Old Trainer: Dogs offer you unconditional love

08/02/2014 12:00 AM

08/01/2014 5:40 PM

Dear Old Trainer: I love your column, but I was shocked when you said you like your dogs more than people. My sister agrees with you, but I would leave my boyfriend if he said that. How can you believe that? You must have a hard time finding a girlfriend. DeeAnn, Concord

A: Maybe you should introduce me to your sister.

The reason she agrees with me is the unconditional love you get from a dog. People like that feeling and know it doesn’t exist in humans.

The Grateful Dead sang, “Lovers come and go, the river roll, roll, roll.” They had it right. Lovers drift in and out of a life, but your dog is always there, his dedication and loyalty as reliable as that river.

You make a good point though. I had an affair with a doctor that was going fine until she said, “Sometimes I think you like those dogs more than you like me.”

I lied and said, “Why, no, they are merely dogs while you are a smart, talented woman.” That didn’t satisfy her. She brought it up every few days and I kept lying until she said, “Just tell me if you like the dogs better. I will understand.”

So I told the truth. “Of course I like them better. I’ve had them for years and have only known you a few months. You are a woman of science and logic, so I know you will understand.”

Well, she didn’t understand and that was the end of that.

But it works both ways. Another time I met a beautiful woman whom I would never have had a chance with except for her interest in my dogs. I married her and it lasted a long time and then it ended.

Lovers come and go, the river roll, roll, roll.

Dear Old Trainer: I want to train Felix, my 5-month-old Lab, as a rescue dog, finding survivors and victims in disasters such as earthquakes, floods, etc. Could he do it, and how do I train him? Steve, Auburn

A: Labs are the dominant breed for rescue work so Felix can do the job, but don’t make a decision to become a rescue worker on a whim. Disaster sites, where “spirits cross the dead fields,” take a toll on both humans and dogs.

You can die at a disaster site. In the months after Sept. 11, 1,500 rescue workers who worked the site died.

After Katrina, dogs and handlers worked for days in steamy New Orleans heat with bloated bodies floating in diseased water up to their knees.

Are you willing to subject yourself and Felix to conditions like that? Remember, Felix may not be as altruistic as you are, and he is the one doing the work.

In addition, while dogs love to search for lost people and are overjoyed when they find them, some dogs cannot deal with finding cadavers instead of survivors. They become melancholy when they feel they failed and many never recover. Does Felix have the personality to handle it? Do you?

If you decide you are serious about such training, there are thousands of organizations and individuals who offer rescue training listed on the Internet.

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