A while back I was chatting with someone at the local library. The conversation centered around children’s books, topics of interest, animals, Alaska, and ultimately sled dogs. Now, I can’t claim to have a gift for reading people, but I did become aware of a shadow which crossed this lovely lady’s face. I don’t know if I was just feeling my Cheerios that day, or if it was the heat (Texas can be dreadful in the summer) or if it was just the effects of the chili I had eaten earlier that day, but I made the decision to push the matter - just to see what might happen. I cocked my head, ever so slightly to the side, pressed a half grin to my lips and said, as lightly as I could with my gravely voice, “You obviously don’t approve.”
“I just think the whole business is cruel.” She commented without a smile on her perfectly made up face, which was nicely framed by her well coiffed, Clairol blond hair.
Of course, I assumed she was referring to the long miles of running in harness over frozen tundra and steep mountainsides. I wisely began to explain that these dogs are not couch ornaments, but well trained, perfectly fed athletes.
She cut me off, with a shadow of a scowl, and retorted, “It’s the chains! They tie those poor dogs up with short chains, outside in all weather. I think it’s cruel and should be stopped.”
My face flushed in a sudden wave of real anger at her truly odd answer, or maybe it was just that pesky chili again. I took a deep slow breath and struggled to regain my composure. Yea, it happens, rare, but true. For a moment I had no words. My head spun with a dozen arguments to defend a sport and lifestyle that I love and admire. As my head began to clear I remembered a quote on a Harley Biker’s t-shirt, “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand”
My eyes met hers. Her gaze was steady and her lips were set. I knew she was ready for a debate, very likely with factoids from any number of animal rights groups, none of whom had even a clue about working animals, neither dogs nor horses. My eyes dropped to her salon sculptured French nails resting lightly on her computer keyboard and her soft, milk white hands. She had a pretty ring on her index finger, but no wedding band. Not quite self conscious, just observant, I looked down at my own hands, old, weathered, calloused and yes, dirty, cracked nails. I fingered my own cherished wedding band and I grinned. No, she surely would not understand and no amount of explanation would help. Again I met her eyes and gently (well she probably only heard the gravelly) I said, “Well, that’s your opinion, I suppose, and you have a right to state it.”
I suppressed the urge to repeat any of the off colored remarks I could remember about opinions and concluded my business at her desk. Come to think of it, I bet she was a vegetarian, too!
Now, you are probably set for a lengthy discussion involving the sport of mushing, but that conversation will just have to wait. The issue here is chains vs. walls or fences. Bottom line, that woman was wrong on many levels. Chains are far less constricting, far less stressful, far less dangerous than fences or walls.
Our example is a pack of dogs, working dogs, not pets, the only thing that matters is going down the trail, and going in front of every other dog. And, for a group of anything, not just dogs, the only thing that matters in that group, is ‘who is boss’. If the group is together and not supervised there is a risk to valuable muscle, fur, and training as that group figures out who is in charge. Lots of blood will be shed to decide that one. (Think I’m kidding, just look at the group dynamics in your own office!)
The next thing on the agenda is going down the trail and the biggest obstacle is the fence. If you own a dog you know that there are two ways your dog will get on the other side of that fence, climb or dig, and if you tell me that your dog has never escaped, I will laugh! Now, try that with a dozen highly trained athletic dogs, and you have a problem! But, you put them on their own chains, next to their best friends, and you have happy dogs, provided you do your part and keep them clean, fed, and exercised. First, they know who is boss, you are. Next, they know their boundaries, the end of the chain. Finally, they see no obstacle to maneuver past (they can’t see the chain) all they see is the wide open space you have provided.
I climb into my big pickup truck and my eyes again rest on my wedding band, my own personal collar. Love and pride well up in my soul and fill my eyes with emotion that trickles down my cheek. Well, I do have an advantage here, my hubby made my ring in his shop and each time I look at it I can almost breath in the essence that makes up the man to whom I gave my life.
It is the velvet chain that attaches me to this relationship. He has allowed me the freedom of going where I wish and doing what makes me happy. The freedom of learning new things, and trying new adventures. The joy of taking a risk and either finding success or learning how to try again. He provides for me and protects me, but he does not control me. No walls, no fences. I did break free of the suffocating, controlling walls of a previous relationship. That one was not freedom, not comfort, not protection, just control, just fences. I could not see the world from where I was in that relationship I could only see the walls, the control, and I escaped.
Yes, this gentle, velvet chain which binds me now, also allows me the freedom I crave. And just so you know, those dogs that can pull a loaded sled for hundreds of miles, if you think that the chain and the collar can hold them, think again! They do make the choice to stay on the chains, because they love the life they live, and because they can see farther than a wall or a fence that might hold them captive.
I would love to hear your own opinion, just click that little 'comment' button down there and share! Do you prefer chains, or walls?