Dino, the older of our two dogs passed this week.
That’s not quite right. We helped him pass. It must always be remembered that this is our final responsibility, in our joint symbiotic relationship of human and canine.
It would generally not be a public topic I would share, but it seems to me that writing about our relationship is part of grieving and saying goodby to one of our life partners.
Dino (seen on the left, back when Harley was still with us and Shogun was a new pup) was 15 years old. He had come close to dying several times, but each time it was looking like That Time, I could tell that he wasn’t ready to go.
It’s not unusual for a blogger to post a memorial post when an animal is gone. They are our family members. But you honor me by coming back, to learn from me, on the subject of Survival and Adaptation in a declining world. You have chosen to share part of my life. And I would like to share some of my thoughts on dogs and Adaptation. Historically, it is an epic story of adaptation, whether you have a dog or not. You are who you are today, all of us together as a species, because of our ancient relationships with dogs. They have changed us as much as we have changed them. We didn’t chose them. They choose us.
Dino was close to blind and near deaf, but he still went for walks. He was much more MrsC5s dog, since he had been around before I showed up. In his final year, he began to cling to me though. As his mental state began to deteriorate, I think he needed the security of the Alpha. It’s probably anthropomorphizing to think he may have been counting on me to see to his end. He also counted on Shogun, the younger dog that is definitely my dog. It helps to understand dogs in realizing they need a hierarchial pack and to know their place in it to be happy. Shogun demanded to be the alpha dog from a young age and tolerated no dissent. It was a pain with an aging dog that would get knocked over by Shoguns youthful exuberance. But as Dino needed to be left inside with age, he would whine by the door, not wanting to be separated from from his alpha.
It was my job today to be the stoic one. To allow MrsC5 to grieve. To help hold him up to the sound of, Good Boy, as he drifted into breathless sleep. To shed tears, but not too much. To hold it together. To grieve later. After the shoveling was done. I am not of the, men don’t cry, cult. That is a good path to mental illness. Still, with the years, I have had to butch up some. My own survival demanded it.
I am thankful to the vet that helped, so it didn’t have to be my finger pulling the trigger. That my final memory of him would not be taking out part of his brain.
It’s not that I could not do that. I prepared myself mentaly from a young age, that this is my responsibility. I think far fewer people would have animals, if before the gleeful purchase of a puppy or other young animal, was a firm talk about that your final act will be to kill that same animal. They will count on you for that, as much as food and relationship. You will have to consider firearms safety and ownership for the task along with the puppy, at the same time.
So, lets talk about Dogs (and cats for that matter) and how they relate to our survival. Our Adaptation to a world in collapse.
I’m not here to tell you to get a dog for survival. That would be a dis-service. It’s far more complicated than that. As a single person, facing long periods of solitude (and trauma) I was too broken to care for a dog or child. I couldn’t even take care of myself. Years later, in this place, the dogs have made me stronger. We are part of a stronger unit. A pack. This includes cats. They have a job. I have a job. It’s a unit on a doomstead. The dogs are my second set of eyes and ears. They are my defenders at times, and I theirs. They set territorial boundaries that the wildlife must not pass, or at least they watch my cues as to what those territories are and they communicate that to the other critters we share the world with. The cats keep the mice and rats in check. A necessity. Too bad they kill birds as well. They can be a disaster to ecosystems. Another subject.
Lets go back into ancient history. We may have this idea that we tamed wolves. That someone captured a cub and trained it to our will. Man conquerors animals. Not so.
Wild dogs followed us. Homo Sapiens came to prominence because of this. Neanderthals didn’t develop the same relationship with dogs. They just ate them (as they also did their own dead). Lets go back. Dogs probably started following us because they wanted to know if we were food or not. We passed by, leaving food scraps, but lets not sugar coat this. They ate our shit. Lots of yummy, partially digested, calories there that they don’t have to chase. Plus their leftover hunting scraps. As their packs followed our packs or tribes, a sort of homeostasis set in. They would scare off the bigger predators that we didn’t have much defense against. Especially at night. This worked in our interest. Over time, when killing each other didn’t seem in anyone’s best interest, and semi trust built, they moved closer together. I figure it was the dogs that first started to see us as their extended pack. A human Alpha arrangement was happening because they were getting our leftover food. The evolution of specialization was also happening. Dogs had their noses to the ground and hunted by sent and sound (we would eventually lose this because they did it for us). We stood upright and grasped distance, first because we were once hunted, then to become the hunters. And because we were becoming hairless. Our bodies could cool. We could not beat animals in a sprint… but we could exhaust a sprinter that even a dog/wolf could not catch, by running an animal to exhaustion, over a period of days or weeks. We could cool our bodies. They couldn’t. We don’t have fangs or claws, but the animals had nothing left when we finally caught up to them. The dogs got the leftovers. They were cool with this arrangement.
Even if you are a cat person, or don’t like animals, you are homo sapiens, not because of your superiority… but because of dogs. Over time, we would eventually lose our tracking noses and hearing and core strength. Neanderthals had all this, but they didn’t play well with others. They were superior in every way, but they never evolved past family groups without specialization. There is a lesson here for rugged individualist survivalists. Survival goes to the most social.
I grew up in a house of mid sized big dogs. I get them. I am a bit rougher on dogs than some people are comfortable with. I’ll talk about that later. It’s not to beat them into submission. Fuck that and all who do it. Animal abusers, like any feral animal, need to be put down. Our dogs are well adjusted and happy because they know who the uncontested alpha is. I don’t get cats so I can’t speak for them.
I observed an unusual behavior in cats though. I don’t know if there is an alpha cat. When Dino was getting dementia and struggling with where he was, sometimes Juan, the oldest cat, named after Hurricane Juan, the year he was born, noticing Dino was confused and distressed, would sometimes intervene, nudge him and lead him a bit in a walk around the room. Dogs were never comfortable with the cat that would rub up against them, but I did notice when Juan stepped in, realizing Dino needed someone to lead him. Don’t know what to make of that. All the other cats are wary of the dogs. Shogun must have sled dog in him, because part of him doing alpha with the always upright tale, would not let Dino in or out of the house unless he understood he was to follow Shogun. It made us uncomfortable… but it made Dino secure in his place and wanting to be with Shogun. Shogun, on the other hand, is confident because of me. Dogs are mirrors of their owners. I’m exposing myself a bit in saying this. Shogun is needy and constantly needing attention and affirmation. A bit of a pain. He is also the most LOYAL dog I have met. He is a Defender at his core. He knows his role is defense. He Likes to stay on the porch at night to defend the house. I open the door to let him in and he communicates to me that he WANTS to stay out and defend the door. He is the right kind of scary if you approach the house. The moment he realizes you are OK, he instantly sees you as family. He loves you. He is a big suck. Dangerous bluster on the outside. Big suck on the inside. Me in dog form.
A tale of two dogs. Dino was fast. A sprinting dog. I had had one like him before. A speed dog. After the big husky mix, Harley, had passed in my arms, under similar circumstances, Dino took up the alpha role. Like Harley, one day he was OK. An aging dog. Then he had some kind of stroke and could not stand. That was the day I had to fulfill my role. My part of the bargain. Killer of the ones I love. Dino was the second dog to die in my arms. We are evaluating if there will be a fourth. We are aging.
Dogs in survival. It’s a big subject. Back in the old survivalist days, there was much talk of big scary dogs. German shepherds. Dobermans. Rhodesian Ridgebacks. And eventually, Pitbulls. People wanted big scary WEAPONS. The end result is that all those popular dogs are badly inbred, physically week and mentally unstable… like the people that want them. Popular consumer capitalism destroys dogs.
In the 80s/90s, yuppy breeders wanted Labrador Retrievers for the idealistic picture of suburban family life in the land of plenty. Fast forward to the age of consequence. Labrador retrievers are far to dangerous to have around children. Puppy farms for profit. Nightmares for those most trusted to us. I can’t even go there without wanting humans to be done and gone.
Personally, all our dogs have been mystery mixed breeds. After a half a century of life, my experience is that they are much smarter and much healthier. No hip displasia. No broken legs. No eyeballs popping out of their sockets. No temper issues. No need for muzzles.
I hope my readers see me as a combination of deep empathy, perhaps too much for this world, and hard edge, sometimes dark, survival realism. Hard earned. I want to give good dog advice to those radical optimists willing to face a harsh future head on. Survival dogs. Not pets. They are a mentally challenging mix of farm animals… yet tribal members. Family members that you would kill to protect, till death do us part… yet you would eat them if you had to. Perspective is everything.
It seems odd that my best send off for my family dog is to talk about the necessity to shoot dogs. Your dog and other dogs. A subject that should rightly put a check in your heart. If you can kill a dog with ease and without empathy, you need to be forced out of the human race. Period. But in a world in collapse, with declining resources or financial means, it’s no longer a subject that we don’t look at and pass onto a professional.
Declining financial means, translates to, that you can’t go to vets very often. Either for surgeries, medicines or to have your dog put down. This puts it in your hands. I don’t talk about firearms often on this blog because of people fetishisation of weapons. But this is one of the primary reasons for a gun.
More importantly is the mental preparation and will. Acceptance. This takes years to think about. To make that mental shift of responsibility.
I had HOPED to take Dino to the vet for his final shot that put him to sleep.
I was PREPARED to do it myself.
This takes me back to a story I heard in younger years. It’s also a lesson in self governance. I heard a story about some people living way out in the bush. They all had dogs as is the necessity of the lifestyle. Unfortunately this group of dogs had packed up and began running down deer. Their ancient instinct was triggered by being a pack. Unfortunately domesticated dogs are not ancient wolves in waiting. They weren’t killing the deer for food. They were killing for fun. The deer were a toy to be torn apart. When this switch happens, they also become a danger to people.
The people got together and decided that each owner must put down their own dog. They all did, except one person who could or would not.
That person was ostracized from the community. From that day on, no one would talk to that person, hire him, do business with him, sell to him. Anyone who would do so would find themselves in the same position. He was out of the pack. He had no future.
There is a lesson here in Anarchism or community self governance, separated from the hierarchical State. Once you are rejected by the pack, your survival chances drop dramatically. A Lone Wolf is not really a wolf anymore. This is a human trait, for good or ill, that was also enforced by our intermixing with dogs into the species we have become. The lone wolf goes nuts from the solitude and weakened by not being able to hunt as a pack. A lone wolf can’t get elk. It must settle for mice. If it wants to survive, it must present itself to a pack, on its back with it’s ball in the air, willing to be killed, starting at the very bottom of the pack, until it has earned his place again through years of trust building.
Dogs and humans.
With Dino gone, and the pack shifted, I can tell Shogun, insecure in his place, is thinking of challenging me. I want to give him a bit more mourning time. Soon, I will have to wrestle him down again, till he shows his absent balls in submission. After that, he will be happy again, knowing the pack is secure.
The local pack of coywolves, challenge me about once a year. They challenge the boundary line. I learned this by living right in the middle of a wolf pack’s hunting zone, once. It’s different here because the coywolves are sketchy. They should not exist. Man did this with hunting and habitat destruction. Wolves and coyotes are part of a healthy ecosystem. The deer are not strong, swift and healthy because they are a deer. They are strong, swift and healthy because of the wolf. Now the herbivores are diseased.
Wolves will not suffer a coyote in their territory. They would run it down and kill it, as they would a dog. But some desperate lone wolves made their way into the territory.
I can just picture what was going on in that wolves head, looking at a coyote. “Do I kill and eat it… or do I fuck it?…. I’m so lonely”. The rest is history. And I suppose I know all about “Coyote Ugly”. Any port in a storm, for a lone wolf adrift on troubled waters. Budupt tupt.
They have mixed with dogs as well. So, their natural behavior is all screwed up.
MrsC5 hates when I tell my holding off a pack of wolves story, armed with a katana. Its one of my best life stories. We were having a territorial dispute. The next day, with the help of a six pack, I marked my territory. This far and no further. I communicated in wolf. Problem solved. We were good after that.
Fast forward to the farm on the other coast. The local pack decided to pick a fight. There was clearly a wolf in charge and about a dozen yipping coyotes. They were at the disputed boundary to tell me, “Sure, you have got big dogs… but we have got a wolf”. The dogs were looking at me and saying, “Yah…. we are not barking at that”.
So, I fired a few rounds over the packs heads and gave the “This is my boomstick” speech, mixed with the “You wanna get nuts? Lets get nuts”, Michael Keaton gone crazy, thing. “You don’t worry about my dogs. You worry about me….Bitches. I will fuck your corpse while your pups watch…”. Good thing I don’t have neighbors to call the cops. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Then I led the dogs into a motivating howl off at their retreat, to communicate that we are not lone wolves. We are a pack. A threat to one dog is a threat to us all.
Next day, I wandered down the hill to the challenge spot. The wolf had scraped up some grass to piss on. The dogs sniffed it… and were having no part in marking it. It wasn’t a fight they could win. I had some communicating to do. I kicked over its pile and pissed on it. Then I pushed back the boundary to where I chose. Pissed some more…. but I angled up to piss on the trees as high as I could. I was communicating to the rest of the pack to to weaken his authority. I was saying, “Your big assed wolf can only piss this high. I can piss much higher”.
Balance restored. All good. Lasted several years. Had to do it all again last year.
It can also be said I have done the same with the yokels, on quads with guns and beer. I had some problems. Then I marked my territory. I put up no trespassing signs that could not be missed, showing how much I controlled. I wrote on the signs as a bonus, “Active Game Cameras” and left it to their imaginations as to where they might be. I upped my scary factor. No more problems. Lessons learned from dogs. I had to communicate in Yocal.
Enough Macho-dome. Lets get back to dogs in collapse.
During the many natural/man made disasters, animals get left behind. The other humanitarian disaster. We have all seen the abandoned animals after Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. People pored much more money into rescuing animals than people. I suppose it is because, pet people empathize with innocent animals. It’s a shame we have lost the ability to empathize with suffering humans. All our prejudices have been coming forth as a sign of that other disaster. Social collapse. “Faith is lost that our people will take care of us. Families disband to compete as individuals”. (Orlov) A nation of lone wolves. I suppose the next level of societal collapse is when we cease to empathize with animals.
I did have an insight though, because of my travels to Cuba, Jamaica and Peru, where feral dogs are everywhere. (Not as many in Cuba because most dogs were eaten during “The Special Period” when they lost oil shipments). They are pretty rough looking, disease ridden, scarred and skittish. Limping from broken bones or infected bites from other dogs. They are starving… but they keep breeding on mass because no one neuters them. People consider them more like rats. The human/dog relationship has broken down. The dogs are still around but they are in a world of hurt.
Spay and neuter programs would help as do rescue organizations. That’s big money though. You could say it’s very 2007 of you. A cull would be the humane choice. I don’t see the will though. Over time, people just got used to feral dogs as a pest animal. They would try not to hit them with their car… but that was about it. Sad.
But the reason I am bringing it up is because, what I observed is a bit different than the standard theory by survivalists that after the collapse there would be dangerous packs of wild dogs that would hunt humans. I’m not sure that is true anymore. I think the abandoned dogs are just as likely to just be pest animals that get smaller, adjusting to malnutrition, hanging out on the peripheries of humans, once again eating our garbage. Either way, the constant barking will drive us all nuts. It did me in those places.
Speaking of smaller dogs. This is also one of the options in Adaptive survival. I don’t like small dogs, especially overly inbred lap dogs. Another human travesty of capitalist consumerism run amuck. Small dogs can have their place though as alarm systems that require a lot less food. Cheaper to maintain. Another reason, is rat dog breeds. they replace cats by being essential rodent killers. That is why we breed ridiculous things like “Rat Terriers” in the first place.
Personally, I need a dog with more brain. Spastic dogs are more likely to kill farm animals. When Shogun was young, he wound up Dino into a pack, hunting frenzy and they killed a couple of chickens. I was harsh on them. Very harsh. I was trying to save Shoguns life. He only had one shot to learn. If not, he would have had to be put down. Period. They spent three days on a 4 ft chain with nothing but water…and the dead chicken hanging around Shoguns neck. He learned. He lived. He is still a happy dog. No more dead chickens.
Dogs and goats have to be kept apart and watched though. They may start out fine but… goats like to play by head butting in their own dominance rituals. If the young goat, playing with the dog, head buts him, this may set off the dog into attack mode.
Another word of warning for those newly deciding to leave the city for farm country. It is standard practice in cattle country, that if a dog is off its property, it’s to be shot on sight or run over by truck. The reason is because of losses from cattle farmers. I had one friend from an organic small farm that had a number of damaged goats and chickens from a couple of local dogs. They were shot. Then their tags were called and the owners were sued for the damage. A dog or dogs can do THOUSANDS of dollars or damage very quickly… and you better be able to pay it… or risk your house being burnt down as standard bush common law.
Because of all this, I was looking for a puppy with Rottweiler in his mut mix. I wouldn’t recommend anything even close to pure breed/ inbred. But we wanted it in the mix, because they were bred to stay close. To stay with you. To not wander and potentially set off a chain of unpleasant events. Because we live in cold country, we also want husky and Shepard in the mix for the winter coat. Either way, always try to remember that a dog is sort of like having a two year old kid that never really grows up. They just slow down with years.
I think that is all I really have to say about dogs and survival/prepping/adapting, from my own dog experience and travels, near and far.
Dino, like Harley before him, passed in my arms.
It has been my goal to die on my feet. Defiant. This is highly unlikely though.
We enter the world crying. We leave it weeping.
I can only hope that when it is my time, that someone will be there to tell me, “Good dog. You are a very good dog. Good dog.”