Tyson Bell doesn’t know life without dogs.
Both sides of his family have always had multiple, and ever since he was growing up, his family has at least two dogs at home. The family has also always adopted a sibling pair, giving their dogs a blood relative and matching breed as a partner.
Those aren’t the only animals his family has housed, though.
“We’ve always had dogs, we’ve had parrots,” Bell explained. “A couple times we’ve had some squirrels that my sister and my mom have rescued and we’ve taken care of.”
Currently, no squirrels live with the family. But two dogs do: Decker and Dyna.
Their names come from Harley Davidson, which Bell’s father is a big fan of. It translated to dog monikers.
Decker and Dyna are Belgian Shepherds and brother and sister. They help complete the family, and for Bell, they offer something similar to sports.
“They are very smart, and they love affection,” he said. “What I get out of it is like with sports: the stress relief. We just put things aside and focus in on one thing, and with our dogs, it’s the same.”
The two are known for playing with one another, sometimes too aggressively. Recently, Decker took some liberties with Dyna, and now she’s running with a snapped-down ear. It fits her personality, he said.
“She’s such a goofy dog,” Bell said. “She prances around like a horse.”
They are lovers of their routines, he said, and understand his non-verbal language with them.
“Even if they’re outside and you’re inside, if I look at them and nod my head to the door or look towards the door, they’re at the door like that,” he explained.
The differing lifestyle of dogs and other animals to humans is part of what Bell finds fascinating about them. He has always had a love for animals, and when he was living in Calgary and playing for the Calgary Roughnecks, he was a frequent visitor of the Calgary Zoo. He even considered working there for a period.
“It’s a different lifestyle between a human and an animal,” Bell explained. “Things are kind of given to you as a person, but as an animal, you’re out in the wild doing your own thing, trying to survive.”
Bell said he does feel conflicted about zoos, noting the sad side of placing animals in captivity. He also said he has declined many invitations to hunt as it doesn’t feel like something that’s right for him to do.
Still, though, the zoo offers an opportunity to see animals he otherwise would never see in Canada or likely at any point in his life. The education that comes with seeing these species in the flesh is incredibly valuable to him.
“You don’t get to see lions much, especially not around here, which is a good thing,” he said. “There is a sad side to it with the animals being captive and locked up in a cage for the majority of their lives once they get to the zoo, but it’s a unique lifestyle that they live, how they go among things and how they see the world.”
This article was originally published Dec. 23, 2020.