I am in a community that is new to me this week. It will forever be the “donkey” community to me. There are donkeys everywhere, all sizes, colors and ages. I even saw a large white donkey standing next to a building. It looked old and by the way the smaller, younger donkeys were acting I think a matriarch. Some of the donkeys are actually small mules I believe while some are the typical Bethlehem donkeys with the crosses on their shoulders.
I was out in the yard of our government complex at 6:30 this morning having my first cup of coffee and I heard a sound that brought back memories of years gone by. It was a donkey braying in the distance, answered by another bray closer up. I looked out over the land with the new morning sun just a short distance above the horizon and saw a lazy, slow-moving cloud of dust. Following it to the source I saw a small herd of horses moving off in a southerly direction, casual, calm, plodding toward what destination I could not see. No donkeys.
I walked to the far side of the complex and saw a good-looking dog making her way toward my area. She was of medium size, short hair, upright pointed ears and a long tail curving slightly as she scoured the ground for edible items. I know community dogs can be skittish so I made a quiet clicking sound with my tongue next to my teeth. She raised her head and acknowledged me, gave a faint wag of her tail and went back to her search for edibles.
She was a beautiful honey color with splashes of white on her body. He face was evenly divided down the center with white and honey. I clicked again and she acknowledged me with a simple wag while continuing her search. I told her she was a beauty and she smiled. She came nearer to the eight foot fence topped with barbed wire that I stood behind. She was slowly working her way in my direction.
I quietly told her that if she would follow me she would find some bones and meat scraps. She didn’t acknowledge my disclosure but as I began to walk past the demountable we live in while out here, toward the back of the complex she casually walked on her side of the fence, still doing her own thing. I had thrown scraps from my t-bone steak from last night over the fence earlier with the hopes that a dog would run across them.
When I reached the back in the area where I’d thrown them she came as close to me as ever and we actually had eye contact. I told her again that she was a beauty and pointed toward where I knew the meat scraps had landed. I told her, “if you will go out there in that direction, follow your nose, you’ll find that meat.” Her nose was already working and she started making a sweep of the area working out from the fence toward where I knew the bones and scraps were. In no time she found the prize and grabbed it up.
I had put the bone with a lot of meat on it and fat scraps in a bag and left them in the freezer so they were still a little stuck together. She was able to carry the whole prize to a good place in the grass to eat them. I noted that she was nearly hidden in the place she had chosen so the other community dogs weren’t apt to notice her as quickly. She didn’t look at me again. I went in and made my own breakfast and watched her through the kitchen window. She was chewing the bone with pleasure.
Later while washing up my dishes I saw a movement inside the complex and there was my honey dog heading around the demountable. She had found a hole to crawl under the fence and had come in for a closer look to see if there were more scraps. In a few minutes I watched her as she left the compound. She smelled the fence and chose the place to go under the wire according to where she came in. The first try she couldn’t fit under so she smelled again and then tried and squeezed under.
A little later I sat out in the front yard with a cup of coffee watching a bunch of young dogs playing across the road. They went into a large fenced area open on one end. In the yard was very tall grass, stacks of boards and sheets of metal, sheds and a large tree lying at an angle on its side. Their favorite place to play was the large fallen tree. They would jump up on it and run up the angled part to the end. Whoever was ahead would turn and stare at the others, sometimes barking and they would all stop and then run back down. It looked so much like king of the mountain played by kids the world over.
Then they started exploring and one would take off running as fast as possible with the whole group chasing after. Around and around the large yard they ran jumping high to get through the tall grass. As I watched them I thought of my two dogs who both love to run like that. They are about the same age as the pups I watched, less than a year old, still puppies who love to play. But my dogs have tiny postage stamp yards where they can’t run freely without crashing into walls and fences. There isn’t room for them to chase each other and experience all the play antics that are part of a puppy’s life out here.
I hear lots of negative talk about community dogs but as I watch the dogs as they play and live with their human and dog families I see them differently. I see dogs that are more like they were meant to be. They are similar to wild dogs, running around the community in groups, playing together, disciplining the pack, teaching their puppies and living happily with their humans. Unlike my dogs and so many other “domestic dogs” they are free to explore, share and try new things. They aren’t trapped in a tiny yard of solid material without even a view of the world outside. I felt guilty, I felt bad for my dogs and for all the dogs trapped in little yards or even worse chained to a dog house.
I thought of my childhood days when my dogs were never trapped in pens or tied up. They were free to explore and be dogs. They didn’t go far but they could move around and see the world, explore areas dogs love to explore. My neighbor’s dogs were the same. What happened to that peaceful world where people and dogs weren’t restrained by rules and regulations? Life was happier then.
Obviously in a town dogs can’t run loose but there should be a better way to treat our dogs then the unnatural trapped way that we keep them.