Rosie is Evil.
It's not the only thing that defines her, but it's a strong thread in the warp of Rosiness.
We knew she was evil by the time she was about five weeks old. Pip knew she was evil; Rosie was the single pup elected for 90% of the Momma-delivered
So we kept her. All in all, it has been a pretty good match.
We understand that Rosie's agenda is all about Rosie -- what Rosie likes to do, what Rosie wants to get, Rosie's opinion about any given situation, generally what's in it for Rosie today.
Rosie understands that if she steps too far over the line, there will be consequences for over-indulging her evil nature.
Fortunately, Rosie's genetics and upbringing predispose her to want certain useful-to-us things. She wants to work, and to work in partnership with a person. That's programmed in, not much subject to choice. She wants to crack kneecaps and suppress chaos, in conformity with her farmdog/enforcer genes, and we have stroppy livestock that needs that done. She wants to drive off intruders, and on the farm, there are plenty of four-legged (and aerial) trespassers that need to be escorted to the boundaries or else killed and eaten. She wants to find people and tell me about her achievement, and is willing to work damned hard to succeed at the job she was literally born to. She wants to snuggle and be fussed over, and we like snuggly dogs. She wants to meet new people and bend them to her will, and strangers mistake that for sweetness and oblige her by fussing over and petting her and complimenting us on her "friendliness." Rosie's first SAR assignment came when she was about 12 weeks old; she went with two teammates as they interviewed the runaway kids' friends at boot camp, and suckered them into talking by deploying her puppy innocent shtick. (She elicits what I call the My Little Pony response in little girls, who cannot keep their hands off of her; if I do not supervise closely, her tail will be in braids and she will be dyed purple and covered in glitter.)
So, since Rosie is evil, and intelligent, and useful, and since we see her for what she is, we get along great. We love Rosie -- adore her, really. And very likely, deep in her black little conniving heart, she loves us in her fashion.
The trouble comes in two ways.
First, Rosie's interests are not always our interests, but her commitment to pursuing them is nearly full-time and quite energetic and ingenious.
She decided, for her own reasons, that one of our foster dogs needed to be gone last winter, and waited for an opportunity to Make That Happen.
It was bad enough that I took Jasmine to another foster home. Rosie got her way, which was Not A Good Thing; but it was more important that Jasmine could finish her behavioral rehab in a place where another bitch did not have a hit out on her. We will be working more with Rosie on the topic of You Don't Get a Vote on Foster Dogs. Nor does she get to snark at innocuous strange dogs at social and professional gatherings -- an experiment she commenced when she was ten weeks old and to which she keeps returning.
Also, tantrums because Rosie has to wait to work at SAR training while other dogs get their turn -- consequences for those. Pushing visitors around. Making young Cole her bitch, even if he does have a smile on his face. Guarding people from their own dogs. These are things we have to stay on top of.
Second, other people get upset when we matter-of-factly share the reality of Rosie's Evil Nature.
At a professional conference last year, another trainer complained to my friend that she didn't see why I had the dog at all, since I never expressed any love or affection for her -- apparently hanging her upside down while crooning about what a Vile Little Bitch she is didn't qualify as "affection," though Rosie sees it differently. Lately, people who barely know Rosie -- but on whom she has employed the Jedi Mind Trick* -- have argued vehemently that "She's just a misunderstood Sweetie-Pie."
Gag. Can you people not see that a sweet, "innocent" face is the perfect camouflage?
Had you considered that by denying the possibility of puppy evilocity, you trivialize all genuine canine virtue?
And can you not see that True Love comes only from knowledge of True Nature? All else is fantasy.
So we have Rosie, who is Evil, and her mother Pip, who is only a little bit Evil when it amuses her, and her brother Moe, who can seem Evil when he is hurting, but is not. Before them there was Mel, who strove harder to be Good than anyone I ever met, and who skipped right past Good into Heroic Greatness, and Lilly, born saintly and smug and judgmental -- the glare from her frikken' halo could get to be A Bit Much at times.
In addition to each dog's inborn or acquired place on the Good - Evil spectrum, they are and were each unique individuals, souls who will never be duplicated, complex beings with unique genetics interacting with unique experience, agents with free will. Themselves, not simple archetypes.
When we are telling or writing the story of a dog -- reducing him to narrative -- he cannot interrupt and correct us. No, it never happened that way, and I'm not really like that. Like the dead, the dog has no voice. Unlike most dead humans, he often has few independent witnesses to contradict an owner's choice of adjectives.
So there's a special responsibility to try to minimize projection -- to avoid making the dog a stand-in for some part of ourselves, or something we need, or some quality we idealize or loathe. To control the pathological urge to subsume the animal's identity into our own.
It's especially lazy to reduce the dog to a thoughtless cliche that doesn't even apply to him.
The golden retriever who would literally go with anyone and never look back -- please don't tell me how "loyal" your dog is. You didn't give that adjective one second's earnest consideration.
If your Chihuadoodle is hiding behind your legs and yapping, please stop characterizing him as "protective."
Just because your Dane has a huge head and a weak heart that makes him phlegmatic and unreactive does not mean he is "noble."
If you fail to train, manage, and provide appropriate medical care for a fearful and reactive dog, then convenience-kill him when the inevitable keeps happening, is it too much to refrain from (lucratively) proclaiming that he's your soul-mate?
And if your dog is hyperactive, untrained, ill-led, and obviously poorly-matched with you, this does not make him an amusingly "bad" dog, though it speaks volumes about you.
Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
This came home to my gut recently when a friend sent a link to a cringe-inducing memorial blog about a dead dog.
Reading the posts by the dog's owner, I came away with virtually no intentionally-communicated useful information about the dog.
Here's some dog descriptors from a truly painful series of posts:
Fuzzy body pillow
Where's the dog?
There's not a single story there that reveals anything about his character, what sort of dog was this, for all the owner's claims that his life was transformative. I cannot discern a single thing the dog accomplished.
"He learned his name while I fed him McNuggets" does not count. Nor does inadvertently flinging a drool gobbet into the vet's open mouth.
Tons of abstract verbiage. But dogs are concrete creatures. What did the dog choose to do? What actions made him an individual?
I am actually hearing a cricket chirping in the corner.**
The Number One hyperbole that this person applies over and over to the dog, without supporting anecdote or evidence, is ...
And you can be sure, not any flaming-sword cherubim playing bouncer at the door to the Tree of Life. Not Metatron appearing as a column of fire. Not this kind of angel:
But, in the owner's mind, and only there, this kind:
You see my problem. I'm trying to hold down food here.
So what's an angel, really?
It's an anglicization of the Greek word angelos, meaning "messenger." Which in turn, was used when translating the Hebrew mal'akh, also "messenger." Yahweh's errand-boy -- a being that presents divine pronouncements to mortals. An intermediary creature between heaven and earth, but transmitting one-way.
But the Greeks had another word for what at first appears to be a very similar sort of creature in their own theology.
Now here's a word with some nuance. So much so that its definitions are legion. Think about explaining all that the English word spirit denotes, and you start to grasp the breadth and difficulty.
The thing about a daemon is, whether you personify it as a semi-divine being, identify a person or animal as having daemonic qualities, or abstract it to a immanent quality latent within a person's psyche -- the daemon is not just divinity's shiny white herald. The daemon travels the space between the mundane and the transcendent, and its function is to escort one closer to the divine, without necessarily renouncing the world. You can bring it with you.
The daemon is crepuscular.
It occupies doorways, porches, vestibules, limbos and such spaces that are neither clearly in nor clearly out.
It not only has knowledge of and the ability to sense realities which a human cannot -- it shares those hidden worlds with us and brings us to them.
Socrates dropped a lot of broad hints about daemonic nature, his own, Diotima's, who else might possess one or be possessed, not least by swearing an oath that was unique to him. By the dog! No other Greek employed this oath. But no other Greek was as occupied with elevating and transcending, seeing the unseen and knowing the unknown.
A daemon has some very doglike qualities, both in itself and in its relationship to a human seeker.
And a dog, especially a really good evil dog, can aspire to the daemonic.
*Like virtually all English shepherd bitches, Rosie is a Master of the Jedi Mind Trick. Except, you know, more Sith than Jedi.
So, background: Far too many owners of ES and other genius dogs are unaware of the Power that the Force has over Weak Minds.
My friend Douglas explains it thusly: One day, you will find yourself sitting on the floor watching Animal Planet while feeding popcorn over your shoulder to the dog who is relaxing on the sofa. And you will suddenly grasp the consciousness that you have no idea how you came to this -- you thought it was your idea, but no, this is not what you want to be doing. At that moment, you will feel a cold nose on your neck, reminding you that someone wants more popcorn. Oh.
** This is literally true; there's a cricket making a racket over by my closet door, and no dog wants to get up and eat him. Possibly the cricket is cover for a closet monster.
Photo courtesy of Rob McMillin. Evil Rosie is Evil.