Four Legs Good
Where I live, this autumn has brought incredibly good weather. What April showers there've been have fallen conveniently at night, and day after day has been brilliantly sunny.
Which is pleasant not just for us humans, but for pets too.
Sun-heated decks, backyards and beaches are obvious benefits for the four-legged. So is the still-firm ground at walking parks, and so are the warm patches on the carpet where the low-sloping sun comes in.
But bright sun also makes our pets look spectacular - as I'm sure you'll agree after scrolling through today's collection of sun-seeking pets, starting with the worshipful Lilly.
Have you ever watched while your pet was stretching, and wondered "why can't I stretch like that?"
Well you can, more or less, if you remember to make time for it, and try to borrow a little of your pet's stretch-commitment.
|Curve, twist, lengthen: Ahi has a cat's crazy suppleness.|
And can't you tell that it feels good for your pet?
Cats, especially, seem to savour their stretches and even turn them into works of art. They unlock every joint, free every vertebra, turn their paws into fists and then into fans, flex and twist in every direction, making the whole delicious process last as long as possible. Often they fall asleep again without coming out of the stretch.
"Naughty cat," you say. "Bad dog," you scold. But cats aren't naughty and dogs aren't bad. They're just being a different species, using their own moral code, which is different from your puny, consistent, comprehensible human one.
Cats and dogs can be taught rules, and how to recognise when you're displeased, and the rewards of doing what you tell them. But both those species are also hard-wired to explore, try things out, and push stretchy boundaries till they go twang and back-flick them in the snout.
The behaviour's not bad, it's not naughty - it just looks that way sometimes. In truth it's simply the Way of the Pet. Today we document it.
Meet Hoover, whom the Way of the Pet has led into the depths of the bottom drawer. (Now I know where my missing plastic lids have fled to.)
If there's a list of rules about walking a dog, then near the top will be this one: Whatever your dog rolls in, you do not want in the house.
For some deeply instinctive reason, and I'll get to the theories in a moment, dogs love rolling in smelly stuff, the smellier the better. (Warning: if you're of a delicate disposition, you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs.)
|Daisy's shocking secret: rolling in private.|
Let's be slightly plain, the place that dogs most want to roll in is the place where some creature has pooed. These places are plentiful, especially in parks. My dogs sniff these sites out, digging their snouts in and then backstroking vigorously. If one dog is rolling in something, the other dog runs to investigate and share in the stink.
When is the rolling at its most energetic and determined? Why, when the dog has been recently washed. Not for them the perfumes that we humans love around us. Not for them the lavenders and pines of dog shampoo. Those pink scents of the bathroom are to be rubbed off, replaced by the brown smells of the ground.
Being a human is more complicated than being a dog. That's what most people would say.
It's true, dogs don't have performance reviews, or property inspections, or tax audits. They don't have to worry about body mass index, or privacy settings, or interest rates.
But it's not so simple. Dogs do have to do things - dog things - in order to be a dog. They have to master dog skills and be cognisant of dog conventions. So here's a list - illustrated, of course - of Things a Dog Has To Do.
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