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Canine Wisdom

Dogs are a great crime deterrent both at home and in public. Even if you do not own a dog, you can learn some valuable lessons from them.

Remember how you felt the very first day you carried a firearm? You were likely more than a little self-conscious, wondering if anyone could tell you were armed. Your general alertness level was also probably highly elevated. That’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, once we have been carrying for quite a while, it is easy to become complacent. When nothing bad has happened for a long time, it is simply human nature to begin feeling that nothing bad is going to happen. Pilots will tell you that this phenomenon has often resulted in catastrophic consequences.

Being truly situationally aware and constantly alert was recently illustrated to me in an unusual way — by my dog. I will give you a quick background on my dog. At just over a year, she is essentially still a puppy. Her breed is known as a “Carolina dog” or “American dingo.” She is the descendent of an ancient, feral hunting breed. She has the general appearance of a mid-sized German shepherd, her weight having leveled off at around 50 pounds.

She has a short, coarse blonde coat and an athletic physique with a big chest, slim hips and powerful shoulder and leg muscles. She is amazingly strong. She is also really fast, routinely outrunning even much larger dogs at the dog park. To use an old boxing phrase, she “punches above her weight.”

Her hearing especially is uncanny. She is one of only a few breeds with ears that can turn independently, allowing for the rapid location of prey or a threat. Even in our completely closed, air-conditioned Florida house, she will bolt up out of a sound sleep and race to the living room window just because she heard a car door from half a block away.

This is all good, but it was her standard operating procedure that ultimately reminded me about awareness. When on our walks, she exhibits the same “head on a swivel” that elite combat operators display, constantly observing her surroundings and regularly glancing back over her shoulder to check our six. She follows this protocol relentlessly no matter the location or time of day.

She also possesses a strong instinct about strangers, whether animal or human. Normally an extremely friendly, playful dog, only twice has she shown a high-alert response. In both cases, her instincts turned out to be spot-on. Those of you who own dogs have probably experienced the same thing.

Some dogs, especially those with the ancestry of my dog, benefit from many generations of combat-proven DNA, and it shows in their highly developed survival instincts. But we humans also possess this gut sense in some form or another. The key is to pay attention to it. I have researched far too many cases where, after the fact, victims admitted that “something just didn’t feel right,” but, for whatever reason, they failed to recognize it or act on it. The results were terrible and often violent.

As for me, I have taken some cues from my canine companion. I have firmly recommitted to constant situational awareness. My head is on a swivel, watching and listening to everything going on around me every minute of the day. Likewise, I will heed that inner voice when it whispers: “Warning!”

Ancient martial artists modeled their fighting techniques on animals. Perhaps they were on to something.

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