All Bark by Ronald Dahl.

I AM WRITING on behalf of all dogs on the occasion of the Year of the Dog, which begins with the New Moon on Jan. 29. Dogs were among the 12 animals who responded when Buddha summoned the beasts of the Earth to his side, and this is why they have a place in the Chinese zodiac.
People think they know their dogs, or know something about dogs in general. I think that because dogs are in touch with their instincts, most of them know more than most people. I would offer that the first thing you need to know about dogs is that they all need jobs.
Your dog already knows this. You can tell because she growls or barks when she hears a suspicious sound. Do you think she's doing this to entertain herself? Nobody had to explain it to her or train her to do it (this is the definition of an instinct). It may sound like common sense, but humans need to be reminded: responding to strange sounds has the single purpose of protecting you and your family. The sound of your dog growling could be the sound that saves your life.
Plenty of dogs get yelled at for keeping an eye and ear on things, representing a threat of exclusion (which for a pack animal is a pretty severe form of punishment). However, I suggest that this be the first job you give your dog, and when she starts barking, thank her for paying attention and hearing things that you can't; then if she expresses that fine enthusiasm for all things at which dogs excel, explain it's okay, she can stop now. It's not that the Boston Strangler is necessarily on your front doorstep; the point is that somebody is paying attention, and that's rather helpful here on Planet Fog.
Dogs want nothing more than to be part of the human experience, to be part of the collective life they perceive around themselves. They want and need to be useful. This is a feeling that can at times be quite alien to humans, who claim to abhor being "used." I propose that dogs offer the lesson that we all need to be used, as in useful.
Most breeds of dogs were developed for some kind of work. Whether it was catching rats or hunting foxes; retrieving quail or keeping a herd of 100 cattle in line; dogs are born with a sense of purpose, and if you'll notice from their various job descriptions, that sense of purpose is vital to the human community. It usually involves survival. A dog whose genetic code makes him accustomed to working 12 hours a day on a ranch is going to need somewhere to invest that energy and, more important, the sense of participation in human life he would get from being responsible for all those cows.
Since life in Western civilization offers most dogs few opportunities to express anything resembling their original purpose, that leaves then searching for something to do. And as a result, many turn strange or get nervous. We need to be creative at finding them something vital to occupy themselves with, and that something should always involve the common good. Dogs tend to be excellent at cooperating with one another and with people, and they need that sense of cooperation.
Guard dog, even for your chihuahua or Jack Russell, is a fine start, and where there are children in the house, dogs need to be in the first line of protection (or they don't belong there). Service dogs have it easy. They are trained for a purpose and pretty much get to work full time; they are among the most adapted dogs we meet. And they get respect; you can even bring one into the Four Seasons.
Most dogs need to have their role as a companion recognized as a form of work and service. They may not think of it that way -- they are probably just having fun -- but you can go further. I think dog backpacks are a great idea because they so tangibly convey the idea that there's something we need them to do. Asking your dog to help you find something you've lost, or a place you're looking for, is not so unreasonable if you learn to listen to your dog and pick up on his or her messages. And the new chess computer available for Jack Russell Terriers will help them be a better player when they go up against you.
Generally, the process of getting better at being a dog is an important job in human civilization. I recommend training for all people who have dogs.
It's been said that one cannot serve two masters, and that dogs cannot have two masters. But that's not really true. Dogs have a divided nature. They are instinctual, fairly close to their wild cousins, wolves and coyotes. And they are bred to be part of civilization, and to participate in nearly every aspect of life. In creating the breeds, humans have tried to harness and adapt certain levels of instinct to serve their own needs; and the rest of the time, dogs need to behave like good children.
It's not easy being a dog. It's not easy for them to manage these two sides of their nature simultaneously, and this is the reason dogs need a structured life, a sense of mission, and experiences that help them ground in both sides of their nature.
Homeopathic medicine has documented this issue in the form of the remedy Lac Caninum, the milk of the dog. The Lac Caninum state of mind is about deeper instincts colliding with the process of civilization.
Often this involves sexuality: powerful urges and drives meet nearly as powerful repressive forces. The need to appear prudish being met with the inner reality that one is anything but a prude is a good example. The pressure to seem moral and upstanding no matter how hot one's hormones are raging is another. If you want to smell someone's crotch but you stop yourself because it would probably be inappropriate, that's a good example.
Any time creative, intuitive or instinctual power is confronted with the need to conform, do the right thing, make a living and be a good girl at the office, the result can be Lac Caninum state. This is all the worse when our creative or intuitive behavior is punished, which it often is.
The result is often a painfully split nature, which must humans suffer from to some extent. Lac Caninum addresses that split. It also addresses the idea that, like dogs, many people don't actually have a sense of purpose in life, or an actual sense that they are doing much good at all. That would make me bitchy, too.
For both dogs and people, cultivating purpose and a sense of participation is a long process, but you can start right away. What do they want to do? What's their natural response in any given situation? What are their special skills? As we watch dogs we can study the same things in ourselves.
Fritz Perls, one of the creators of Gestalt Therapy, said that to get healthy, people need to "lose their minds and come to their senses."
One thing that dogs have going for them is their senses. Their minds work differently than ours do, and part of the reason for this is because their sensorium is so vivid, and their impulse to tune into their senses is constant. Dogs are aware; many are aware to the point of constant vigilance (yes, there are also some who would not notice if a truck drove in through the living room wall). Any time we allow our dog to be an extension of our own senses, or connect to a dog's experience of her senses, we're giving them a job to do, tuning into their instincts and as a result, tuning into our own.
Dogs provide great examples of two things humans really struggle with: loyalty and unconditional love. From many years of carefully observing dogs, my sense is that their purpose on the planet is to ground heart energy. They are open, and they want to be that way; for them, love is easy, and love means you express your feelings and take care of your people. Your life is their life and theirs is yours.
As it turns out, a dog's most important job is to teach us to be human.

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