My dogs think they are a pack and of course they are if your definition is more than one dog. There are two of them and when danger rears its ugly head, (i.e. canines tethered to humans, squirrels, wind,) they spring into action, shoulder-to shoulder, growling in a vicious manner, terrifying, well…nobody.
The fact that, between them, they couldn’t come up with 50 pounds of dog doesn’t diminish their resolve one iota. Nor are they deterred by the inconsequential fact that one of them (Rain) is afraid of the dark as the other mistakes this phobia for steely resolve to rid the world of evil and is thereby inspired to work as her sidekick.
Each and every day, they patrols their turf with only 20 or so down hours. They regard themselves, misguidedly, as darlingly ferocious security guards and don’t seem to understand scoffing, even when it is aimed directly at them from everyone from the pizza delivery kid to a pair of collies who trot by on their daily walk and are decidedly above such nonsense.
Grace, our 12-year-old Lhasa Apso has been officially diagnosed by our vet as “just a happy little dog.” She strikes an imposing figure despite the inability of her teeth to make a plan and stick to it. Although her gums sprout teeth, as do most warm-blooded entities, hers resemble a horse race where they begin side-by-side behind the gate and then inexplicably take off in random directions once the bell has rung. She is not aware of this as she doesn’t understand mirrors.
Grace is the senior dog of the pack, the woofer to Rain’s sub-woofer. A petite 12 pounds, out five year-old, Rain, the aforementioned precipitation phobic pack member, is also afraid of everything else, including and inexplicably, the command to sit. Unexpected occurrences are especially rattling to her, things like food hitting her dish and humming, but she makes up for her skittishness with off the charts cuteness, which is particularly not useful when fending off danger. Still, we keep her because we lost the receipt.
Aside from their membership in the same club, they have very little in common. Grace in fact, took some time to even accept so much as a sniff from the 4 pound, 4-month-old Rain when she was first plopped down Grace’s home domain. She felt so strongly that we brought home a bit of hell that would soon fester and envelope us all, that she hid under the dresser for a year, smugly waiting to witness the end of the world as we know it. After a year had passed and the worst disaster to befall our household, dog-wise, was Rain’s enjoyment of squeaky toys, which Grace had expressly prohibited, our senior dog ventured out and grudgingly let Rain live.
Despite membership in the same club, our dogs have little in common. Grace yells at us when we’ve been out of the house for more than an hour or so. Rain weeps inconsolably, as if we routinely disappear for years at a time with no explanation other than, don’t pee in the house, a command she wilfully chooses to ignore, hoping we will feel compelled to return home to clean.
Grace is under the impression that she lives in a hybrid Republic: one breathing organism, one vote, while Rain lives in a Benevolent Theocracy where humans are divine and capable of bestowing any blessing from treats to…more treats.
Of course there are similarities. Both think of themselves as master negotiators. Grace knows the words, “get out,” mean, cross the threshold of the kitchen and sit down outside of said perimeter. In her twelve years, she has never completed the journey on the strength one command. Every few inches, she negotiates the proposition by lying down in what I like to call, still in the kitchen, necessitating a repeat of the command, at least once, if not three or four times in order to cover the two foot journey.
Rain, however, is the master of negotiation. She would have earned a doctorate if the trait was taught in obedience class. As a puppy she learned if she found a diabolically dangerous item on the floor, I would rush over and offer a small treat while saying, “drop it,” the idea being she would learn the words, “drop it” and eventually respond to the command without the treat component.
Instead Rain began scouring the house, returning with what she obviously considered bargaining material (cellophane, guitar picks and, once, a business card which, I swear, bore the words: The Secret of Power Negotiating!) She presents these items as if offering a diamond necklace wrapped around eternal youth in exchange for a foot rub, which would take to long to explain. I only have to do this 50 or so times a day, so I, with my superior intelligence, win.
In what should be example to the world, they have learned to tolerate their differences, and they are legion, for the sake of the pack, which, as discussed, are few. We choose not to challenge them on the status of their unit as it keeps them busy and they have so few other hobbies if you discount licking themselves.
I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t appreciate all that my dogs do to enhance my life, for instance, not a single mail carrier has entered our home to wreak havoc while the canine cops have been on patrol. Nor has an unfriendly dog snuck up on us as we unwittingly watched television, read or attempted to carry on conversations as we are saved, (and seriously annoyed) by their constant and loud vigilance.
Plus, they’re cute. There I’ve said it. In fact, as you may have guessed, this column was primarily written to cause dog envy. It’s a proven fact that every writer originally begins the occupation only to gain mass appreciation of their pets and/or children. Eventually, I will wax poetic about my son, but for today, all I ask is a unified “aww” in appreciation for my dog friends and their adorable antics.
Thank you and you’re welcome.