Service Dog Column: How far from wolves are pet dogs?

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by Carlene White

I’m still waiting for our sample litter to catch up with this article. We’re still working on jumping into the car.

The point to ponder for the day is, Just how far from wolf society are our pet dogs?

At one point, I had eight black-and-white Danes that someone hired me to bring to a formal black-and-white dinner party in Andover.

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I let them loose in the ballroom, where they were carving beef at the table with no problem.

Then, the guests began to dance.

My dogs hadn’t seen anybody dance before, and they assumed these people must be fighting. They were actually circling the dancers when I recognized I had potential disaster on my hands.

If the band had started to play the Charleston, and those people started bouncing around kicking at each other (as one does with the Charleston), I’m not sure I could have actually been able to control the dogs. There was no doubt that they were circling for an attack.

The picture is one of my favorites, and this is a calf that I had to borrow for some commercial I did years ago. It was just standing in the yard, wondering what to do next, when I noticed my eight dogs had started to circle, which you can clearly see in the picture.

My original eight dogs were wonderful at being controlled off-leash in crowds — some of you may remember them at the Topsfield fair or Boston Harborfest, Chowderfest, Riverfest, or “festing” all over Massachusetts.

Those dogs worked the crowds beautifully. But in their gene pool there is … a wolf.

We need to redo this photo with a professional photographer — maybe for the calendar that we put out every year. So I need to find a “rent-a-calf” — okay, why not google that.

Sure enough “Phil’s Rent-a-Cow” came up. As a matter of fact, there is a whole industry of renting cows — at $25 per cow per month — with hopes of getting kids more interested in agriculture. The ones I found were all in California.

I was once the best (ie, only) supplier of all animals for commercials and movies in New England.

I was often seen leaping about some hayfield with a net, trying to keep track of a praying mantis for some movie (The Next Karate Kid).

Having to shampoo a cow for a 4 am photo shoot at Faneuil Hall was normal. (FYI: It takes 35 pounds of kitty litter per cow per hour on a hard surface. I know these things.)

In 2003, I gave up chasing pigs down Storrow Drive and redirected my strange talents to training dogs.

Carlene White is the founder and president of the non-profit Service Dog Project on Boxford Road in Ipswich. She trains and raises Great Danes to donate to the mobility impairment. Read more of her columns here.

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