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instinctual behavior
man smart, dog smarter
by robert a. melos
pop culture

I had an interesting Memorial Day weekend. It started with my dog biting me and ended with my doing yard work, instead of celebrating my birthday (May 27th, I was 39, thanks for all the cards, gifts, and especially the cash), and coming to some very enlightened conclusions about instinctual behaviors. I'll get to my dog in a moment, first I want to address the yard work.

I hate yard work. Not just hate like you might hate the taste of asparagus or Brussels sprouts, but hate on the level you might hate, oh, say, a terrorist blowing up a national landmark. I really dislike any activity which makes me sweat when there is no music and/or sex involved, but that's another story.

My reasons for hating yard work are simple. First and foremost I'm allergic to just about everything outdoors and have to take allergy pills throughout the grass cutting season, and double the amount when I do my own lawn. Second no matter how low you set your mower to cut the grass, the moment the mower is whizzing over the blades of grass, the grass starts to grow again. Now this wouldn't be too annoying, if it didn't mean I would have to cut the grass again in another five or six weeks. Yes, I know it should be done every week or two, but you've obviously missed the part where I said I hate to do yard work.

When it isn't the grass needing to be cut, it's the damnable leaves needing to be raked. I mean, it isn't like they fall once a decade or so. No! They fall every damned year, and I'm the one who has to rake the freakin' things into piles, which then get bagged and placed on the curb for the garbage collection. And since it takes me so long to get around to doing the yard work I hate to do, my curb eventually looks like a giant mound of garbage.

Now I don't know about where you live, but my little town garbage persons dislike anything more than two cans. I mean two small garbage cans if you can manage, which I obviously can't. So my garbage is in more like, oh, 16 cans and the garbage persons will undoubtedly get snarky when they see this, resulting in a green tag telling me I'm putting out too much garbage and they don't have to remove more than two cans worth.

Oh, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, why doesn't this guy just get a lawn service? Then all of his problems will be solved, right? I'll tell you why I don't get a lawn service.

The first reason I don't get a lawn service is the money. I simple can't afford a lawn service. And secondly, my yard isn't a simple easy yard to mow. My yard, much like my life, is rather eclectic with gardens and trees and about 14 tons of decorative rock spread around. Most lawn services refuse to even consider giving me an estimate. I like my yard the way it is, but hate the work involved in keeping it the way it is. Are we all on the same page now?

Now, as to my dog. My sweet little Chow dog, (I know they are considered mid-sized dogs and not little dogs, but he barely reaches my knee in height so I consider him to be little, not in the way a Poodle is little, or a Pomeranian is little, but to me he's my little fellow) was acting on his natural born instinct, the coding in his DNA, when he went after a rodent in the ivy. His natural born instincts tell him rodents, squirrels, rabbits, certain politicians, are things to be chased and possibly killed if caught. Now this is behavior I do not approve of, except in the case of politicians, but again that's another story.

Well, my Chow, Zeus is his name, managed to get a hold of said pestilence (I didn't check to see if it was a mouse, rat or politician). Now I witnessed this with both a sense of pride and revulsion, and acted on the latter. Figuring he was going to eat the thing which was carrying who knows what diseases, and later lick my face with affection, I did something terribly stupid. I grabbed him by the back of the neck.

Now for future reference, a Chow has two layers of fur. The outer coat, which is longer and gives him the fluffy look, and the undercoat, which is very similar to that of sheep and very close to the skin. Chows are winter weather dogs, another topic he and I disagree on, but that's another story.

As I said, I grabbed him by the neck. I was really reaching for his harness, but missed and got two layers of fur and a handful of skin. He yelped, and released the vermin. Turning his attentions to the arm and wrist which were hurting him, he grabbed hold and sunk his teeth into said arm. Ouch!

Okay, it isn't a good idea to grab a dog when he is acting on his instinctual behaviors. He is a tamed animal, just as human beings are tamed animals to a higher degree, but when DNA encoded instinctual behavior kicks in, well, there are just some behaviors you can't change. It would be like trying to mate him with a cat instead of other dogs.

Okay, for those who can't see where this is going, I'll spell it out for you. D-N-A. Deoxyribo nucleic acid is the basic chromosomal material which transmits patterns of heredity and general behavior. It is widely believed in the scientific community, and much of society in general, homosexuality is part of some DNA strands. It is not a disease but simply another variation of life on the planet, just as dog, coyote, and wolf are all variations of canine.

You may try to control the instinctual behaviors of animals, and nature itself, as I do every time I mow the lawn, but you can't control natural instincts. The grass grows, the dog bites, the bee stings. For me as a gay male, pursuing relations with another gay male is perfectly natural behavior. And while some homosexuals might be willing to live a closeted life because others in society find their behavior offensive, I am a naturalist. All I want is the freedom to romp in the discos with other homosexuals, and perhaps meet up with a compatible mate with whom I can share all aspects of my life.

You can't control nature, and shouldn't even try, because when you do you'll either wind up exhausted and have to do the whole thing all over again in a week or ten or you'll get yourself bitten. Human beings are animals, and homosexuals are human beings, and animals are capable of biting when someone tries to enforce a change in the natural behavior of the animal.

My dog taught me a lesson in acceptance of those things I cannot change. I'm a gay man. Don't mess with my natural instinctual behavior, or I just might have to teach those same lessons my dog taught me.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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topic: pop culture
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adam kraemer
5.29.02 @ 4:22p

Happy birthday?

robert melos
5.30.02 @ 11:24p

Thank you.

tracey kelley
5.31.02 @ 12:21p

I hate yard work, too. I often wonder why I don't own a maintained condo. Noooo, I have to have a yard, flowers, a compost pile and so on.

May through October, my life is not my own.

sarah ficke
5.31.02 @ 4:23p

And I like yard work, but don't have a yard to work in. Go figure.

matt morin
5.31.02 @ 4:32p

Yards are overrated. Especially front yards.

How often does anyone really use the front yard? Pretty much never.

sarah ficke
5.31.02 @ 6:30p

Front yards are only good for making a pretty foreground for the house. And yard sales.

robert melos
5.31.02 @ 8:35p

Sarah, you can come to my house and do yard work to your heart's content anytime you want. I promise not to let my dog bite anyone but me.



roger striffler
6.11.02 @ 10:59a

I can completely appreciate your point - no one should be forcing you to be something other than who/what you are. Period.
That said, I'd like to think that you are much less a slave to instinct than either your lawn or your dog. You have the ability (and I believe, responsibility) to use that ability to override some of the baser instincts.
Even you dog, I'd wager, has learned to curb his instincts in order to interact socially in a more productive way. If he bit everyone who interrupted his fun, he wouldn't be around long.
We have to work with nature, not against it or at it's mercy.

robert melos
6.12.02 @ 12:19a

I tend to bite everyone who interrupts my fun. Not always literally, but....

I'm curious what you mean by responsibility? Responsibility to whom?

roger striffler
6.17.02 @ 10:43p

Well, I guess I mean to the rest of society. Regardless of how we might sometimes wish it were not the case, this little world of ours is a shared resource and I think it's in all or our best interests to play nice with each other. It's a matter of consideration for others sharing the same space and hoping that no one will interrupt their fun too.

robert melos
6.17.02 @ 11:33p

If I hadn't undergone some of the things I have in my life, I would completely agree with you. We do have a resopnsibility to work toward a positive future for all people. Unfortunately we can't agree on what future that should be, so more than likely the world will end much as did Battle For The Planet Of The Apes without the guest appearance by God, er, Moses, er, Chuck Heston.

adam kraemer
6.18.02 @ 11:08a

Doesn't change the fact that we can't always go out and do anything we want.

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