Tofino Profile: Freedom
by Shirley Langer, Tofino
It's about time that readers recognize that there are other beings worth profiling in Tofino Time other than those much vaunted two-legged kind. I'm a dog, and I'm proud of it. I'm told I come from a long line of chiefs, so if I seem haughty at times, pardon me. It's just that pride is in my blood.
I was born twelve years ago at Hot Springs, in Clayoquot Sound. My mother, a beauty by name of Chum, lived with Karen and Steve Charleson. My father, a macho guy named Jose, whom I take after, lived with Bernard Charleson. I knocked around Hot Springs village for a few months before I met the person who was to become my partner in life, Norma Dryden. Bernard had already named me, and Norma thought the name suited me, so Freedom I was, and Freedom I am. Maybe I wouldn't have cared if I had been named Max, or any other solid name, but my-oh-my the humans sure get a kick when they hear Norma bellowing out Freedom... Freedom, when she wants me. And I think that shouting Freedom in the streets is very therapeutic for Norma's frustration at the lack of social justice in the world.
There's something I need to establish right here and now. My relationship with Norma is not that of master and submissive pet. Nor am I using Norma for food and shelter. We have a mutually respectful relationship. I come and go according to my whims and needs, and she can depend on me to be an intelligent, fun-loving companion who will defend her on an as needed basis. Her willingness to not keep me leashed, thus curtailing my freedom, has cost her plenty over the years--you know, springing me from the by-law enforcer in both Tofino and Ukee.
I take my name and what it stands for very seriously. I object strongly to being closed in on purpose. I'm not just bragging when I tell you I'm quite the escape artist. There are very few doors I can't open. If the doors are locked, I'll open a slider window, if there is one. If a window is left open, I simply jump out. Once though, I experienced a near-concussion because I didn't notice that Norma had the windows washed. I did my two-stage running jump from the floor to the back of the couch, then springing up and out--except I couldn't tell the window was closed. Ouch! Norma saw it happen, and had the insensitivity to laugh.
Norma felt I needed training when I was a pup, because when I crossed streets, I would stop in the middle. I was actually doing that to stop traffic for her safety, but she figured otherwise and hired a Quebecois guy who had trained dogs for circuses. He taught me to look left and right before crossing, and I added a touch of my own by also looking up. Feeling I needed better manners, Norma spent 35 bucks on a book written by monks who specialized in training shepherds. The book, How to be your Dog's Best Friend provided a lot of tips on how to get your dog to agree with your wishes. But who is getting whom to agree with what? It's a matter of point of view. For example, for twelve years Norma has tried to get me to agree to not lie on the sofa. the woman was adamant that it was not my right; she even barricaded the couch in creative ways without success. Finally, just the other day, Norma capitulated and now shares both sofas with me. I agree with her decision completely. If I could, I'd tell her it's a win/win situation. Her blood pressure stays down; I don't have to feel guilty.
Did I tell you I'm a split-eyed dog? One eye is blue, the other dark. This makes some people nervous, but there's nothing abnormal about me. People do like to tell stories about me though. Most of them are true. For example it's true that when I get a hankering to visit the folks I know at Hot Springs, I go down to the dock and board The Matlahaw, then eventually return the same way. I go to Opitsaht sometimes, too. When I saw horses and cattle for the first time, I refused to get out of the car. Way too big! I thought. When Norma forced me, I hid behind her as best I could the whole time. And I'm such a baby sometimes! When we've been away from Tofino for a prolonged time, I start to cry when I see Kennedy Lake. I just can't help it, I'm so happy to be coming home!
I love it here, you know. The people are so great! At the Co-op hardware store they keep cookie bones on hand for me, and if I hang around the door at Gary's Kitchen long enough, they'll send me home with delicious beef ribs. And you wouldn't believe how many tourists take my picture. Norma says it's because I'm such a regal looking dog, but I think it's because I can smile. Just the other day, Gary Shaw swore that I smiled at him. Of course I did. What's the big deal!
Life's not all ribs and roses, though. Sometimes I do get depressed, and mope around and become difficult to get along with. But always for good reason, that being Norma gets too involved with projects and the balance between work and play gets off kilter. That's when I put on my 'You call this life!' expression. Eventually Norma will get the picture and spend more time planning fun things, then my depression evaporates like fog under the hot sun.
Like anyone, I enjoy a good joke. Norma thinks I have an extraordinary sense of humour, but then she's biased, isn't she. I'll never forget the day I decided to have some fun with her. Our friend Carl was visiting, and there was a lazy housefly buzzing around, so Carl told us about a dog he knew who was always driven crazy by flies. So next day, when Norma was building a fire, I began to pretend there was a fly buzzing around bugging me. Norma didn't pay any attention; she just didn't get it. The day after, when she was reading the paper, I did the same thing. She put the paper down and said, "You're doing that to amuse me, aren't you Freedom?" Duh!
Norma really appreciates me for what I can teach her about animals and the wider world, and though I don't always deserve it, she trusts me. She even leaves the box of dog treats open on the floor. I could help myself anytime, be a pig, but I know she loves to give me treats, so I never eat them unless she gives them to me with her own hand. A guy has got to show his appreciation somehow, right?
Shirley Langer describes herself as a woman about town with a well developed civic consciousness.