Switch the first and last letters of “dog” and you have his perception of himself. He was the “family’s” dog only in the context of municipal regulations on dog ownership. As far as he was concerned we were “his” humans. Who existed to serve him in exchange for his protective presence and wisdom.
Of course we tried to “train” him from puppy-hood. He thought the whole thing was quite silly. Why did you throw your stupid stick if you wanted it back right ? he would ask with an annoyed look. If you wanted him to trot over to you without a prior appointment you bloody well have a good reason. Like a treat. It was preferred that you did the leg work as a sign of respect for his superiority.
Respect was a big deal for him. You couldn’t treat him like a dog. His meals had to be reverently place before him. The one time some one slid his plate to him he flipped it over with his snout and trotted off in a huff. Head and tail held high. Food strewn all over the kitchen floor. We learnt our lesson.
The plate flipping incident was a major statement because the animal loved his food. In those days there were no fancy dog food – he feasted on rice and curry like everyone else. A heaped plate of the stuff was not enough. Half way through a meal you would get a slight dab of a cold wet nose on you elbow and there we was. With his patented “I’m a poor starving puppy please feed me” expression. It worked most of the time. If that didn’t move you, there would be a flash of “drop some food or I’ll shred you with these” fangs emphasised by an impatient threatening growl. The switch between the two expressions was disturbing enough make the victim surrender.
His favourite food was any kind of desert. Topping that was The Bone. Which he usually buried somewhere in the garden. When he felt like a good gnaw, he brought it into the house in a trail of soil and settled down blocking the door to the kitchen. Anybody disrespectful enough to step over him will get their foot badly bitten. If you wanted to go to the kitchen, go around the house to the back door. When he blocked the door on rainy days we used umbrellas. You have to be practical about these things – specially in the 3rd world.
The animal had a regular routine that he stuck to like an Englishman. The morning back scratch on a door mat. A spot of dignity abandoned sun bathing – lying belly up, paws raised limp in the air, eyes closed and tongue hanging out. Quite a contrast from the meditative post lunch snooze from “his” chair in the veranda.
Like the president, our four legged family member held the defence/home security portfolio. The closest a 2-am attempt on the coconut tree got was the top of wall. By which time our side of the neighbourhood was awake. All visitors to the house were sniffed and kept under surveillance.
The territorial integrity of our house was ruthlessly defended against intrusions of other dogs. Usually through unilateral action of a barking snarling Banzai charge at the invader in the best Berserker tradition. The fact that the intruder was twice his size didn’t matter. Once he got badly wounded and had to have his head in hilarious looking bandage. He wore it proudly like a medal.
I must of course balance out the seemingly fierce portrait.
He cleared loved everyone in the house hold. He refused to have lunch until I came home from school. Or dinner till my parents ate (cynics might say that was to get titbits off the table). We ate together for years – me at the table and him at his beloved bright orange plate. Don’t ever recall him begging food from me.
When I lay plastered up from numerous bicycle falls he would sit by the bed looking quite concerned, forehead creased. He had a knack for spotting people needing a bit of cheering up. Which he did effortlessly by casually trotting over and sitting next to you. A little eye contact and a friendly wag of tail. Sometimes a sympathetic paw would be “accidentally” placed on your foot.
Or a concerned head on the lap. Somehow it puts your concerns into a different positive perspective. Exactly how is a mystery.