Use Explorer  for a better display of this Website 
Bay Crossings Gets a Home 
Letters to the Editor 
Cover Story: Checkin’ Out the Oakland/Alameda Estuary 
Headed Out 
Reader of the Month 
Working Waterfront 
Bay Crossings Environment: Sharks First!
Riders of the Tides 
Late Night Ferry Returns 
Pittsburg: A Jewel in the Delta
PortFest: Port of Oakland Lets its Hair Down
A Picaresque History of the Port of Oakland
Harbor Bay Honcho
Jack London Aquatics
Ferry Building Update
Ferry Terminal Set to Open
New Port Engineer (and what a spicy history the job has)
Hyde Street Harbor
You Can Call Me Al
Bill Coolidges’ Journal
Bay Area Bids Adieu to Madro
Bay Crossings Riders of the Tides

In Defense of Dogs

By Christine Cordi

We’ve been together for six years now. I chose him from scores of others near the llama farms of West Marin. But these were dogs. Corrals full of dogs. Dogs in constant motion, swirling like a misbehaving school of fish. Among them was a friendly little guy with the largest nose I had ever seen. A runt. He stopped his cavorting and tumbling-over-siblings routine long enough to bat his eyelashes at me. I was hooked. So began the recorded saga of Nero, the Giant Schnauzer.

We idolize dogs, extol their virtues, fling them into the heavens and name constellations after them. The Ancient Egyptians worshipped them. Or we view them as the embodiment of all evil: the snapping jaws of death, the bloodthirsty hounds of hell. Certainly there have been horrific incidents of late. Both ancient Northern Europeans and the Incas believed that a black dog would conduct your spirit safely to the underworld. Apart from guides, dogs were also envisioned as guardians of the nether world, like the mythological Cerberus. No matter how we view them, the reality is that for more than 12,000 years dogs have been with humans as hunting companions, the first domesticated animals, then later as livestock herders and guardians.

I quickly found that Nero was a lover, a sometimes herder, but not a hunter. Just as well, I thought. The first piece of evidence was the warm welcome he provided to a visiting raccoon who dropped in through the skylight early one morning. Next, the longstanding, cross-species love affair with the cat across the street. Many a time I have seen her at the top of the fence, softly gazing down at him, or on some nights pressing her face against the glass, transfixed at the sight of his illuminated, (now) large, muscled body. On the other hand, he seems intrigued by her petiteness and bushy tail. Female humans are always welcomed. Males on the other hand, are subjected to a persistent, thorough, discomforting sniff search.

But sometimes Nero’s sunny disposition, his loyalty, and obvious devotion were almost grating to me. His sideswiping herding antics in the backyard, his "dogged" insistence on walks, his dolphin-like pushing his nose hard against your tummy and then quickly retracting it, and his elephantine paws placed on flowers and pavement alike (wherever he wished to park his 105 pounds), could take their toll after a difficult workday.

Recent events changed me. On April 13 Nero was operated on to remove a toe inexplicably riddled with cancer that had also invaded that bone. He placed his head on my lap to comfort me, as I sobbed over his plight and his pain. I tearfully cursed the unfairness of it all for a dog that had not once hurt any living thing. Two weeks later, I was awakened and witnessed him having a seizure. The following morning he could hardly walk. After running tests the doctors thought it was likely caused by a blood clot in an artery leading to the brain. He has now fully recovered. They think they got the cancer in time as well. To me there is no doubt that his stoicism, his loyalty, and his high spirits outmeasure that of most humans I know. I value what he has taught me, and all the moments I spend with him.

Nero has lived to love yet another day.