Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

April 5, 2014

Rusty writes about the nature of doghood

I am a dog.

Therefore I bark.

I don’t understand why it is so hard for humans to understand this.

I mean, there are certain things that come with the territory, right?

For instance, they are humans. Therefore they don’t understand why dogs bark.

Simple as that.

Oh, yes, I have heard the reasons not to bark. Over and over again. All of them pathetic. “That cat’s not going to hurt you. Rusty.” Well, of course he’s not going to hurt me. I have taken steps to let him know he won’t hurt me. I have told him in my loudest, firmest voice that it’s only the window between us that is keeping me from tearing him apart at the seams.

”He looks as if he really wants to play with you, Rusty. Why do you sound so mean?”

That’s easy. It’s the wisest course of action. If he really wants to play — and that sounds like a good idea! — let’s see what he does when he sees me coming at him. Let me outta here!

”Rusty, if you scream and scratch and lunge at that window much longer you’re going to break it!”

Well, of course I am. Why do you think I am screaming and scratching and lunging? And the sooner the better -

There are a billion, or five or six at least, things humans don’t understand. On the whole, they are well-meaning and even mannerly, but so often they get it wrong. There are times when you just hate to let them get out into the world, knowing what it’s like out there, and how innocent they are.

Innocent, for example, of the basic iniquity of cats.

And here’s something else humans are so strangely ignorant about, and that is, the very best kind of stuffed animals to play with. You’d think anyone with a brain in her head would know that the best stuffed toy has big floppy parts that whack you in the head when you shake it. Of course, I haven’t seen humans play much with stuffed animals, which shows how strange they are to begin with, and how necessary it is for us to help them let out their inner dog.

Mom has never understood the need for me to disembowel all my toys. And she’s always sewing them back up, which seems so pointless because it just makes it easier for me to pinpoint the exact place to get the squeaker out again. She says I only ever play with the ones that still have squeakers in them — but don’t you understand, Mom? I hope I would not be so undogly as to play with dead bodies.

Mom loves to throw my toys for me, and I am so glad to let her have a chance to do it every now and then, preferably 10 times a day or more. Sometimes, even when I am very tired, I will bring over my stuffed raccoon to give her a chance to throw it for me. Even though I don’t remember my own mother very well, I have not forgotten the precepts she drilled in me to be thoughtful and teach others all the wise ways one must live in the world in order to be the best kind of dog there is.

There are some humans who understand that what they call “the domesticated animals” need to learn appropriate behavior. Mom tells me about an article she once read (whatever reading is) about visitors and wild horses at a place called Assateague. (A strange name for a horse hangout, but you know humans).

It seems these tourists insist on hugging the horses and feeding them potato chips. This is counterproductive (a word Mom often uses when I bark too much for her) because, as the article says, “Tourists expect postcard images of horses galloping on beaches and manes aflutter on dunes, not a horse with its head stuck in a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.”

So I try to be appropriately behaved at all times except when I am barking, because that is a doggy activity that simply cannot be self-controlled. For instance, outside at night would seem to be a good time to shut up (according to the neighbors), but no human understands the amount of enthralling behavior that goes on at night out in the country. Shenanigans all over the place, judging from the looks of the overnight snow in our front yard. How can any self-respecting dog stand by silently and watch out the window and not comment on the action?

Still, I can’t be too critical or she will call that other Rusty who lives in the mirror to take over for me. (She might even banish me from sleeping on top of her bed, and make me sleep on the floor, as her other dogs always did. I am proud to say that I have what Mom calls, “a higher beducation.” )

But I know she wouldn’t do that. Because “Rusty in the mirror”, as she calls him, could never take my place. He has floppy ears and a long nose, lots of curly hair, and four legs! He doesn’t look like Mom and me at all!

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

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Maude McDaniel - Living
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