Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dogs with JOBS!

It's a strange concept, isn't it? If you're reading this, you probably have a dog--and your dog probably doesn't have a job, per se, other than being good company. Oh sure, most of our dogs help make us and our homes a little safer--that's a job, and one their natural instincts admirably suit them for. It's very rare you hear of an apartment with a dog being burglarized, or a person walking a dog being mugged. I will say, my previous apartment in The Bronx was burglarized, and they got everything of value I had--except my dog, who was all I really cared about. In this particular case, Peggy was no deterrent at all, but that burglary was probably an inside job. Long story.

I'm pretty sure Peggy thought her job was to chase squirrels, my roommate, whose dog she also was at first, sometimes used her to pick up women in bars (another long story), and she performed any number of other services for people in her life--even so, she couldn't really be called a working dog, and neither can most of the caring companion canines taking up apartment space all over town. Their job, in my opinion, is to hold this city together, but that's less a career than a calling.

But in fact there are genuine working dogs all over the city. Bomb-sniffers, drug-sniffers, pirated-DVD-sniffers. Search and rescue dogs, hunting dogs--there's plenty of serious hunters living in New York, keeping retrievers and hounds. Dogs that can detect cancers in the early stages, dogs that can comfort the ill and elderly. Seeing Eye Dogs, and Assistance Dogs. Firehouse dogs. The list goes on.

But most of them are watchdogs and guard dogs. That was probably the first job dogs ever did for us, lurking near the fire, hoping for scraps, hearing a leopard or a rival tribe, sounding the alarm, and eventually fighting alongside their strange new pack. Nowadays, it's a little more civilized. But it's basically the same job.

If you've ever been to the world famous New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx, you didn't bring your dog--no dogs allowed inside to smell the flowers, even on a leash. But in fact, that isn't strictly true--at night, highly trained German Shepherd Dogs patrol the grounds for trespassers, protecting rare and valuable plants from thieves and vandals, and deterring anyone who might think of scaling the fence.

Guard dogs can be very expensively bred and trained animals, or they can just be mutts trusted to naturally kick up a racket when they detect strangers in the area. They guard storefronts, warehouses, junkyards, subway yards, etc. Some are treated like family, others are abused and neglected--the former group always does the best job.

But generally speaking, guard dogs tend to guard a specific place. I'd never heard of them guarding a delivery truck while the truck was actually out delivering. This was a new one on me.

We were on a long walk with Max, at the corner of Isham St. & Broadway, over by the Church of the Good Shepherd, when we became aware we were being watched suspiciously. The truck was stopped at a light. I had just enough time to get these two pictures.

I've have given a lot to ask the truck driver a few questions, but he was on his way somewhere, and you'll understand I didn't want to get too close. Max bristled a little at the truck dogs, as if to say "I've got people to protect too." But these dogs must have been very carefully trained to stay inside the open cab of the truck until told they could get out--maybe they were also secured by leashes--unclear from the pictures. They glared at Max, but made no attempt to get out.

Trucks like these are obviously quite vulnerable to hijackers, and a bread company probably can't depend on the same kind of police protection a UPS driver gets. Even so, I can't see this catching on--most delivery drivers probably couldn't manage the dogs.

I'll keep an eye peeled for more dogs with jobs around town, but my next post will be about dogs having fun. Though dogs don't really make such a big distinction between work and play--an enviable outlook, and one we should try to learn from.

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