It’s Only Natural.

When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.

-Rudyard Kipling, The Cat Who Walked By Himself.

After my morning meeting, since this was a work day, I went out to get the mail. It’s one of many small parts of my new daily routine—new, anyway, four about six weeks now. And our youngest dog, Sabik, who’d been helping my wife work, and by “helping” I mean “sleeping in his dog bed next to her desk” got up and followed me to the door. I went out and he stayed behind, staring at me sadly. It’s a look I know all too well, a look that says, “Why can’t I come with you?” Dogs are pack animals, after all, and they don’t like it when a member of the pack goes off alone. He wants to be there to protect me.

A few minutes later, mail in hand, I came back, and Sabik was still at the door. He was wagging his tail so hard his whole body was blurry and he was humming. Dogs don’t just growl, whine, and bark. Any dog parent can tell you that despite not having vocal chords dogs are remarkably articulate, but that’s another story. The wagging and happy hum is also something I know well. Back when I’d go to work at the office instead of down the hall, if my wife stayed home, I’d often be greeted by a dog at the door. If I drove they could hear the car, and in a way it was better if I took the bus and walked home, so I could surprise them. When I get the mail and come back it’s only a few minutes but the dogs are just as happy as if I’d been gone hours. Some people think that means dogs are idiots, but what it really means is those people are assholes and don’t understand that dogs are pack animals. They understand that what affects one member of the pack can affect the whole. They’ve been domesticated, physically altered, and changed by us, but certain qualities—some of their best qualities—have been kept, with a few mistakes along the way.

Source: Pinterest

They’re a little bit of nature we’ve assimilated into our “civilized” world.

There’s been a flood of stories lately of animals “reclaiming” areas humans under quarantine aren’t using right now, like national parks where animals are moving more freely than usual. And there have been other examples of nature “returning”, like the clear skies over Los Angeles because of fewer cars on the road. Some people think these stories are funny, and, yeah, that story of the Welsh town being taken over by wild goats is pretty funny. Some people see them as ominous, having a post-apocalyptic quality. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more references to the film Twelve Monkeys, especially the scenes where zoo animals have taken over the abandoned cities. Maybe people don’t want to be reminded of a fictional pandemic in the middle of a real one. The film is set in the year 2035, which is closer than it was in 1995 when it was released, but feels like it could tomorrow, maybe even now, and not fifteen years in the future.

Both the people who think the stories are funny and the people who see them as something ominous are right. They’re funny and they’re unsettling—for the same reason. These stories of nature “reclaiming” spaces humans aren’t currently occupied should remind us that nature isn’t something separate. It’s not something we, as humans, can remove ourselves from. Environmentalism gets a lot of knocks for supposedly taking away peoples’ livelihoods, but really it’s an acknowledgement that, for people to live, we have to be responsible. We can’t act like the “natural world’ is something that’s just outside. The only way we can be healthy is if we have clean air, clean water, a clean environment. There is no place in the world that we share with each other that we can poison without poisoning ourselves.

That’s why dogs aren’t idiots. They’re pack animals. They understand the importance of protecting the pack.

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15 Comments

  1. Susan

    I love this, Christopher! One of our dogs howls and sings every time I go down to the laundry room, and the other one, who is not really a howler, does her best to join in. I can’ t deny that it makes me happy when they do this. And, by the way, how did you get a picture of one of them? I can also attest to the fact that the skies above Los Angeles definitely seem clearer, and the birds are out in full force, which can also make the pugs start singing.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That makes me so happy that one of your dogs sings when you go to the laundry room and the other tries to join in. Especially since they’re Pugs which are just funny dogs anyway. And I’m glad the skies above Los Angeles are clearer. One of these days I’d like to go back to LA–well, I went to Long Beach, which is technically not Los Angeles but close–and visit the planetarium. It would be even better with clear skies.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Long Beach is better anyway!!!! We keep trying to get video of the spontaneous singing, but we just manage to get the end of the performance. When we capture it all, I will definitely post it.

        Reply
        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          I’d love to see it. It’s also hilarious to me that just this week a coworker did a presentation during our weekly all staff meeting. She has Pugs too and we could hear them all snoring through her entire presentation.

          Reply
  2. Allison

    My mother’s pugs, when they were younger, would howl like they’d been stabbed if one of them got to go outside without the other. Also, they both barked when someone was at the door – the older sister would stop and bite her brother on the butt for barking. It was funny.

    Piper doesn’t howl much. She grumbles. Sort of a low cry/whine/bark that would be the K-9 equivalent of “We’ll just see about that. Some day it’ll be someone at the door without an Amazon package and then I’ll show you…”.

    If I had to quarantine sans dog, I would lose my everloving mind.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Dogs really have a grounding effect during this crisis. They’re so ridiculously happy to have us home. Piper’s grumble cracks me up because my wife’s first Dalmatian would do that. She’d tell him to lie down and he would but he’d grumble. And sometimes I’d ask him a question and he’d mumble an answer because he talked. Anyway I think cats are also helping us, in their own way.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      This is exactly what my pugs do. Hysterical!

      Reply
  3. mydangblog

    Titus isn’t much of a barker or howler, but when he gets really excited, he quivers. If you put your hand on the top of his head, you can feel his whole body vibrate. It’s very sweet. I just found out that there’s a weird zoo not too far from us on 25 acres with over 80 species of animals including numerous lions, tigers, wolves and monkeys. They’re currently asking for donations to keep feeding the animals, and now I have this fear that one day I’ll look out the window and see a pride of lions wandering down the street looking for a snack!
    mydangblog recently posted…Voyage of DiscoveryMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I wonder how Titus would react if he saw a pride of lions walking down the street. As long as he’s not the snack I think that would be pretty funny. It’s also funny to me that he quivers. That’s a very efficient outlet for his energy.

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for protecting our pack, Chris.
    Ann Koplow recently posted…Day 2704: The Light of LifeMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thanks for being part of my pack. It gives me a lot of pride.

      Reply
  5. Kristine Laco

    I love it when I go take out the garbage or get something from the car and I get the same greeting as if I was gone for the day. I feel loved and missed. Scooby gets a pretty epic ear rub each time too so it’s a win/win.
    Kristine Laco recently posted…Outside Looking InMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I know Scooby is very appreciative of you no matter how long you’ve been gone. Or at least that’s what he’d like you to think. He knows he’ll get that epic ear rub.

      Reply
  6. Tom Cummings

    You might have heard I’m a dog lover, too. 😁

    Honestly, I loved everything about this post, Chris. Your reference to 2035 and “Twelve Monkeys” made me think of a conversation I had with a friend yesterday who is still in denial about how bad this thing is. I told him “they fear now a worse outbreak in winter or an even worse virus coming from other places in the near future” and he said “well, they’ve been wrong about everything so far so I wouldn’t put any stock in that, either.”

    They’ve. Been. Wrong. So. Far.

    The planet has been crippled by a contagion, and every corner of the globe is affected, some worse than others. And “they’ve been wrong so far.”

    I really wonder, sometimes, how deep denial can run. I get a glimpse of just how deep some days …

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yeah, I kind of got the idea that you’re a dog lover–some might even say a dog dad.
      It’s staggering just how much denial there is about this. You’ve probably seen the picture of a woman holding a sign that says “Every disaster movie starts with a scientist being ignored” and it’s disturbing, although not surprising, that the picture is a few years old. There’s also the joke going around that the one thing missing from every zombie movie is the crowd of people demanding to be eaten by zombies. For the benefit of the economy.

      Reply

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