“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
– Milan Kundera
Today is my Soma Dawg’s twelfth birthday!
She was born on March 6th, 2001 and has been howling, growling and chowing ever since! 😉
I can still remember the night my ex-girlfriend and I picked her up in the Tennessee Mountains. We were so excited to finally bring her home!
She was only a 6 week old wolf pup with raccoon eyes, big paws and a waggling tail…. basically the cutest puppy in the world! She curled up in my lap as I drove us down the mountain and back to the city of High Point, North Carolina.
Little did I know what I was getting myself into…
The Fun Times of Being a Dog Owner
Raising a puppy can be demanding and she was constantly testing me to see if I was up to the challenge.
As a wolf-hybrid she had a dominant nature, strong will and mind of her own, while I, on the other hand, was a “Wanna-be Rockstar” fresh out of college…
In other words, I still had a lot to learn about life!
“Over the past twelve years we have both grown a lot and have had some really fun and some not-so-fun times.”
There’s been lots of playing, rollerblading and going on hiking and exploring adventures. Soma really loves the outdoors and the mountains. She’s not a huge fan of the beach when it’s really hot. She’s more of a cold weather type… where having a thick, fluffy coat of hair is more advantageous!
In her early years she had to learn how to be a house/city dog. I’ve had my counter tops chewed, my carpet literally dug up and ripped to shreds, toilet paper dragged and strung all over the place, peeing, pooping, vomiting… the whole nine yards.
One thing I made sure to do was socialize her as a puppy. We brought her around lots of people, children and other dogs so that she would see them as part of her pack.
Therefore, she loves people and kids and is especially fond of the ladies… oh wait, that’s me! lol
She’s fine with most dogs (as long as they’re cool!) She’s more cautious with other dogs in her older age because one bit her on the ass once and now… Soma don’t play that sh!t.
Being part wolf, she’s also had the natural instinct to chase and hunt other animals! Of course, many dogs and cats do as well, so… DON’T YOU DARE JUDGE HER! 😀
She has caught and killed the following animals:
- Several birds – she caught one on a walk that landed right in front of her, ate it whole… and then spit out the beak. Another time she caught a cardinal (which is our state bird!)
- A snake – she pulled it out of its hiding place, shook it until it died and then ran around the yard with it in her mouth. She was SO proud
- A squirrel – okay, I’m not sure that she actually killed it, but she did find a dead one. She always did her best to catch one of these varmints so I’ll give her that one.
- A possum – while we were camping she literally jumped through the screen door of our brand new tent and got him. This really freaked me out and I had to use a hot dog to get her to stop shaking it by the neck. He was gone the next morning so maybe he was playing possum!?
- A family of rabbits – they ran into the wrong back yard and there was no escape. She caught and ate three of them. I’ve since put cinder blocks in place to keep them out of the yard.
- The neighbor girl’s kitten Sir Purr – unfortunately it crawled underneath our fence and I couldn’t get to him in time. That was a really sad day for all. 🙁
She also tries to get the geese around the ponds and loves to chase after the deer on the hiking trails…
I don’t really allow her to do so because I’m holding on to the leash and can only run so fast. Plus, for other ethical reasons!
By the way, I never in a million years would have guessed how much hair this dog would have!
She has an endless supply of hair that is constantly shedding. The worst time is in the spring as she sheds her winter coat.
It requires a lot of brushing and maintenance beyond anything I could have imagined in my worst nightmares.
Despite all of the challenges and trials of having two dogs (yep I got two), I’ve really enjoyed Soma’s company and loving companionship over the years.
She’s always happy to see me and greets me when I come home.
She keeps me walking, hiking and being responsible.
She keeps me laughing and enjoying the simple things in life.
Lessons from the Pack
Overall, being a dog owner has been a very positive experience for me and Soma has taught me some valuable life lessons.
The first thing I had to learn was how to be responsible for this cute little puppy that was absolutely dependent on me. If I didn’t feed her… she didn’t eat. If I didn’t walk her… she wouldn’t get exercise. If I didn’t take her out to relieve herself…
Well, you get the idea!
Life was no longer just about me and what I wanted. I had to realize that I made the decision to become a dog owner and so I had an obligation and duty to take care of this animal to the best of my ability.
“If I didn’t take my responsibility seriously and do what needed to be done, then my dog would suffer because of it.”
Sure I could have given the dog away, slacked off or said who cares…. and sadly many people don’t own up to the responsibility that life demands of them. Unfortunately, when I look around I see that there are many animals, children and people that are suffering as a result.
It’s not always easy or fun to be responsible… yet it is rewarding in the long run to know that you lived up to the commitments you made.
Dogs and other social animals like felines and primates are looking to be led by a strong, confident leader who can maintain order, safety and survival of the pack. When you bring a dog into your home, you should be the leader of the pack.
However, what happens in a lot of cases is that the dog will assume this role if it feels or senses that you aren’t up to the task.
This happens in the wild, as well, when the beta wolf perceives weakness or instability in the alpha wolf and may challenge the alpha for the leadership role. The alpha will have to assert its dominance over the beta wolf to remain the leader or step aside.
Now, I like to think that I’m the alpha man in da house… and overall the dogs seem to listen to me and follow my lead. Yet I’m no Cesar Millan either!
Like I said, Soma is dominant and strong willed. She does what I say, but always puts up some resistance to test me. She’s definitely challenged me over the years and taught me a few things about leadership…
“To lead another, they must first trust you and believe that you have their best interests at heart.”
You must lead by example and remain in control of yourself, temper and emotions.
You must be firm, consistent, and assertive… yet not take things so seriously.
This lesson is highly correlated with the lesson on leadership. Having emotional control, which may also be known as emotional intelligence, is vitally important in leadership and dog ownership.
Dogs respond to the emotional energy we are projecting.
Ever wondered why some dogs will just start barking or become aggressive at some people and yet not others? It’s because they can sense the person’s emotions and intentions. If the person is fearful, high strung or angry the dog can sense that emotional energy and might be perturbed by it.
“The alpha male of any group is the one who is emotionally in control of the situation.”
To be in control of the situation you must first be in control of yourself. This means you are calm, cool and collected. You’re in control of your emotions and not letting them get the best of you or drive your behavior.
You are assertive yet emotionally stable.
In other words, you’re relaxed and chilled out. You’re not sweating the little things.
If the situation calls for a particular emotion, then it’s okay to express it. Yet getting all crazy-eyed angry because your dog won’t come when you call it… only reveals your own instability and lack of self-control.
Anger is one example. It could just as easily be your high level of excitement or anxiousness that is amping the dog up. Emotions tend to be contagious after all.
By having emotional control (remaining calm and assertive) … it is more likely that your dog, and even people, will respond more favorably to you.
A dog lives only in the present moment. It has no contemplation of yesterday or tomorrow. It lives only for today, right here and now.
Dogs don’t have thoughts, judgments or make interpretations about the world like humans do. They observe and experience the world through their senses, instincts and emotions.
A dog may experience fear when threatened, happiness on a warm, sunny day, or even sadness if a member of the pack dies. It may even express anger as aggressiveness in defense of itself or the pack.
These are raw, pure emotions and not linked to complex thought patterns like in humans.
“Therefore, a dog’s love is unconditional. They place no demands, expectations, rules or regulations on their love for you.”
They express it freely through the wagging of their tail, the panting of their tongue, and their enthusiasm to see you return home.
The slate is wiped clean even after all of the mistakes and errors I’ve made over the years… my dogs still love me for who I am.
In this way, they act as a source of inspiration for humans… an ideal to strive for.
To love someone unconditionally is the greatest gift you can give to a person or an animal… and even to yourself! To accept them as they are and allow them to be their true selves, even if we may not personally agree or understand.
This is true love and a love that’s rarely expressed.
Happy Birthday Soma!