes invite perpetual scenes
Deceptively in limp repose
Lifted lobes of velveteen, nose restless

Curves athletic carved
Precisely by her willing work
Dark head and back
Buffed treacle-sleek by his caress

Springs on haunches when he stirs
Dignified complies to harness
Ducks the briefcase
Launching into loyal march

Servant risen uncontested
On the charts of pride in duty
Bound calm and beautiful
To her master’s side


One Response to “Working Dogs”

  1. From jogyata

    Wonderful…and what a simply beautiful poem by Sumangali. Good luck with this great initiative

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