A dog named Lump.
My mother has a dog which turns 5 in May. Until we moved home six months ago, I had only ever met him on the occasional weekend when we came home to visit.
His name is Lumpy. He was a rescue pup believed to be predominately of Newfoundland, and Labrador mix lineage. We have to groom him twice a year, otherwise, his fur would grow to the ground, and he would die of heat exhaustion. Sometimes I see a little St. Barnard in his profile, and there is a lot of golden retriever in his happy nature. But that could also just be the Labrador in him as well. There is little difference – in their fundamental natures – between a lab and a golden retriever.
There is not a day that he is not happy; there is not an hour that he doesn’t want some pets about the ears. He will play with you any time you feel like it. He is always eager for a walk.
Lumpy roams this farm – unleashed and at ease – in a way you would expect from a dog who has lived here since he was 8-weeks-old. He plays with the horses, tries to fly with the geese as they lift in the field (he literally jumps up into the air as he runs beside them), runs through the forest with ease, guards the house at night like it’s a scared duty (he prefers to sleep outside on the porch), and is deliriously happy whenever he gets scolded by a treed chipmunk. He is so delirious in those moments he will start chasing his own tail.
(When I look up at the chipmunk who is looking down at him, as Lumpy chases his tail, you can just see that the chipmunk thinks he’s a total idiot. -My wife once told me to make Lumpy stop, for it was reminding her too much of George Bush. pa-nup-pa!)
I have become Lumpy’s best friend simply because he knows that I will take him for good long walks. My mom still walks back to the lake, but Lumpy is in the prime of his life, and so my mom’s 1/2 hour walk is not nearly enough of what he wants. Yesterday I took him into the forest where the snow is still 3′ deep, and many times we found ourselves up to our hips in snow. Lumpy happily barked all through it, jumping through the snow as best he could, racing me to the tree line as we were coming out.
There is nothing he likes better than to go for a walk. I’ve seen him turn down a dog biscuit (his favorite treat in the whole wide world!) – to come for a walk. Sometimes when we want to go without him (he scares away the deer) my mother will try to bribe him with a treat. It never works, so we had to change tactics and bring him into the house, give him a treat in one room and then scoot out the house through the basement. When he realizes that he’s been duped, and he will bark for a minute or two to come along, but then he goes and sits down and eats his biscuit.
He has 4 basic barks and 3 other sounds he makes when he is communicating with you.
If a strange car pulls into the yard, 3 sharp barks are sounded to get our attention – to the fact that someone strange has entered the property. Duly noted, he then runs off the porch, tail wagging, as he barks his softer happy hellos to whomever has come.
He has a bark for playing with the horses, and a more urgent one he uses in the night when the coyotes come out of the forest.
He has a certain squeal when he has been hurt (when you accidentally step in his tail), a sad whine if you won’t let him in the house (when he is soaked, or covered in mud), and a sound that is an explosion of happiness when you arrive after being in town, or at the neighbors for more than 10 minutes.
Absolutely thrilled every single time you come home.
I was often asked, while living in the city, why, if I liked dogs so much, did I not have a dog.
I would reply that it was because I grew up having dogs on the farm.
I always feel sad for big and middle-sized dogs I see in the city. Dogs who will know little more than the neighborhood park and all the limitations that come with it. If they’re lucky their owners will take them to an off-leash park maybe once or twice a month.
City dogs make me think what it must be like to live in the suburbs. The dogs might not know any better, but I do.
I brought a city friend’s dog to the farm one weekend in the summer a few years ago. I ended up at the vet’s with him – only to be told that the dog was simply exhausted.
I can’t imagine why, I said to the vet, he only ran around the house about 75 times in row, once he realized where he was, and how much space he had. After which he tried to swim in the lake for an hour with us.
We took him home and after about 10 hrs of sleep, he was stiff and sore, but ready for some more fun.
That’s why I don’t like having a dog in the city.
I peg Lumpy – developmentally – at about the level of a three year old child. His world revolves around food, walks, treats, pets, play. Endlessly and continuously.
But he also lives in a world where my senses cannot go – and in that world, I am the idiot.
He can hear the coyotes when they cross the back fields – more than 500 yards from the house. If the wind is right, he will have smelled them long before he has heard them. As kids it was impossible to play hide-and-seek when the dog was outside. He/she could track down everyone in the yard in less than a minute.
So, who am I to say what his intelligence is like, or what his world is to him?
All I think about are food, treats, sex, sleep, and play too. And I can’t smell a goddamned thing!