Not when it was just the three of them--Panchita, Rusty, and Winter. If we ran into other dogs, they'd sniff a bit, Winter might get a bit snappy (she's short; Napoleon complex), but it never escalated. Same thing with people. None of my dogs like kids (they do say dogs resemble their owners...), but they behaved as long as the child didn't harass them. (And I made damn sure they didn't.)
Even when the puppies came. Puppies--they're 17 months now, but I guess they'll always be The Puppies to us. All seven of us (six of them, one of me) would walk the beaches like one big, friendly family.
And then they grew up.
Sometime around their 10-month birthday there was an incident. A couple of teenagers in a kayak got attacked. Sure, I told them to stop lunging with the oars at the dogs and they didn't listen, but in this world a dog is guilty until--no, no defense possible. A dog is guilty and stays guilty. Fortunately it wasn't even a scratch; no blood, no doctors.
But it taught me a powerful lesson.
In a pack, my dogs--my lovely, sweet, and wonderful dogs--become dangerous.
In a pack, accepting strangers--people or dogs--becomes impossible.
In a pack, all their little quirks of behavior that seem so manageable--or even harmless--at home become exacerbated, magnified, replicated like a mirror in a mirror.
They become a threat.*
Just like humans.
I'm not talking just about mobs (or soccer fans)--those are the ultimate extreme. Families, homeroom groups at school, neighborhoods, cities, countries, even continents: all of these give us a sense of identity. But in that very identity lies the problem. We define ourselves by differentiating from others.
There can be no Us without Them.
the pack mentality, is so ingrained it probably resides in our lizard brain. Every animal has it; maybe even plants do. It's a matter of protecting resources, of survival; one can't just allow any dog to waltz in and take over our food, our human, our safety. Spontaneous generosity towards a stranger can be dangerous.
I get it. I do. We all need, in lesser or greater measure, a place to call home, a group to call our pack.
Strength lies in numbers, after all.
But I wonder. Can't we use it, this strength, for something other than division lines?
Now I go to the beach with one, maybe two dogs. It's still Us, but I'm working on turning around that Us vs. Them into Us and Them.
It's a start.
* Note: Pack behavior that becomes a threat to others happens because of faulty leadership. Meaning me. My mistake, not theirs. I'm working on that, too.
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Thanks for the visit, so sorry about the late post, and happy A-to-Z-ing!
(P.S. -- I will catch up on visits. There's so many great blogs I've discovered this April that I think I'll be busy until October reading everyone's A-to-Z posts.)