Sunday, August 26, 2007

So why let dogs offleash at all?

A lot of people don't like it when you do. There are definitely risks involved (as there are with every form of physical recreation under the sun). Dogs need exercise, certainly, but you could always get your dog a treadmill, or take up jogging and hold his leash while you do it, or just take him for really long walks on the leash, which is a fun thing to do anyway. There's nothing inherently wrong with leashes. With proper training, for you and your dog both, the leash can be a means of communication, a living nonverbal link between you and your dog, and a way to reassure people around you--even though most bites in public areas are inflicted by leashed dogs.

Why, you ask?

Because a dog is not a machine. A dog is alive. A dog has desires.

Because dogs need a chance to run, faster than you or I or any Olympic sprinter ever could--not just for exercise, but to savor their own physicality, decide when to go left, when to go right, when to go straight ahead at full speed.

Not ALL of the time--you don't get to do what you want all of the time, and neither does anyone else. But sometimes. Maybe it's a delusion to call it 'freedom', maybe freedom itself is a delusion, but dogs don't have existentialist crises, and they'll take what freedom they can get, in whatever form they can get it, and gladly. And in the process, teach you a thing or two about what freedom really is, and what it's really worth. And how lucky you are not to entirely depend on someone else's kindness in order to enjoy it. And how wonderful it can feel to be the provider of that kindness to those who do require it, and most keenly appreciate it. As the writer of the passage below once did for a shut-in Alsatian bitch (it's the correct word, sorry)--who became the love of his life. For better and for worse.

"Now I had the pleasure I had promised us both, the pleasure of setting her free upon grass. And her reward was mine. Across the open spaces of the park the rough wind blew with its full strength, and she became a part of the dancing day, leaping and flying among the torn trees, wild in her delight. And her gratitude was as boundless as her happiness. The same watchfulness, the same invitation, that I had already noticed in her governed her behavior still. Gay though she was, it was a shared gaiety always; to caper about was not enough, I must caper too; and who could have resisted such ebullience of spirit, which caught one up into itself and the buffeting wind."

J.R. Ackerley, "We Think The World of You"

That's not the only reason why. But it'll do for a start.

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