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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Collars and Leashes, Males and Females

Symbolically speaking, collars and leashes are anathema to the very nature of our pets—the freedom to roam untethered as their nose dictates is now limited. Symbolically speaking, collars and leashes are necessary items of safety as seen through the eyes of their owners. And finally, symbolically speaking, collars and leashes are quite the fashion statement these days. Have you seen the kitty aisle lately? Rhinestones aglitter, colors galore, cute icons abound, my oh my! And then there is the hunter’s aisle for doggies—bright orange, camouflage, olive green. So female, so male.

The bright pink collar Singer came with marks her as female. She may fool people with her confident prance, her head held high, although her slight body build gives her sex away, I think. I also think she sashays a bit when she walks…But Saylor was very confident as a young dog, too, and many thought she was a male. I guess there’s no sexism in the world of dogs? Females are allowed to be who they want to be, and Singer is very feminine in many ways—she curls up in a dainty ball on the couch, giving everyone in the room one last glance before she allows herself to fall asleep. Dakota doesn’t do this. He just falls asleep, his family could be dead or unconscious for all he cares…

Singer also cares about Dakota. She will perk up when he utters the mildest of coughs (could be the beginnings of a hairball, or just his allergies) and jumps down from the couch to give him a caring lick or two. She is so maternal. Dakota barely registers the gesture and continues to snooze in my lap. 

But Singer is not afraid to get her paws dirty. Yesterday, she finally decided to uproot that pesky chipmunk that’s been burrowing in our backyard for years, it seems. She dug a hole about a foot deep before I was alerted and stopped her. Her tail wagging, tongue hanging out just reminded me of a little boy who’s been playing in the dirt with his cars and trucks. Although I must confess:  I used to play in the dirt a lot when I was a kid.

When I brought her in the house to wash her paws, she patiently waited while I dipped each paw in warm water then dried them. I eventually decided to give her a bath, but I am still impressed by how patient she is with grooming. It’s probably her show dog background, but I also wonder if it’s her sex—little girls don’t mind all that primping and grooming stuff. Ah, but that’s really not true, when I recall how much Saylor hated to be groomed. Yes, I don’t think our pets have been constrained by sex roles like the ones we humans have created for our little ones. It’s another good reason to own a pet—they show us a different way that males and females can behave without artificial and somewhat neurotic rules imposed on them.

Back to collars and leashes:  I wonder how our pets perceive these necessary items? I doubt that the cats appreciate the rhinestones like we do. My cat tries to lick his collars off and usually succeeds. But I try to put his collar on anyway when we go outside, because it has his I.D. and my phone number on it. Same with Singer, whose collar is always on. But I know she hates her muzzle collar, the one called “gentle leader” (although I’ve heard that dogs can still hurt their necks with this if they pull too hard). She sometimes tries to rub it off in the snow. Like a little girl who hates her scratchy dress her mama wants her to wear…

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