Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Self-Actualized Terrier: Happy In the Field

Mountain Staked at the Hole on Sunday
(click to enlarge)

A repost from this blog, circa 2007

A working terrier loves to work -- it lives for that magic moment when the scent drifts up from the hole and its genetic code explodes within, taking everything else with it like a tidal bore.

A working terrier lives for this. It would rather work than eat, drink or rest.

For a working terrier, finding quarry underground is what psychologist Abraham Maslow called a "peak experience" -- something that creates a nearly mystical feeling of intense happiness and sense of well-being leading to an awareness of the "ultimate truth" and the unity of all things in the Universe.

People who do not work their terriers will never understand this, and neither will those who see dogs as merely something to breed, show, sell, or brag about.

The working terrier does not exist for these ends; it exists for its own purposes. The work itself is a self-validating experience for the dog; it tells him what he is, and that he is right for this world. The dog does not give a damn about ribbons and rosettes, but it cares about the work as much as life itself.

Every time the working terrier faces the hole, it must decide whether it is willing to face the unknown thing that lies ahead in the dark, or the known emptiness that lies behind in the light. Or, as Abraham Maslow put it when describing the human condition:

"One can choose to go back toward safety
or forward toward growth. Growth must
be chosen again and again; fear must
be overcome again and again."

The working terrier chooses growth. It may feel fear at the unknown thing that lies ahead, but it works to harness that fear and channel it into intelligent choices.

A good working terrier is not foolishly brave; it makes the calculation behind the calculated risk.

When push comes to shove, however, it goes forward to face the unknown. As a result, the working terrier has a new and slightly different peak experience at every hole, and with every successful hole comes a stronger sense of self, a greater confidence, and a fuller happiness. In the end, no matter how long its longevity, the working terrier has had a life worth living. Can we ask more for a dog? Can we ask more for ourselves?

(click to enlarge)


Jules said...

I just followed a link to your page a couple of days ago, and I have to say, you've educated me already. I keep Border Collies, and work them some, and hunt behind Walker Hounds, but I didn't know Terriers were still used too. Maybe it's not a West Coast thing?I'm finding it very interesting!

Matt Mullenix said...

You've got it right on, Patrick.

You know my wife loves "her" whippets, which are and are not the same whippets I hunt with. She finds them good when they lean against her on the couch. She sees them asleep, happy as our children sleeping in on Sunday---and thinks that's what they must love best.

I have tried to describe for her---make her believe---what Rina changes into when she is hunting. Rina becomes two or three times the dog anyone can see anywhere else but in the field. She generates almost visible waves of energy. She bends light.

Alas, this sort of talk doesn't get too far with Shelly. :-)

Reid Farmer said...

All I can say is that's one big grin on Mountain's face - a happy dog!

Rocambole said...

I live for that grin on Pepper's face. She gets it two different times -- when she goes on a training run with my marathon-running husband and when she's patrolling "her place" -- the community garden.

It's probably not a "working terrier thing" (especially since Pepper is a Border Collie [although Janeen, H. and Retrieverman have me convinced that Pepper probably is a West Viriginia Border Collie/English Shepherd landrace that met up with an intact male Shiba Inu not too long ago, but Pepper looks like a Border Collie and who wants to hear the entire ancestery speculation outside of a dog blog? ;-D}) but Pepper also gets this look of absolute peace and deep contentment after she's been at the community garden for a couple of hours becuase she's check everything out thoroughly and knows that things are "right."

I live for that look, too.


terriertrio said...

Patrick ~

By far the best descrition and IMO the only description of the 'real' Jack Russell Terrier.

May I suggest that you submit it to the JRTCA for publication in the next edition of True Grit.

PBurns said...

I'm not even sure who to send it to. If you want to send it for me, you can tell them they have persmission. All things are permitted ;)


terriertrio said...

Thanks, Patrick. It has been submitted and hopefully will appear in the next issue of True Grit as requested.

terriertrio said...

Thanks, Patrick. It has been submitted and hopefully will appear in the next issue of True Grit as requested.

Jonathan said...

i want this on our club website in SA. says it perfectly.

great post, nice that it came around again


Peter Apps said...

In his book "It's a Dog's Life" Phil Drabble quotes an Irish cattle drover who describes the life of working cattle dogs at Dublin market. It's a long passage so I'll have to paraphrase. He is describing the working week:

"Tuesday, the pressure of work built up as cattle arrived from all over Ireland. ...... They finished about midnight. Each Dog got a pint of boiled milk with whisky in it.

Wednesday, 3.30 a.m. As they say in the Gaelic' Do rogai se mar so', this is what they were born for. Bring cattle from lairs to auction yards, cattle from outlying holding fields to market. ...... non stop hour after hour, .... the dogs worked. ......., and every chance they got they lay down to rest, their great lolling tongues hanging half a yard out of the side of their mouths, and that happy smiling look that only hard worked dogs seem to have."

Peter Apps

seeker said...

While I don't work my terriers on purpose, my Bridget finds ways. Last weekend, she forced open the back gate and then climbed over a woodpile against a fence to get into my neighbor's yard. She then dug a large hole under the shed. By the time I got to the neighbor's door to introduce myself, and advise her not to let her dogs out, an aging Lab and a Basset Hound it was a done deal. I got to her a few minutes later and she had pulled a large possum out of the hole. She was dirty, bloody, happy and proud of herself. I grabbed her up, told her what a good girl she was and when back to my neighbor who was horrified. I told her I'd be back after the body in a few hours. It was gone by then and up a tree. Bridget is a hard dog and if I hadn't come the possum would be dead indeed. She's killed three with her partner Abbott but he was too old and short legged to follow this time. It does make them happy and shows you what dogs they really are.

Debi and the 3 TX JRTs.

frankenb11 said...

Spot on Patrick. Keep on diggin.

Jacinta Denton said...

Working dogs love to work. it is their life.