Monday, November 24, 2008

Director of Homeland Security

There are dogs you'd want with you in a foxhole.

Dogs that have your back.

Dogs that wish they lived in more dangerous times, so they would have more to do.

And the astonishing thing, to me, is the degree to which these qualities are heritable. Introduce two Danger Dogs at the right time, and in the resulting litter, you are going to get some more of the same.

Fail to select for it, it goes away.

I knew Moe was going to become the dog he was always meant to be when we were only a week or so on our farm.

I was on the lawn tractor, mowing out a new garden spot, with iPod and shooting muffs on, when my dog-loving insurance agent's car started down the driveway.

I couldn't hear a thing, and kept happily mowing away and singing along with Fountains of Wayne until I turned a corner and saw Moe doing a dog-style impression of this tableau:

Frank just wasn't going to come any further down the driveway. No excitement, no nastiness. Just a very clear, very authoritative, very unequivocal: None Shall Pass.

I shut off the tractor and called Moe to heel. He was content to trot over to me and sit, watching while Frank parked. I told him "That's Frank, he's supposed to be here. Okay." Moe gallumphed over and greeted him with his signature butt-first full-body wiggle and squeak.

And that's how it has been here.

There has been little enough for Moe to handle -- at least, little enough that I am aware of. He does go on patrol, so there's no way of knowing what he's heading off before it becomes a problem.

The feral cats that menaced our kittens in September have not returned after Moe showed them to the trees at the end of the lane.

There was his Secret Service style takedown of Eddie in defense of my father, a long story for another day.

There are many fox tracks and sign in the woods and further pastures, but nothing has bothered the poultry. When I have to coop the poultry before they are ready to go in at night, it is Moe who hunts each chook out of the brush and scoots her into the pop-hole with gentle authority.

He assists his mother in groundhog control.

He is rather emphatic in his efforts to drive off aerial invaders, whether low-flying geese, raptors, (dogs apparently believe in the ubiquity of chicken hawks) or this rather surprising, and surprisingly frequent, summer interloper in our air space:

He does not bark or alert to activity in the township park, which bounds our property to the west. Pays no mind to the neighbors to the north and east, who are over a hill and off the radar. The farmland to the south is seldom traveled, and he lets me know when someone is out there working or hunting -- reports unusual activity.

Today the furnace guy* arrived while I was outside with Pip and Rosie. I let him in through the basement door; Moe was upstairs.

Quite some time later, I came downstairs and left the door at the top of the stairs open. Moe followed a minute later, and, mid-stairs, perceived the stranger in the furnace room.

Tail up, head forward, he darted into the space between me and the technician. No barking, no growling, no "threat" -- just presence, and a claim on the space. Nobody was coming out of that furnace room until further intelligence was forthcoming.

"Moe, he's supposed to be in there. I let him in. It's allowed."

Wag wag wag wag. Squeak. Scratch my butt, man.

Judgment, restraint, eagerness to confront a threat without any tendency to invent it where it does not exist. Trust in legitimate authority, and good will towards men.

Maybe our country can now rediscover these virtues in our public servants and guardians.

They would do well to emulate Moe.

*We just spent four days during an unseasonable cold snap without heat, turning the living-room stove insert into the little fireplace that could (sort of) and winter camping in our house. The kitchen floor is still not replaced, since the adhesive and leveling compound could not set up at forty degrees. And may I broadcast to the world -- as I promised I would -- that we froze solely because HSA home warranty (which came with the house, not our choice to buy it) is owned, managed, and staffed by pathological liars, mental defectives, incompetents, cheats, and thieves.


  1. Yeah, Pepper does much the same thing, although she will bark to let me know the intruder is there and what is my opinion on this?

    Pepper also doesn't like open doors, so she and the pastor have an argument over whether the church's front door should be open in the summer. The pastor says yes and Pepper says it's much too dangerous so if I don't close it when we're there, Pepper will sit in the doorway and watch for "things that will murder us all"

    The day the blimp flew over the community garden and Pepper felt she had to escort it along the property was pretty over the top. I feel better knowing this is a "known" behavoir!


  2. Awesome!
    I met another idiot macho owner the other day with a traumatized Rottie pup who "didn't want him to learn to be too friendly" so he'd grow up "mean". I bit partway through my tongue and then explained that a dog who learns at an early age to fear humans will certainly be aggressive if cornered, but won't have the confidence to be a real "watchdog".
    Or tried to explain that... there seemed to be a flicker of a dim lightbulb but I have my doubts that anything got through.

  3. Forgot to add that I recently found your blog, love it, and love your writing!

  4. Moe's half-brother has the same instincts. As you know, he had huge paws to fill in that capacity (both literally and figuratively speaking) but he's done quite well. Like Moe and the Lokster, Audie's first instinct is to get between me and any potential threat - but like both of them, he's quite happy to make friends and get butt scritches once I tell him it's not a problem.

    In another note regarding family "traditions" - the groundhog down the hill is officially dead. Neighbor said that his dog dragged the corpse up to their garage a day or so after his altercation with Audie. They're quite sure that Brandee didn't do the dirty deed - it's takes all he's got to limp to the end of the drive.

  5. Your post illustrates perfectly the difference between Protective and Possessive. I so desperately want to strangle people who claim that their little Muffin or large Duke is 'so protective' when it won't even let family approach them! And they think it's SO KYOOT! *gag*

    Sounds like you have a perfect relationship with your guardian. I can only hope to achieve something like that with my future canine cohorts (although I'll actually be working them in Schutzhund and protection)!


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