A Dog’s Life?

The expression “It’s a dog’s life” means that life is hard; unpleasant; unrewarding,  and apparently has 16th century origins when dog’s were working animals and treated as such.  It was also the original title for the book about Ray “Who Said I was up for Adoption?”, because of the blatant contradiction between a “dog’s life” and Ray’s life!

While the expression is still used today, it is interesting to consider it’s validity. Using Ray as my study subject, what really is “a dog’s life”? Is it that hard; unpleasant and unrewarding? The obvious answer is “Hardly!” Ray has a very good life by any canine standard, but it does pose some interesting thoughts.

Ray is dependent on us for his food. Is he? Really? If we did not feed him, he would, without any doubt whatsoever, be hungry for only so long and then he would scavenge. Whereas we may consider scavenging less than desirable, I would suspect that Ray would see it simply as a survival process and adapt very quickly.

Ray is dependent on us for his health. To achieve a reasonable life-span then he probably is, in that he gets regular check ups, a healthy diet, and medication as necessary… but that is putting our perspective on health onto Ray. I really do not think that Ray has ever considered a “reasonable life-span”. In fact he has almost certainly never considered any life-span as being a factor! Without our involvement in his well being, he could well live a rather short life. We know for certain that if his heart-worm had not been treated in 2013, he would not be alive today, but Ray has no life expectations. That’s a human perspective.

Ray is dependent on us for his social needs. I think that is highly unlikely given his reactions now to other people and dogs.

Much as Ray seems very happy living with us and regularly shows affection, I would suggest that, from his perspective, he really does not need us. He would probably like us to make his life comfortable but… he does not need us!

So what is “a dog’s life”? I would suggest that it is one in which he can adapt from good eating to scavenging at a moments notice, and think little of it. I would suggest that it is one in which a health condition is simply accepted. Treatment could be intuitive drinking more than usual, eating more grass, and any other plant perceived to have a benefit of some description, and resting up as necessary.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be so adaptable and, instead of complaining about the increase in public transport costs, we just recognized the need and moved on. A big complaint here is the rising costs of housing, such that “What young couple can possibly afford to buy their own home?” There are many countries around the world where young couples have never been able to buy their own home without saving for 5-10 years.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of complaining about “yet another increase in the cost of gasoline”, we just looked at our car (or two) and appreciated that we did have the freedom to drive wherever we wanted.

We do have perspectives that dogs do not have, and have mental abilities beyond their understanding. We can project a typical life-span, and it is our survival instinct to consider whatever services the medical profession can provide but, beyond that, I would suggest that dog’s have developed in some ways rather better than us.

They do not compare themselves against others; are not in competition for “bigger” or “better”; do not worry over what should be worn; feel no pressure re new year resolutions; have neither the desire nor the inclination to impress; will play under pretty much any conditions, and will not reject another dog based simply on its size, color, breed or overall condition.

Of course this is a rather simplistic view because the world is what we humans have made, and while it is tempting to suggest that being a dog could be much more rewarding, it would be an unrealistic position to take.

Dog owners will know, however, that dog’s have many advantages over us mere humans in their perspective on life in general but, while we really would not want to be “in their shoes”, simply thinking about “A dog’s life” can make it seem attractive.

Hard? Unpleasant? Unrewarding? I really don’t think so!

31 thoughts on “A Dog’s Life?

    • Hi Tess and welcome. Please feel free to wander around and check out the various categories and comment as you wish. I have a wonderful group of followers who play so well together that I am sure that you will fit in just fine. Again… welcome, and enjoy. 🙂

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  1. A very interesting post Colin… Throughout, we looked at Ray (or most pets for that matter) from a “human” perspective where we impose some sort of a “norm” on them which may not be natural or necessary if they are on their own. Makes me wonder how this “domestication” effects them and the breed in due course.

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    • I would suggest that it could affect them in two very contrasting ways. Getting them used to nice comfortable places to sleep may well set a new standard of expectations however, forcing our expectations on them (training them not to bark) can have disastrous results. It would seem to be no different to raising children in that their expectations from the world are based on how they were raised. If such raising included violence, then there is a high chance that they will also use violence to serve their needs. If a dog raises puppies, while having a strong distrust of humans, I would expect that those puppies will grow up also being very wary of humans.

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  2. Interesting, Colin. I always thought saying “it’s a dog’s life” was a “good” thing. I thought it meant life was relaxing and wonderful – naps, pets, walks, eating, head pats, ear scratches….. LOL!

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  3. We certainly can learn a lot from our furry, 4 legged friends, can’t we? They are so happy with only their basic needs being met. We humans are the ones who complicate things, thinking we need so much!
    Plus they can sleep whenever they want. If they get tired of listening to you, they can just close their eyes and ZZZZZZzzzzz. 🙂

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  4. Interesting post Collin. I never thought about in the past, dogs being used purely for work, but you are quite right now that I think back to history courses etc. I think we always used it with my old girl Nikki, to describe her adaptability, not so much as a sense in scrounging for food (she would do that well fed anyways) but her going from a hard run (which she adored) to being able to stretch out on the rug underneath the coffee table, and sleep contentedly after while receiving belly rubs. I guess in dog terms and human, her life wasn’t so hard u till the end, but we do use the phrase very differently O think now.

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    • Yes we tend to use it with a touch of sarcasm now, but that is part of the natural evolution of a language I guess! It may be hot to be cool today, but I wonder how that will be interpreted in a few hundred years from now! 🙂

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  5. If we were like dogs (and other animals) I think we would all be alot happier! Of course, each dog has a different life. Ray is fortunate to have a good life, but many other dogs out there do not. I am not sure I agree with Ray not “needing” you. He may be able to “survive” off of his instincts, which from what I understand is what he did before he was taken to the shelter, but what kind of a life is that? (unless I’m understanding your post wrong)

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    • No I think you make a logical point, and my response is simply perspective. If the only life he knew was an ignored farm dog, then he would have nothing to compare against. People in 3rd world countries are not the least bit interested in traffic congestion and the latest model cars, because neither is relevant to them. A young girl spending tonight curled up over an air vent in the pavement trying to stay warm, has no interest in the cost of housing. A tent with a heater would be very welcome however. If Ray found himself out of our home he would either find his way back to the shelter because he has some human friends there, or he would go to one of a number of stores that know him and work it out from there. I think the distinction is between need and want. I may want a new car, but I really don’t need it! 🙂

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      • I get it, especially the point of not knowing the difference. Those people not concerned about latest model cars and such are better off than we are. We can be way too materialistic. But in the matter of animals, I still feel a life being cared for in a good home is a need. It provides shelter, love, food, safety, etc. which provides the physical and psychological needs an animal requires for a fully happy healthy life. Even though Ray would be able to go those places you mentioned, it would not be the same or as good as a life with you! For people and animals, having those things, instead of just simply surviving, is a need. I love how you get me thinking all of the time. 🙂

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        • Again… you make some good points especially re the physical and psychological needs of an animal however, we humans recognize the value of such needs. I rather suspect that Ray has no idea what they are! I still feel that whereas Ray would like his comfy home should he lose it for some obscure reason, he would adapt very fast because he would not “need it” per se. Of course we cannot ask him for his opinion! 🙂

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          • I do think he knows the difference. If he didn’t have the home you are providing for him, as he didn’t have before, would he have had the anxiety, the fear, and aggressive behavior he had when you first adopted him? I believe he knew he had to act that way to survive and I can’t believe his needs were being met then.

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            • His needs as we perceive them? Certainly not, but what about his needs as he perceives them? His anxiety was considered a result of being German Shepherd in an enclosed space and constantly being stared at my passing strangers. He had no place to get away. Such was life at the shelter for him. Was it worth the trade-off for regular meals? We can only speculate. To survive as a stray almost certainly dictates a “survival” lifestyle but, not knowing his earlier life, life as a stray could have been a very happy time for him. It is all relative. Is a prisoner happier in jail with his cell, bed and regular food… or outside and constantly trying to evade the law?

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              • Yes, the shelter indeed I agree was probably not a good place because of what you mentioned, but life with you has to be better for him and I believe he knows that. 🙂 I think it is different than other “wild animals” that are meant to live without humans. Dogs and cats, I believe are different. It sounds like strays lives are very difficult and so it is hard for me to believe, even thought they may not know the difference, they are happy and healthy physically and psychologically. So to me, it is a need. We don’t have to agree, I do love the dialogue. It gets me thinking and hopefully others too. 🙂

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  6. Interesting post. All animals (at least domesticated) are pragmatic. They accept where they are and don’t whine about what isn’t. They are better than us at dealing with pain and disabilities. They are happy with food and water. I find them all amazing and I strive to be more like my cats in that way. Of course I will continue to use a proper bathroom rather than a litter box but I’m sure you get my drift.

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