THE VIOLENCE OF WILD DOGS

They are crazed animals. Slavering jaws and long teeth tearing each other to pieces. Well, that’s what it looks like. For that matter, it’s also how it sounds. Growling, snarling … and occasional yaps that don’t sound like normal barking. I call it “play barking.” It is higher pitched and it makes my brain vibrate.

Bark and snarl!

When they really get into it, I get a headache. Bonnie and Duke like to have the biggest battle on the sofa in between Garry and I. What’s wrong with the damned floor?

Gibbs and the Duke

They enjoy this.

Fangs!

With Gibbs and Duke, Gibbs is generally Omega while Duke does Alpha. Except outside. Where they have a violent, intense relationship involving fangs and racing around at top speed. I cannot explain any of it and I am not going to try.

Charge!

And for everyone who wants to know where the new dog door is, it is neatly tucked into one side of the door.

Bonnie and Gibbs did an actual dog-size sit down on the stone step, refusing to use this new contraption. Garry had to threaten them with a missed dinner. The protest ended in a hurry.

Even when you are a dog, it’s good to know what’s really important.

MY LASSIE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My first dog was a magnificent collie who looked just like Lassie. Her name was Bitsy and I was four when we got her as a puppy. Everyone thinks their dog is extraordinary, but this dog did some amazing things.

Bitsy as a puppy and me at four

She understood language commands. For example, she was a herding dog so she would chase me around and nip at my heels. All my socks had holes in the back. I think this foot nipping is part of how dogs herd sheep.

Anyway, if I was outside playing, my mother would tell Bitsy to “Go get Ellin” and “Bring her home”. Bitsy would then find me and herd me home, right to my mother. Sometimes I protested and begged Mom to “Tell Bitsy I can stay out a little longer!” Mom would tell Bitsy it was okay and she’d run off or start to play with me.

We also had a cat, named Beauty. Bitsy and Beauty were good buddies, but my mom was terrified of cats. When Mom went outside to visit her mother’s cottage on the property, she was afraid she’d run into the cat. She’d tell Bitsy to “Go find Beauty”. Bitsy would herd the cat to where Mom was standing and ‘hold’ her in place with her long snout. That way Mom knew it was safe to walk across the grounds.

Me at around 5 with Beauty as a kitten

One night, Bitsy performed a very Lassie like rescue. A small fire broke out in the cottage where the caretakers and Bitsy lived. Bitsy kept barking and scratching on the door until someone came and found the growing fire. Bitsy saved two humans, two dogs and a cat.

Bitsy and me when I was 7 or 8

Once in all the years we had her, my father yelled at Bitsy. Dad was her favorite human and she took it badly. She slunk off and lay down on her bed. She went into a deep depression and wouldn’t move or eat for two days. My Dad was getting frantic. Finally he lay down on the floor with her and kept telling her he loved her. Only then did Bitsy get up. She got so excited, she jumped around Dad and did their characteristic ‘dance’ together – she put her paws up on Dad’s shoulders and he danced her around. Dad never forgot that incredible bonding experience. He also never stopped feeling guilty about yelling at her and he never stopped missing her when she was gone.

Bitsy with Dad and me

But we did not do right by Bitsy. My parents didn’t know much about dogs. So they had Bitsy live at our summer-house in Connecticut with the property’s year round caretakers. She was not allowed in our house. On top of that, we were only there for three months in the summer. So Bitsy had my parents, me and my grandparents in her life for one-quarter of the year. The rest of the year she stayed with the caretakers who were paid to take care of her when we weren’t there. They didn’t mistreat her, but they weren’t real pet parents taking care of a beloved pet. She missed us terribly.

Bitsy was justifiably very neurotic. She was a chronic car chaser. Despite two minor accidents with cars, we could not get her to stop. She was eventually killed by a school bus when she was only five years old.

As a dog savvy dog lover now, I’m horrified that my parents would treat an animal that way, especially one who they supposedly loved. But to them, it was ‘inconvenient’ to have a dog in a New York City apartment. Mom didn’t want a dog shedding all over the house. So why didn’t she get a low shedding dog? So this was how we did things.

Bitsy with me, my parents and my grandparents, her whole family

I’ve never stopped feeling guilty about Bitsy, even though I was just a kid at the time. I was nine when she died. To add to the trauma of Bitsy’s death, my parents were afraid to tell me she was dead, so they waited eight months and only told me when we were due to go back to Connecticut for the summer. They lied to me for eight months when I asked about Bitsy throughout the year — which made me feel even worse!

I have to give Bitsy major credit for making me into the good, conscientious, sensitive and knowledgeable pet parent I am today. So all the dogs I’ve had since Bitsy owe her a debt of gratitude. I never want to feel guilty about how I treated a pet ever again!

PERILS OF THE DUKE

Duke had entranced Bonnie. She and Duke had a whole play relationship where they pretended to fight. Lots of snarling and growling and yipping and yapping and barking. Duke would get the show started by offering Bonnie his favorite toy of the moment. She would grab it and he would bark. Then she would bark twice, and they were off and running. Jumping and twisting and tossing toys in the air.

With all the noise, you might have thought one of them might get hurt, but no one got hurt. Not even close. When they got tired, one or both would fall over unconscious. Remarkably like toddlers at play.

Bonnie will still play. A little bit. But, for whatever reason, the romance ended yesterday at around two in the afternoon. A little play, but after that, she’s not interested. Last night, for the first time since they met, she didn’t want to play. He barked. She ignored him.

He brought her every toy he could find and offered it too her. She put her little nose up in the air and ignored his pleas.

He sat in front of us, looked at Garry … and whined. Duke has never whined. All the toys were in a pile, but no one was willing to play with him. Garry looked him with sympathy.

“Been there, buddy,” he said. “That’s just the way it happens sometimes. You’ll get used to it.”

Duke whined again. Garry ruffled his ears. He settled down on the sofa between us and went to sleep. Although he got Bonnie to play a little bit this morning, after that, she wanted to do what she usually does, which is watch the world through the window. She started it, but all the dogs like to put their chins on their paws and watch the road from the window. Even Duke does it now.

Duke wanted to run with toys. Bark. Chase things. Grab toys and fling them across the room … which somehow always makes it land on my keyboard … sometimes doing some pretty weird stuff to whatever I was trying to do. Bonnie wasn’t having any.

But Gibbs was ready to party … and suddenly, there was rocking and rolling and toys in the wind. Gibbs is a lot stronger than Bonnie … and although he is short-legged, he outweighs Duke by at least five-pounds, all of which is muscle. They had a very good battle going on until they both fell asleep in the pile of toys. It turned out to be a much better day for Duke than he expected. We were glad he still had a playmate.

The Scotties are taking turns entertaining the Duke, who is at peace with the world. We are at peace with our crew of canines. If only the rest of the world could be content with a pile of stuffed toys and lots of fake growling.

WHEN A PUPPY GOES NUTS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

We can’t call for help. The Police wouldn’t even file a report. They’d smirk and call it a domestic matter. We’re senior citizens, living alone, with three furry kids. We’ve tried to be good parents, but sometimes good love turns bad.

This is the carnage from “Duke”,  our newest family member. Duke is about 15-months old. He’s brought new life into household, lighting a fire under Bonnie and Gibbs,  our Scotties who’d settled into the lazy life.

Duke’s energy is something to behold! He can leap over the baby gates in our house in a single bound. He bounces off walls while chasing toys at a dizzying pace. Look —  it’s … SUPERDOG!!

The price of living with Superdog is commitment to patience as he demands constant attention for most of our awake hours. You can’t ignore Duke. He won’t allow you to dismiss him. If you do, you’ll pay! This is a dog from whom lack of attention brings in-your-face barking … into which Bonnie often enthusiastically joins.

TV? Reading? Thinking? Not while the two of them are going at it.

Duke is on a mission to dismantle the wooden basket that contains all the doggie toys. The toys have been tuned up like some two-bit felons in a small town Police interrogation room. Those toys, like most two-bit felons, won’t rat on Duke. They’re scared. Scared big time!

Duke makes it clear what he’ll do to squealers. He’s methodically chewing through the wooden basket. I’ve cleaned up the crime scene several times in the past two days. No flies on Duke!  He just returns and continues to destroy the basket, leaving little pieces scattered across the floor, just in case we don’t get his message.

Marilyn has ordered chewy toys, a last-ditch effort at getting Duke to turn his life around.

It’s down to a few desperate hours. Will the chewy toys arrive in time? If not, this grisly scene could be the epitaph for a loving couple who tried to save a puppy from going nuts.

HISTORIC DOGS – PETITE BASSET GRIFFON VENDEEN – AT THE BRIDGE

Three sleeping PBGVs (Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen) from left to right, Tinker, Griffin, and Pagan. Now at the Bridge. I hope you have the comfiest sofas for your naps.

Tinker as a pup

Once upon a time, we had three furry noisy smelly hounds called PBGVs, or Petites … or, correctly, Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen. Shaggy long-backed short-legged French rabbit hounds. They were funny and smart and had the most musical … and loud … voices I’ve ever heard. Tinker was insanely destructive till the day she passed. Griffin was a cuddly and always ready to entertain you. He loved to make you laugh. Pagan was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known.

They’ve all passed on … Pagan way too early for causes unknown, the other two in their time. The house is cleaner and quieter, but no dog will ever make me laugh like Griffin the clown could make me laugh, or be as totally weird as Tinker was, or as passionate about nap time as Pagan was. We’ll always miss them and never forget them.

GETTING YOUNG WITH THE DOG

The balls arrived. Eighteen of them in orange and red. Low bounce tennis balls, guaranteed the best for young tennis players and ball-addicted dogs. I bought the “low bounce” balls in the hope of saving some of my “stuff” from being shattered. Now, I see that we are going to have to put in bumpers to keep the ball from rolling under the table. Garry has been spending way too much time fishing the ball out from under the furniture.

I am patting myself on the back, albeit with a good deal of shoulder discomfort. I figured that Duke would be the only one of the three dogs with any interest in tennis balls … and I was right. Bonnie and Gibbs looked at them, looked at me, looked back at the ball. Looked at each other. If dogs could shrug, they have been doing it. They like stuffies, but balls don’t squeak. No matter how hard you shake them, they don’t play dead. They think toys make better friends.

He has torn out chunks of the first ball of the two I gave him. I’ve been explaining to him he should not eat the balls, but I’m not sure he’s listening. I actually don’t know where the second ball went. I’m betting it’s outside in the big, soggy yard.

Yes, folks, it’s raining again. Thunder. Lightning. Pouring rain. Duke isn’t exactly afraid of the thunder, but he definitely doesn’t want to go hang with it in the yard. I’ve had dogs crazy enough to race into the yard to bark down the storms.

Waiting for Duke

Bonnie hates the rain, but she loves sitting at the window and watching the wind and the weather. Gibbs isn’t afraid of storms, either. He doesn’t hide from thunder. Fireworks don’t bother any of them which is good since we have a shooting club just down the road. You can hear guns often … and they hunt these woods in the fall. Personally, I wish they were further away when they shoot, but at least it doesn’t make the dogs crazy.

Duke is making us younger, or at least, making us act younger. Garry has been crawling around the floor regularly. Retrieving balls, and toys. Grabbing sticks and the pieces of rocks Duke has dragged in. I was out in the yard yesterday and wondering how he got so many twigs piled up like that. There are no trees in the yard. Where did they come from? Wind? Or has he collected them from wherever he could find them in the yard?

Wherever they came from, he has made a nice pile of them in the approximate center of the property. It’s possible the sticks are his sheep and he is keeping them corralled.

Words from a wise old Scottie?

Duke is 15-months old, at the peak of adolescent dog lunacy. Soon, he will begin to level off. Meanwhile, he is funny, sweet, and smart. Alert to every movement. He watches your hands, watches your eyes. Except, like now, when having chased his ball around the living room, he’s sacked out.

And I’m pretty sure he’s working on computer literacy. Tune in. He’s readying his Facebook page.