Mitz, my adolescent Alaskan Husky, lives her life outdoors. By day she runs loose on a hundred acres; by night or when home alone, she’s tied by her doghouse on an 8′ chain. I’ve no concern over her being outdoors in all weather: She’s a Northern breed with shelter and bedding, and as many forget, outside is actually a natural state for a dog. “Alone”, on the other hand , is completely unnatural, something she’d never have to endure in a perfect world. For the most part she seems to be a happy dog. Even so, when I see the shock register on some city folks’ faces as I tell them she’s tied up back home, I can’t help but feel a pang of guilt, wondering whether I really am doing right by my dog.
Recently, Mitz and I spent a week at my parents’ place while they were out of town. Together we lived an idyllic city life, complete with running water, central heat, television and high-speed Internet. Mitz had company 24/7, including a couple good walks daily and spent her indoor time either sprawled at my feet or watching the traffic out our second storey apartment windows. She took to it as a well adjusted dog takes to everything new, contentedly accepting what life threw her way. No longer the spring-loaded athlete I knew at home, she geared down to this lazier lifestyle without complaint. The only sign of her former self was revealed when I let her off leash at the park, where she ran circles around the other dogs.
At week’s end we made the 4-hour drive back to the woods. Parked on the road in our familiar wilderness, I opened her kennel door and said, “Go home!”My spring-loaded dog was back. She launched herself out of the car, bounding up and down snowbanks at full speed. For the next hour, while I shovelled a week’s worth of snow in search of a parking spot, she ran laps of the 200m driveway, obviously thrilled to be back.
We trudged up to the cabin together in darkness, I laughing as Mitz pranced around me in deep snow. Atop the hill, she circled the cabin, eagerly sniffing for clues as to what had transpired in our absence, and then jumped to stand on her house, literally vibrating with glee, as she waited for me to tie her up for the night.
As I clipped the chain to her collar and Mitz nuzzled my neck, she reminded me of what I had already known. Other dogs may be content to live city lives, spending twenty or more hours indoors each day, but Mitz is delighted to be an outdoor dog. I hope that this knowledge, combined with the memory of her joy to be back home, will be enough to counter any future guilt I might take on from the eyes of those accustomed to house pets.