What makes people do the things they do?

Why do some people want to drive racing cars, become police officers or study fruit flies?

Why do some people have an innate desire to collect knives, wrenches, bottles, pig dolls, old cars, Chinese pottery or beer cans?

As a child, I was gun-crazy. I wanted guns, and in 1949, with the money I earned picking potatoes in Mars Hill, was permitted to buy myself a single-shot Remington .22. I blasted every can and shattered every bottle on our dump.

Back in those days, people simply emptied their trash in the woods behind their houses, so I had plenty of targets. It’s a wonder I didn’t shoot myself or someone picking mushrooms in the woods.

And then – perhaps because I practiced, but probably only because I was born with exceptional eyes – a few years later, a tempting candidate for the Olympics, I was able to outshoot every man in my training unit at the Wakefield firing range.


One of The Almost Perfect Woman’s grandchildren was born to love dogs. She talked dogs and collected dog dolls until a year or so ago, she was given a shadow of a dog, one who dressed out at about 2 pounds.

He was a nice little dog, but I was somewhat distressed by the way the children snubbed him up on the end of his leash. This tiny dog would run and then find himself lifted off the ground by the leash around his neck. I was reminded of rabbits I’ve seen picked up by the ears. But what does an old man know about the loving relationship between a child and her dog?

Yesterday, I was saddened to hear that the dog was history. I feel bad for the child and the rest of the family, as they are all certainly heartbroken. I’m sure that Mom and Dad were also very attached to the animal.

As a behaviorist who trained a pet rat, I can tell you that one does become very attached to a pet. My rat had the appropriate name of Vilkus, which means “wolf” in Lithuanian. You cry when Vilkus, your rat friend, dies.

But Graham, the dog, bit someone, and it is not wise to keep an animal that bites because, perhaps not this week or this year, but sooner or later there will be more unpleasant pain and an inevitable lawsuit. So, because the child has very wise parents, the dog has been given away. Hopefully, to a family without small children.

Knowing very little about dogs, I do not blame the dog for tasting human flesh. Even unaware of the biting circumstances, I can believe that someone got in the dog’s face, perhaps even tried to kiss the thing.


As revolting as this sounds, I have seen people kiss animals in real life and on television. People press their lips against those of cats, dogs, horses and monkeys – without considering for a moment the feelings or opinions of the creature being thus assaulted.

Can’t you see a cartoon of a man kissing a cat in which the little balloon above the cat says, “Pleeeze, I do not want your cold”?

No, as much as I loved my Vilkus, The Wonder Rat, I was never tempted to press my cheek to his, and even today, I can’t touch any animal without immediately washing my hands.

Although bodily contact was the last thing on my mind, I was bitten the last time I got in a dog’s face.

My grandmother was a $15-a-week cook and bottle-washer for Prince Nicimi, who summered on Chestnut Street in Camden during the war, and I was permitted to visit Grammie for a few days. They had a cocker spaniel. I was on the floor playing with the animal. I put my face in the dog’s face and was bitten. The dog was not blamed.

It is good to have these things happen when one is 6 or 7, because the earlier one learns a lesson, the more years one has to profit by it.


But today, we mourn as we write of Graham’s passing. The family, although wiser, will be missing their little doggie friend for weeks and perhaps months to come.

Now hopefully cared for by loving adults, Graham might miss his former family, even though for an endless year, he was lovingly dragged about and pampered like a rag doll.

Perhaps Graham figured that biting someone was his only way out.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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