Like many people in their early twenties whose parents can’t afford to provide their children with a college education, I’ve held a ridiculous number of jobs in the service industry. Most of these occupations have been low-paying, stressful, and unfulfilling.
However, through a series of random circumstances, I found a job that I had no idea would be the most amazing fit for me. I now work for a pet boarding facility that includes a daycare for dogs. I earn my living by spending the majority of my shift in a room with anywhere between five and twenty dogs, playing with them and making sure they don’t hurt each other, and this is the most amazing, fun, and educational job I’ve ever had. Because I’d spent my entire life around these incredible animals, I thought I knew almost everything there was to know about man’s best friend before I accepted this position—boy, was I wrong.
1. Dogs tend to chew on another dog’s ear before they start humping them.
I know. This is incredibly weird, but it’s true. If a dog is feeling particularly “amorous,” the other dog that seems to have won their heart will be on the receiving end of an ear-chewing. This makes both me and the dog whose ear is being chewed incredibly uncomfortable. I’m not sure why they do this. Maybe it’s a weird form of flirting or even foreplay, but if you see a dog chewing on another dog’s ear, get the spray bottle ready.
2. Dogs can train people as easily as people train dogs.
There is a massive dog I’ll call Max. I’m pretty sure he’s a Newfie/mastiff mix, because he’s over a year old, well over 100 pounds, and he still isn’t finished growing. He is extremely sweet, undeniably smart, and he knows just how to get what he wants from not only me, but almost all of my coworkers. And what he wants is really quite simple: never-ending hugs, head scratches, and belly rubs. And here’s how Max does it: He sits on the person’s foot, with his back facing them, until they start petting him. And when they stop, he looks up at them and turns on the charm until they continue petting him. Max then lies on his side, still maintaining his hold on the person’s foot, until they start scratching his belly. The next thing the person knows, Max is on his back, his enormous paws flailing in the air, and they have been scratching this dog’s tummy for nearly a half an hour. I’m fairly certain that a mild form of hypnosis is involved.
3. Humans are not the only species that suffers from depression.
There wasn’t a point in my childhood where a dog didn’t live in my home, which may be why I was such a happy child—because I had a happy, carefree companion at all times. This is why I was shocked when I met one dog—I’ll call him Riley—who is shy, withdrawn, and spends his entire time in day camp hiding in a corner or underneath the play set. I noticed that his behavior mimicked symptoms of depression in humans, so after a Google search of “canine depression” and a conversation with my coworkers, I learned that this was Riley’s exact situation. He is such a sweet, loving boy, and I always look forward to seeing him. Whenever Riley does so much as walk around and sniff the other dogs, I always make sure to tell him what a good boy he is and pet him gently, which seems to perk him up at least a little bit. There is no cure for depression, and since dogs can’t communicate verbally, therapy isn’t exactly an option, but I know that Riley is a tough cookie, and as long as he keeps putting one paw in front of the other, he’ll be just fine.
4. Dogs are essentially children.
It’s no wonder why so many people call their dogs their “babies” or say, “My dogs are like my children”—their behaviors are so similar, it’s uncanny! They make friends with other dogs based on how similar their personalities are. Dogs are significantly smarter than we give them credit for, and most importantly, they essentially learn everything from watching their owners. Just like children, everything we do affects them. If a dog’s owner is overprotective and keeps her dog away from the outside world, the dog becomes afraid of nearly everything—other dogs, other people, the squirrels outside the window…everything. The more attention and affection we give our dogs as puppies, the smarter and more well-adjusted they become as adult dogs. Just like children, we get out of our four-legged pals what we put into them.