I know what it’s like to lose a pet. It’s heartbreaking. They are a part of your family, and the loss is felt keenly.
Pets are also your responsibility. If your Pitt Bull is running around loose and bites a someone, that’s on you. If your boa constrictor gets loose and swallows the neighbor’s poodle, that’s on you. If your cat is allowed to roam free and gets killed by a coyote, that’s also on you. That coyote is only doing what coyotes do. (And your cat was probably killing songbirds anyway. It’s a cat.) Keep your cat inside and coyotes won’t be an issue.
I get so frustrated when people complain about coyotes. “Coyotes Killing Cats” is a frequent topic on my local Nextdoor.com page. It’s the coyotes’ territory as much as it is ours. They have every bit as much right to survive as we do. It would be great if they could live far away from people and feed on things that we are not emotionally attached to, but we’ve made it all but impossible for them to do that.
When people’s pets start disappearing, there’s always a call to kill the coyotes. It makes me sick. If you allow your pets to roam free, you need to be willing to live with the consequences.
I can hear the coyotes howling in the park behind my house on many nights. I think it’s a lovely sound. And I never let my dachshund outside from dusk to dawn without supervision, even if our yard is fenced, and I’ve never seen a coyote inside that fence. Because that’s what a responsible pet owner should do.
It’s a strange experience, occupying a space that someone else had made her own for decades. All the furniture has been picked out, all the walls are painted, the art chosen, the plants planted. She’s not here, and yet she’s everywhere.
Which is not a bad thing, necessarily. For the most part, I like her taste. I would have liked her, I’m sure. But it’s time to make this place ours.
Slowly, but surely, we’re introducing change. We’re adding the new and getting rid of the old. We’re keeping the good, and getting rid of what no longer fits. We’re rearranging. We’re changing colors, here and there. We’ve had a garage sale. We’ve planted a tree.
Just recently we painted a glow-in-the-dark milky way on the ceiling. Adolescent as that may sound, I’ve had it in my last two houses, and I find it comforting to stare at as I drift off to sleep. So doing that meant a lot to me.
You don’t really think too much about marking territory unless you have dogs, but we humans do it, too. We just do it with paint and pillows and photos. It’s how you make a house a home.
After I got married, my dog Quagmire found himself as part of a three-dog family for the first time ever. And he’s having adjustment issues. He’s been rather spoiled for the past few years. He’s been the center of my world, the apple of my eye. My snuggle partner in crime.
Now, all of a sudden, he’s the tiniest dog in a pack. I’m not even sure Junior, the Australian Shepherd, is aware that Quag is a dog. “What is this little rodent-sized creature that’s nipping at my heels?” he seems to say.
Quagmire can walk right under him without even having to lower his head. Not that he would. Because he’s way, way too busy trying to be Alpha. The two of them are very confused with one another. Quagmire growls. Junior, being deaf, ignores him, and tries to herd him from room to room. And that makes Quagmire growl even more.
Sweet Nelly, the third dog in this menagerie, tries her best to stay out of it. She looks at me with pleading eyes, as if to say, “None of this is my fault.” The curse of being a middle child.
If the Brady Bunch taught us nothing else, it’s that there are bound to be growing pains with every blended family. But when I see Quagmire following Nelly around in awe, or when he snuggles up against dear husband and contentedly snores while we watch a movie, I know that somehow, some way, it will all work out perfectly, and that some bright, shiny day, hopefully in the very near future, he’ll stop trying to mark his territory on our lovely hardwood floors.
There was this paint bubble on the wall at work. I sat there for 8 hours, resisting the urge to pop and peel. But I wondered how long that bubble would remain intact. Sure enough, when I came back after a few days off, I discovered that one of my coworkers had gotten to it. Now this patch of white is peeking through the institutional green. That didn’t take long. I have no doubt that that patch will increase in size over time.
What is this impulse that humans have to destroy everything? Is it our way of marking our territory, like a dog peeing on a lamp post? Does our existence really need any more validation? You can already see our planetary destruction from outer space. I bet we could fill the Grand Canyon with the number of cigarette butts people leave lying about. It’s truly disgusting.
There is a crew in the City of Seattle that does nothing but remove graffiti. It’s a full time job. They have to come to my drawbridge quite often. People also like to put stickers everywhere, and deface signs.
And is there some reason we feel the need to carve our initials on trees? Thank goodness most of us don’t think we can carve our initials on other people as well, even though, as I see it, trees have every bit as much value.
What really gets to me is when historical things get defaced. I once saw some graffiti painted on a wall over an ancient pictograph, and it moved me to tears. Why do I not consider the pictograph to be destruction, too? Just as with modern murals, it was not placed there to destroy what had gone before. It had a higher purpose than simply to say, “Look what I can do, whether you like it or not!” It was an act of creation, not one of defiance, disrespect, youth and too much beer.
Why does respect have to be taught? This would be a much better world if it were instinctual. But since it does have to be taught, here’s an idea: let’s teach it.
One of the best things about having two dogs is that you learn a great deal about the concept of territory. The alpha dog spends a lot of time defending his turf, and the beta dog uses up a great deal of energy demonstrating that he knows he’s not in charge. “I’m just a submissive visitor in your land, sire. Please don’t hurt me.”
Even though it may not be as blatant in humans, the concept can be quite similar when you encounter a hostile individual that for some reason you have to get along with. For example, if you are being trained at work by someone who resents your very existence, there are many ways to handle it, of course, but my thought process is as follows: This person has been a grumpy old troll for years, and nothing I do or say is going to change that. There’s really no point in wasting energy by getting into a confrontation with someone like that. The situation will remain the same. So I let them pee on their psychological fire hydrant until they get it out of their system. And usually after that we do fine.
While this person has now forever lost all my respect, I never show it, because I am crossing into their land. There will be taxes incurred. It’s best to just pay them and move on.
And yes, it galls me to have to put up with someone’s crap, but the older I get, the more I realize that I have to pick my battles. I have very little energy to spend on territorial disputes. I’m much more content letting others be the landlords, if it’s all that important to them. I just nod and say, “Yes, sir, whatever you say sir,” knowing full well that they have absolutely no control over my opinions or my thoughts, so in the end, my inner territory is completely and utterly mine.
I used to kind of feel sorry for beta dogs. They seem to be constantly picked on. But now I actually feel more sorry for the alphas of this world. It must be exhausting to have to spend every waking moment trying to control everything and everyone around you. Especially when all of us puppies tend to wander around the yard willy nilly the moment your back is turned. It has always been thus.