Tales of the Animals Part 1 (there will be many parts)
I love dogs. I also love cats. I have had more of the latter over the years, and it took me a while to come around to a willingness to say I am a dog person, but even now when I say that I feel a little guilty about the cats and how that might make them feel. And they do feel, as anyone who has lived with another mammal can tell you they absolutely most certainly feel. Also they have moods, and distinct personalities, and some of the smarter ones can even do some planning.
Coconut Cream, the old Eskie is a planner. She is also a barker in the vein of an alert dog, so what this practically means is that she is (nearly) constantly letting you know what is going on in the area. Apricot Tart is more of a guard dog so she really doesn’t care what is going on unless there is an obvious and present problem in which case she will check it out and look intimidating so that the problem goes away. Neither of them really need to do their jobs in our house such as life is but it is interesting to observe the dynamic. Coco barks, Apricot responds and investigates.
Sometimes Coco wants to be on the family room sofa where Apricot is, but being that she is forty pounds lighter forcibly moving Apricot is not an option. So she pops out her dog door and stands on the deck and barks: woof woof woof (in a very high-pitched tone) to let everyone in the house and the surrounding neighborhood know that there is a “problem.” The problem of course is that she wants the spot on the sofa that she wants and that someone else is presently occupying. But Apricot is a guard dog and though she had been through this routine dozens of times she does not ignore Coco, she does her job and unfolds herself from her comfy spot on the sofa to go outside and investigate the situation. Whereupon Coco comes right back into the house and hops up on the sofa, in the nice warm spot recently vacated by her dear friend and companion. We were surprised the first time we saw the routine, we thought to ourselves ‘well that’s a funny little thing that just happened.’ But then it just kept happening, and I don’t care what anyone says it is a plan, it is a desire to get something you want and then executing behaviors to achieve that end. Live with animals for a while and you see these magical things that experts tell you are not possible.
Apricot is not a planner. She is big and heavy and has physical advantages that mean she doesn’t have to strategize to get what she wants (this might be a metaphor for a lot of life). When she comes back in, after having been snookered in the ‘uh oh there’s a problem game’ she just climbs back onto the sofa and stands over Coco until the latter moves. Or she lays down right next to and just slowly stretches herself out until Coco has been pushed out of the way. She doesn’t use games, but she does know how to use her body, and that is a thoughtful strategy too. She used to sleep with my daughter, first at the foot of the bed as dogs are supposed to do, then slowly upward and elongated. The last straw for my daughter, who was loving the big furry thing in her bed less and less, was the night she went to get into bed and the dog was fully stretched out under the covers with her head on the pillow and growled as she tried to climb in. It had been a fairly successful integration into the bed until that point and then it came to an abrupt end. The best laid plans as they say.
So these dogs. We can use them for all kinds of amazing and useful things, they jump at our beck and call, they protect us, and they adore us. They can teach us a lot about how to simplify our lives, about how to care for others, about humility. I love them ever so much, I guess I’m one of those crazy dog people (also a crazy cat person – don’t want them to feel bad), now if I could just explain that they don’t need to attack the vacuum.