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My People

I wonder about my dogs. They seem to have a tribe of two...just them. Any other dogs that come into view from their command post on the bay window are barked down without hesitation.

Even when their cousin dogs come around, they are viewed as threatening and are not welcomed with open paws. Only when they get old and blind and weak are other family dogs more than tolerated in their presence.

I've often wondered if this is just the way it is with small dogs in general since these are the first ones I've lived with.

Chula, the black and white one is the most obnoxious and angry with other dogs, as you can easily see in her expression. I started observing her to see if there was some method to her madness.

I observed that they did tolerate one other animal being in their mother's cat, Oliver. Chula would even greet him with a waggy tail and ears appropriately in the humble yet friendly position.

What was special about Oliver, I wondered? I think I have it. She has known Oliver all of her life. Oliver is her adopted "family of origin" along with Izzy, her brother. Everyone else aside from her human parents are really not part of her closest tribe.

The newer dogs in her extended family are never quite to be trusted.

Every day, if given the chance, she goes out on the deck and barks in every direction until she gets a response from each of the neighborhood dogs. She knows their names. If I mention Rusty she'll look in the correct direction of the backyard where he hails from with his howly voice. She'll bark towards his yard until she hears him. She knows the black pug behind us and Marley across the street as well as other distant dogs without names. She gets everyone barking and then she quietly goes about her business as the barkathon continues without her. She is the initiator. That is her job. She is the leader of the daily bark.

When we go for a walk up the street, she hears everyone bark at her as she goes by and she remains silent and satisfied. When they are silent, she stops and barks in the direction of their yard or house. If they respond, she is silent again and satisfied. Its as if she needs to be sure everyone is accounted for and in their proper places.

I see myself in her as a tribal person. My closest tribe is my family of origin. I trust them the most. The people that surround me on a daily basis, my coworkers, are trustworthy because they are predictable. They are usually where I expect to find them. If not, I check up on them to see what the situation is. This is a very informal type of tribalism, without the deliberate planning...yet it still if instinctual.

Of course, I have a more complicated life than Chula and I can and do choose to create and join more deliberate tribes. But it is curious to see that even my domesticated chihuahuas still have a strong sense of tribalism.

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