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Jessie T. Wolf
November 18th, 2009
11:45 am


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Interesting Article About Reservation Dogs
Found an interesting article on reservation dogs that I thought I'd share. It's a different point of view on the matter. I don't necessarily agree with how rez dogs are cared for per say, but it is a different culture. *shrugs* I do wish that more of these dogs would get spayed and neutered at the very least, to stop the over-population problem, since most of these animals end up dead from malnurishment, disease, human abuse, etc. Unfortunately this is just life for these dogs, and I know that we can't save them all.

On my mom's reservation, a dog lying in the road will not immediately run out of the way as your car approaches him. First he will squint at you to see if he knows you. His expression will seem to say, "Oh, aren't you Bernice's daughter?"

Then he will move out of the way slowly, a begrudging show that he is allowing you onto his turf. Non-Indian cars may receive quite a different welcome, barking so frantic that it seems to merge into a single long dog-alarm sound that will certainly keep one firmly inside the car.

"Rez dogs" are altogether different creatures from the pampered pets that occupy the homes of mainstream middle America. This difference, however, shouldn't be construed to mean that they are any less loved than suburban dogs. Native folks just have a different relationship with them. And in many ways, the relationship is more clearly defined.

Traditionally, Ojibwe people don't allow dogs near sacred objects nor do they feed them food that has been served in ceremonies; it's considered dangerous to human beings. I've heard various explanations for this. The consensus seems to be that humans need to maintain the division between themselves and their dog brothers. Although, they are close to us and helpful, they are animals and have their own spirits. We must always remember this.

Growing up in small town Wisconsin, I have first hand knowledge of the Indian-dog/white-dog wars. My Ojibwe mother and Welsh/Norwegian father had an ongoing battle about letting the dog in the house. My mom scoffed at the very notion. Eventually, my dad wore her down — "This is a really cold winter, look how sad he looks," he would say. The dog made his way into the back room with the wet shoes and boots and in true opportunistic dog fashion never went back. In the end, my mom's line in the sand was the bedroom. My father wisely accepted his victory, snug in his recliner with the dog in his lap as they watched Gunsmoke.

Dog are dogs on the reservation, and they play their part naturally.
Certainly, on a very realistic level, one can make the case that reservation dogs are not very well cared for and can present a hazard to themselves and the community. They run wild, over breed and seldom see the veterinarian. But on a lighter, philosophical level, I think rez dogs possess a dignity denied the suburban dog. Rez dogs seem to have places to go and important business to attend. They trot down the road with their eyes fixed on some distant errand. They attach themselves to dwellings where people feed them, occasionally pat them and generally don't drive them off, but they definitely have their own society.

When Indians speak to their dogs, the dogs will look up and smile, happy to be noticed. They wear their goofy grins as they stroll around the edges of a powwow and seem pleased that the "doings" are going so well. But rez dogs know their place and seem to have a genuine pride in this structure. One senses that they'd be insulted at the dandified shows of affection bestowed upon the suburban dog.

Safe and healthy with his trips to the groomer and store-bought toys, the suburban dog seems stripped of his "dog-ness" and to my mind, often wears a look of resignation as he eats his diet dog food. The Rez dog, however, ragged and underfed, a cloud of dust emerging from his coat when you pat him, always wears a smile.

Original article found here.

Current Mood: thoughtful

(5 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)

My aunt got a puppy three years ago from a Reservation through some sort of rescue group here in Ontario. She looks like some weird Golden Retriever cross... apparently she's got an attitude to boot (a dominant bitch, figures). I have to wonder what she's mixed with... I found it odd she'd get a Reservation dog and not a city dog from a shelter... *shrugs*
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
I can't help but note the presumption that a dog is more "dog" when it's exposed to the harsh brutality of nature, competition, and a short life expectancy. I wouldn't ascribe any "dignity" in being more "human" to a homeless person or a jungle savage, because their life is harsh, they're less happy, and they're at the mercy of nature's cruelty.

More of what I see isn't the dog's feelings, or whatever equivalent mental levels the dog experiences existence, being considered by the human in question. But instead, the human transferring their own sense onto the dog. This isn't really about a canine sense of "dignity", whatever that is. It's about a human sense of dignity applied to a dog that's having it's sense of awareness anthropomorphized by the human. It's all rooted in, and coming from, the mind of the human, and has nothing to do with the awareness and well being a dog, the nature of which none of us can experience.
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
That is a very interesting comparison, actually.

I think that they were possibly trying to get at the idea that a dog is more "dog" ie. more like their wild ancestors, closer to how nature intended for animals. Unlike a homeless person, who knows what it's like (in most cases) to grow up in a household with a family, clothes to wear, food to eat and a roof over their head, and then lost all of that luxury... a rez dog doesn't know what it's like to live in a home and be cared for by a person, and given a warm bed and good food, etc. This is just life for them, and they've known no other lifestyle.

Rez dogs are born and raised outside, usually kept on chains or left to roam free and fend for themselves, so they are seen as more wild, or "dog" dog. They're not pampered pets like suburban dogs are, where the owners consider them their furry babies.

That still drives me freakin' nuts, how papmered and spoiled most pet dogs are... people treat them like humans with fur, which is ridiculous, since as you said, people attribute their own human emotions, feelings and logic on a canine mind, which in my opinion is an insult. Dogs are dogs, they are animals with animal instincts and logic, and people seem to forget this and act surprised when a dog does dog behavior (whether that's destructive or otherwise). This is how behavioral problems come up, and as a trainer I do my best to try to educate people about this kind of stuff.

But yeah, in a nut shell, I agree with you. Just thought that the article was an interesting point of view from the normal "Those Natives abuse their dogs, and don't spay/neuter, or feed properly, or provide their dogs with vet care, or love and attention!" While all of that is sad, it's a totally differnt culture, and Natives simply do not see dogs the way we do (Furry children Vs. Animal).
[User Picture]
Date:November 20th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
I understand. I'd avoid using terms like "nature intends", because it implies nature has a consciousness and is capable of intentions. It doesn't and isn't. And it shouldn't imply that the harsh way to live is the "right" way to live. :3
[User Picture]
Date:November 20th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
Right. That was just a figure of speech. :-P Also, I don't think there's really any "right" way to live... there are just ways to live. Right or wrong is determined by the scociety that we live in. I don't think it's right that they eat dogs in certain parts of Asia, but that's their culture and they do it.
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