The Dog I've Always Wanted

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Back to the Blog 5 Benny the Hunter

November 2nd, 2009 · · Back to the Blog, Photo Gallery

I had the opportunity this summer to see a side of Benny that only exists when he’s a country dog, Benny the hunter. Chipmunks were his prime targets with frogs and snakes a close second. Fortunately for them they most often escaped unscathed. Benny turned three this summer and he is in peak shape. His strength and his agility are as good as they’ll ever be. This summer he was more successful as a hunter than he’d ever been previously.

Watching Benny in this role was quite thought-provoking. It gave rise, in particular, to an interesting question. If I am the pack leader, why am I not leading the hunt? Why isn’t it my head in that chipmunk’s burrow? He was in hot pursuit of prey and I was the observer and occasional documenter of his prowess. Didn’t this in some way undermine my role as leader? We had our daily power walks out to Highway 7, just Benny and I. I thought of these walks as surrogate hunts with me in charge. We did, in his case sniff and in mine visually inspect the tracks and spoor of a variety of potential prey. However, and I say this perhaps a little wistfully, we did not go bounding through the bush, hot on the trail of deer or rabbit or anything at all.  We never shared a kill. Doesn’t this make the hunts I led a little lame?  How could our walks compare to the hunts he initiated himself? The question I kept asking myself  in regard to this point is, how did Benny interpret events? Dare I say, what did he make of it all?

The afternoon that Benny had the chipmunk holed up under a sheet of plywood I photographed him over a period of about four hours. Between bouts of digging under the plywood and trying to flip it up with his nose he would stand or lie down as if to rest and just look at the sheet of plywood as though it was a puzzle. He did finally manage to jam his head under the sheet and catch the chipmunk, which he swiftly dispatched by shaking. Never had I seen him so very intense and he is quite often intense. Then he ran behind the house with it and just left it there and sauntered, in that particular way he does, down to the lake for a huge drink. Then he fell asleep in the shade. I certainly had the sense that he was deeply satisfied. After these long hunting sessions he would sleep for hours, regardless of the outcome.

It was very exciting for me,  to see Benny being so uninhibitedly his “natural self”. (That is  very loaded language  but I can’t think of a term that is more apt.)It  evoked in me a sense of awe. It reminded me of one of the  reasons that so many of us deem our lives to be incomplete without dogs. Dogs provide us with a link to a distant past of which we are unlikely to have any memory. They connect us to our more primal selves. I think that it is in some way vital to maintain that connection because it is a necessary counter balance to the  overly civilized and sanitized contemporary part (That is to say most of it.) of our  lives.

I puzzled over the question of whether or not my leadership was somehow subverted by Benny’s skill as a hunter. After all, people still do hunt with their dogs and they’re obviously the ones in charge. They’re the ones with the gun with the telescopic sight, not to mention the GPS they’re carrying. Somehow that all seems a bit removed from my experience. I’m a vegetarian although my dogs certainly are not.  The question to which  I keep returning is, how did these various events “seem” to Benny? What did Benny think? It didn’t appear that Benny took me any less seriously as a leader,but I must confess that he, in the heat of one of his pursuits, is close to impossible to call off or distract. If I can manage to get his leash on he then seems to hear me and will come with me, albeit reluctantly.

I’m still not sure just what the implications are of Benny’s independent hunting other than the fact that it is supremely satisfying for him. Hopefully there will be other opportunities for him to hunt and for me to observe his technique. Even if it does in some way make him feel more in charge of himself and the situation I’m not sure that’s a negative thing. Can one speak of self-actualization in terms of a canine? I think so; any dog that has work only becomes more himself through the execution of his work.  Besides which, Benny seems to enjoy the process immensely; it is a challenge. That can only be a positive thing.


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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 gpz // Jan 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm


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