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Archive for July 5th, 2009

My dog Buddy is a medium-sized dog – 45 pounds at his fighting weight – but in relationship to tiny dogs he is definitely a big dog.  And he basically has no use for little dogs.  He grew up with big, much older dogs – and I think that little dogs are just not on the screen for him.

When a neighbor pup would jump all over him, frantically trying to get Buddy to play, but really in the most annoying fashion, Buddy would just keep walking as if he was not there.  When my friends Lynn and Fred stayed with us for five days, their little dog Attie tried in every way he knew to seduce Buddy into playing with him, but Buddy absolutely would not give him the time of day.

But Lucy, the three year old hound who lives next door, maybe a few pounds heavier and much stronger – now she’s another “big dog”.  Over the last few months she and Buddy have gotten very tight.  They wrestle together, play chase games all around our big yard together.  And they both adore it when the three of us go for walks back up the hill together.  They smell the same things and pee in the same places.  If one of them goes charging back into the woods, the other is right behind.

Buddy and Lucy playing.

Buddy and Lucy playing.

And they love to run next to each other – fast, haunch to haunch – as dogs who love each other sometimes do.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  Lucy’s long, strong hound dog’s legs are way faster than Buddy’s: I think she must intentionally slow her pace a bit so that they can stay in unison.

When Max, my friends Bob and Annie’s little Bichon, came to stay with us for a few days – well, he was a little dog.  Buddy completely ignored him.  Max immediately loved Buddy: Buddy’s sweet, laid-back energy never threatened him, and he never felt a need to play tough.   When we went for walks, Max – like a little brother – tried to follow him everywhere, even if he couldn’t always keep up.  Buddy ignored him.

And my neurotic  Buddy took it very hard that another dog was in his space.  He didn’t just ignore – he moped.  He became clingy and needy and – when I couldn’t give him my 100% of my attention or couldn’t hide from him that I was also giving love to Max – went off to a corner and sulked.  Never any aggression – just woundedness.

Tough little Max did not like Lucy.  Her wild energy was just too in-your-face for Max.  (Laid-back Buddy had for many months also ignored Lucy: I don’t think her randiness threatened Buddy, just annoyed him.)  Max would bark at Lucy if he even saw her about 100 yards across our two yards.  Non-aggressive Lucy kept trying to sniff Max or even to get him to play, but Max would have none of it.  But the three dogs would often walk up the hill with me and sometimes Max was so involved in exploring the terrain or following Buddy that he forgot to be mean to Lucy.

One night Lucy was inside her house and it was just me and Buddy and Max walking up the hill in the darkness.

There’s another “big dog” from down the road that sometimes comes to visit, and he and Buddy like each other a lot.  They chase each other around and have a good old time.  When this down-the-road dog (I don’t know is name – let’s call him Midnight, because he is solid black) appeared suddenly in front of us – hard at first to make out in the matching darkness – he and Buddy greeted each other happily, all wagging tails.  But Max the Magnificent was not pleased: he tried to attack this new dog.  With me holding Max’s leash, he never got closer than about ten feet from Midnight – who, not an aggressive animal, just jumped back.

Then Buddy did an extraordinary thing: he charged Midnight, growling ferociously – and basically chased him right off the property.  He then came running back and ran right up to Max in a completely unprecedented friendly way.  The only way I could make sense out of this whole scenario was that Buddy had gotten protective of this little visiting runt who was trying to mix it up with a much larger dog.  When – after chasing Midnight for a couple hundred yards, until he was well off our property – Buddy came running directly back up to Max, I read his behavior as saying, “You OK?”

Why the switch?  Why did Buddy, after a couple of days of completely ignoring – and obviously resenting – Max, apparently come to his defense?

I think that – annoying and disruptive and threatening and generally useless as Buddy regarded Max to be – Max had still become part of the pack.  And, when there was any possibility that Midnight might mix it up with little Max, Buddy – who liked Midnight much more than he liked Max – showed  very clear loyalty to the pack: Midnight had to go.

Once that amazing little scenario had finished playing out, Buddy went completely back to ignoring Max.  “I’ll protect you if I have to: even if you are a totally annoying, uselessly small-dog part of the pack, you still have become part of the pack – one of us.  Now go away, kid, you bother me.”

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