It has been over a year since I posted a new blog! That is a bit longer than I intended, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing, it’s precisely because I have been writing that I haven’t produced any new blogs.
Let me explain… I have been working on a book while also continuing with our podcast, Your Family Dog, and doing private training. These three activities (along with things such as being a grandmother, grocery shopping, raising a puppy, and having foot surgery, to name but a few) have kept me from my blogging. But, the good news is that I have finished the first draft of my book, and have a moment of time to write other things.
My book deals with a variety of mythological animals and in the course of writing it, I have acquired a variety of Beastiarys. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a Beastiary is a “particularly characteristic product of medieval England…Their three-fold purpose was to provide a natural history of birds, beasts, and fishes, to draw moral examples from animal behaviour…,and to reveal a mystical meaning – the phoenix, for instance, as a symbol of Christ’s ressurection.” (Beastiary Ms Bodley 764, translated by Richard Barber).
“>Not only were these works an invaluable source of information about mythological creatures, they had wonderful insights about wild animals as well as domesticated creatures, the dog being particularly well treated. In the Ms Bodley 764 Beastiary, written mid-thirteenth century, the dog is allotted these characteristics:
There is no creature cleverer that the dog; they have more understanding than any other beast. They also know their name and love their master. Dogs are of various kinds; some track wild beasts in the forests, others guard flocks of sheep from the attack of wolves, others guard the houses and wealth of their master, lest they are robbed at night by thieves, and will lay down their lives for their master. They go willingly to hunt with him and will guard his dead body, never leaving it. In short, their nature is such that they cannot live without human company.” (pg. 72)
If this weren’t high enough praise for the attributes of dogs, the text continues to describe the intense loyalty of a dog to its master as well as its ability to arrive at the truth via its sense of smell. But, perhaps the most amazing thing that this bestiary claims is: “After a murder has been committed, dogs have often provided persuasive evidence which has let to the conviction of the criminal, and their silent testimony can usually be believed.” Who knew? “>
In Beasts, Factual and Fantastic, author Elizabeth Morrison looks at dogs from the point of view of the Count of Foix, Gaston Phebus (1331-1391). The count wrote a guide popular amongst noblemen of the time called Book of the Hunt, and “was himself an enthusiastic hunter and owned sixteen hundred dogs and two hundred horses.” Yes, you read that right, sixteen hundred dogs! So what did this expert have to say about dogs? For one thing, he describes the husbandry of dogs:
The kennel must be big and wide, if there is a great quantity of dogs. It must have a door at the front and another at the back, and behind it, a pretty meadow where the sun shines all day, from sunrise to sunset. The back door must be left open all the time, so that the dogs can go outside into the meadow to play whenever they want, because it is good for dogs to be able to come and go as they please, for if not, they can become mangy.”
I can hear most of your dogs saying, “Well sign me up for open meadow time!”
I recognize that most of us are not able to provide such an idyllic environment for our one to two dogs (much less for 1600 dogs)… yet, something about this quote resonates deep within me. Perhaps, it’s because there is a meadow near my house, where the sun does shine sunrise to sunset. Zuzu and Clementine delight in running through the tall grass and splashing in the puddles and nearby stream and, so far, neither dog has developed mange. So, I think that the Count of Foix might be onto something…that it is good for dogs to be dogs, to find joy in sun and grass, and to return home tired, happy, and ready to dream of chasing rabbits, squirrels, and minnows.
And maybe it’s because, as he also says:
…the dog is the most noble animal, the most sensible, and the most wise that God ever made.”
So, here’s to our noble and faithful companions, may they always have an open door to our hearts, and a sunny meadow to call their own.