Dogs and the Iditarod

6 Aug
This is Kody, my standard poodle. I don’t have a picture of Chester, the labradoodle.

My sweet, good dog, Chester, lies beside me as I write this, his belly moving and down as he breaths deeply in his sleep. He came to us almost a year ago, but it feels like he’s always been a part of the family. It’s hard to imagine he ever wasn’t here. He’s one half standard poodle, the other half labradore, making him a “labradoodle.” He has short legs and a long body and big, bushy eyebrows, and he’s a total love bug. He likes to follow me everywhere in the house, especially if I’m the only one in it. Some dogs do things for food, some for love. Chester, though he appreciates a food treat, does things for acceptance. He’ll do nearly anything for a scratch behind the ears and to hear me say, “good boy!” He’ll trot happily away afterwards or collapse on the ground content by my feet, knowing he’s secure in my affections. He wants so much just to be loved. But, when it comes down to it, don’t we all? Our other dog, Kody, is all standard poodle. He’s smarter than Chester, I can tell, but doesn’t care too much for obedience. In that way, he’s more like a cat. He sleeps now most of the day, curled into a ball in an overstuffed chair in the living room by the window. His new spot now is the day bed we recently put in the basement, where he stretches his long legs out like a king. I suppose he likes it because it’s cooler there during these hot summer days.

When I come home from work, I spot both of them in the front window, their whole bodies wriggling with excitement. I do wonder whether they know the sound of my car coming down the street, because I come home at different times in the evening, and yet, without fail, they’re always waiting. Since their ears are like triple human ear power, I don’t rule out this possibility, however far-fetched it may seem. When I walk in, Kody, the standard poodle, saunters over to me, tail wagging. Then he goes searching for a shoe of some sort, usually a slipper. He runs away with the slipper, always glancing behind to see if I’d seen him take it. It’s a game to him, sort of like how negative attention works. He knows he’s not supposed to take a shoe, so he does it so I’ll chase him. I always fall for it, because he’s so cute. I’ll “catch” him underneath the dining room table, where he thinks he’s hidden and spend a few moments petting him. Chester doesn’t take shoes for attention. He stays by me, tail wagging, wagging, wagging and mouth panting, panting, panting. In fact, that’s the only bad thing about Chester: He pants incessantly. Annoyingly. I wish I could train him not to pant. Right now, when he’s sleeping, is one of the few times he’s not doing it. He sleeps especially deeply it seems, almost like how a toddler sleeps, and he’s difficult to wake. When he is woken, he lumbers around sleepily, the dreams still heavy on him.

Here’s what’s got me thinking so much about dogs: I’m reading “Winterdance” by author Gary Paulsen. It’s about running the Iditardod sled dog race in Alaska. It’s fascinating. I find most books fascinating if they’re well written and I know little about their subjects. Like orchids. One time I read a whole book on orchid flowers. Anyways. Paulsen becomes sort of addicted to running sled dogs on his land in Minnesota. He becomes addicted to this particular way of seeing the beauty of the country, the stars at night like crystal in the cold sky. He never quite decides to run the Iditarod; the dogs do it for him. They choose him. There’s a moment when he realizes, in Alaska, that the race isn’t about him. It’s about the dogs, caring for them, learning how they think, and, strange as it may sound, becoming like a dog himself. It’s the only way to survive, he realizes, in the 1,500 miles trek through Alaskan wilderness fraught with predatory weather and animals. His language is sparse, no frills, matching, it seems, his wilderness surroundings. Every word means something, is put to good use. And unlike Alaskan author Heather Lende, this book doesn’t make me want to pack up and visit her town. Rather, I’m glad to observe dog races from afar, from the comfort of my warm, snug room. I realized also that Chester and Kody would make terrible sled dogs and myself, an awful musher. I think I’ll stay in newspapers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: