A Dog’s Love

Rufus’ only job is to love me. He thinks he has to protect the house from the mail carrier, the cat across the street, the leaf blowing down the sidewalk, and anyone who happens to walk past our door… those who have the audacity to knock must die of course, and if it weren’t for me foiling his plans, goodness knows how many notches he would have on his belt by now. But in reality, his only job is to love me, and he does it very well. The below is evidence of this.

I’m not sure whether I should feel guilty for leaving him out in the cold, as it were, impressed with his staying power (he apparently stayed this way for 30 minutes), or comforted at the idea that someone loves me so unconditionally that they would willingly stand guard awaiting my return from the bath.

Rufus the Invincible

Distractions

Admittedly, I do most of my best writing while lazing in bed with a cup of coffee on the side table and a Midsomer Murders marathon flowing on the tube. But this office of sorts does come with distractions, as even the best of work stations do. Mine just happens to be four-legged, furry, and impossibly cute. So if I miss a day or two or three of blogging, it’s likely because some little someone has decided I have better things to do during my allotted “me” time. And if I’m being honest here, a rousing game of “who stole my sock!?” or a walk in the cool night air is not always an unwelcome interruption. What can I say? I’m a sucker for adoring brown eyes.

 

 

Guilty Feelings

This is a Cracked graphic after all, so I’m not sure how serious it’s meant to be.  All I know is, serious or not, it’s complete malarkey, to put it nicely.  I read another article recently, this one on the more serious side, that stated dogs don’t feel and/or show guilt.  I had an animal behaviorist friend years ago tell me that as well.  Pfft.  Please.

I’ve had dogs all of my life and every one of them had a wide range of emotions, guilt and knowledge of wrong doing being strong among those states of mind. Every. Single. One.  I’m sure other dog owners would agree.

Right now I have two dogs and two cats. The cats I’ll get to in a minute. As for the dogs – if one of them does something wrong, even when I’m not around, I know it immediately upon my return. They give themselves up by their behavior alone. It could be minutes after the actual event, it could be hours. But they know whatever rule they broke in my absence is going to get them “the look” no one likes or get them the disappointed “talking to” they like even less. Even the non-offender knows a rule was broken and keeps away from the rule-breaker in case any guilt by association should rub off. Even the dimmest bulb in the pack is self-aware.

Normally, I’m greeted at the door as if I’ve been gone on safari for two months and everyone was concerned as to where their next meal or snuggle was coming from and they’re just terribly thankful I somehow found my way home to them to take care of their every need.  This is on a good day. Which is most days. But on the off day that I come home to a mutilated treat bag or a mess left for me that I’d rather not have left for me, one dog is simply gone, which she never is. She’s nothing if not underfoot. Until someone, whether it’s her or another, has done a dastardly deed. Then she’s under the bed. She’s under the covers. She’s under anything in order to hide away from any association whatsoever with said mess. The other one, while he stays out to greet me because, well, because he loves me and can’t help himself, he’s not his normal bouncy self.  You see, he’s a tattler.  Even if it’s on himself.  He lets me know a mess has been made, where it is, and if he could talk, I have no doubt he’d spill the beans on just who made it.

So, yeah.  Dogs have memory (duh). They have guilt. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.

As for cats.  Not so much.  Oh, they have memory. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.  They just don’t care.  And that would be because they’re jerks. Now, my cats have rules, just like the dogs do and I started training them early. For instance, they’re not allowed on the counters or the tables. They follow this rule religiously…well one does anyway. The other does when I’m around. But I’m not naïve enough to believe the ne’er-do-well follows it when I’m not around. I’m not an idiot. I know my cats. Did I mention they’re jerks? They’re also not overly bright. Which is good for me. For instance, the worst behaved of the two, Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well, aka the evil one), doesn’t realize that sound travels. So while I might not see her on the counter, I certainly hear her jump down as she notices I’m walking into the room (because she is smart enough to know not to be caught red-pawed in the “no cat zone”). But does almost getting caught bother her at all? Nope. She saunters off like nothing happened without a care in the world.

Holly (again with Holly) also likes freeze-dried dog treats. If I have a dim moment and leave them out on the counter instead of putting them away, she will steal them and tear into the bag and eat them all.  Or at least try. Sometimes she fails if the force field of plastic is very strong. Sometimes the treats just end up smooshed to powder thanks to her destructive tendencies. When caught it’s because, again, sound travels, and since the house is small it’s easily determined that someone is desperately trying to break into a bag of treats. Does she care? No. She’s not on the counter now. Now she’s on the floor. So in her mind no rules are being broken. The bag of treats is irrelevant. And really, she simply cannot be bothered with feeling badly about her behavior.  So she just gets up and slowly walks away in a very condescending way. That’s called being a jerk. I think I mentioned that before.  This is the same cat that steals my spot on the bed whenever I get up.  Even though she’s not supposed to be in my spot or touch my things, like my table. Oh, she immediately gets up when I return, and goes back to her designated area of the bed…but with nary a guilt-ridden or remorseful look backwards.

Life with my pets in some ways mirrors having raised my kids. There are way more bodily functions than I have ever wanted to contend with in my lifetime. Attitudes are similar. And I’m constantly trying to figure out who the hell did what with about as much success.

 

dogs' memory

Doggy Warfare (Or, the Great French Fry Battle)

So I’m fostering a Chihuahua that comes from an abusive home. She’s the sweetest dog. My Rufus kinda likes her. Enough to let her live in the house anyway. Petra’s older than he is and submissive because of her past and I’m sure that has helped him to accept her. She’s not all in his face like a puppy would be.

I’m a sucker for animals. No spoiler alert here. This is a well-known fact. I have a menagerie of four-legged creatures prancing through my house at all hours. I’ve been bringing home strays since I was in kindergarten and it hasn’t stopped since I’ve gotten older. If anything it’s gotten worse since I’ve started paying my own way in the world.

Petra is the last for a while though – I won’t foster any more after her. My new place is just too small.  She’s very sweet and thankfully gets along well with Rufus, the current master of the doggy domain. They’re not BFFs or anything, but they don’t snarl at each other either which is good enough for me. My pets, all rescues, tend to run the house more than I do. Unsurprisingly my love for animals (a.k.a. “pushover-ness“) is a trait that my daughter, Sarah, is also afflicted with. Whether it’s hereditary through an active “can’t say no to those cute eyes” gene or a learned behavior from yours truly we will never know. The point is, she’s got it, too.  Big time.  Not only is she the next generation of what we call ‘bringer home of strays,’ but she actively (and against house rules) spoils the ones we already have.

For instance, she likes to feed the dogs French fries. Yes, yes, I know about the health risks and blah blah blah.  I can almost hear their tiny little arteries slamming shut from the other side of the house, but it’s so hard not to let her feed them because they love them so much. How can we deprive these furry family members a little treat for protecting our house and warding off any evil mailmen?

We’re not quite sure what Petra went through before she got to us, but it’s obvious she was dragged through the gutter and is still a bit shell-shocked from it. When the opportunity comes to nab a free French fry she has no shame in gulping it down as quickly as possible. I mean, you just never know when the French fries might disappear. Sarah holds out a fry and Petra chomps for it so quickly she almost takes a few fingers with her (although in all honesty she’s missing a bunch of teeth so even if she did clamp down on Sarah’s hand it probably wouldn’t hurt). She’s a dog that knows that life isn’t one big living room rug to sprawl out and fall asleep on so you can’t really blame her.

The funny part is the effect it’s been having on Rufus. In pre-Petra times Rufus wouldn’t have touched a French fry if his life depended on it.  Chicken yes. Roast beef, hell yes. French fries?  Eh, not so much. Now, with this little Chihuahua competing for the leftovers, even those he doesn’t want, Rufus has had to step up his own game and show some spunk of his own lest he be dethroned by this overeager street dog.

I watch the games from the comfort of my chair. Sarah will start tossing French fries, one at a time, alternating between the two dogs. If you’re a dog owner then you can understand that dogs don’t quite understand the concept of waiting their turn. They both try to catch the fries in mid-air but with different motivations running through their heads. Petra, the scrappy newcomer, lunges because she wants it in her mouth as quickly as possible in case it disappears. Rufus, the old guard, springs up simply because he doesn’t want to share. More times than not they collide. Sometimes the fry bounces in the air off their noses for a few turns, sort of like a soccer ball being passed between players, as each dog jockeys for the ideal position to have it drop into their mouth. Other times, the fry falls to the floor which lets loose a melee of commotion as their paws slide along the wood floor, and what teeth they have (neither have many) click-clack crazily after their prize. They don’t fight. It never, ever gets mean. They just want that damned fry!

Sarah barely notices. She’s usually tossing the fries willy-nilly while reading or watching TV so the little spars are lost on her. To an outsider she probably looks a little like one of those old ladies in a park feeding bread to pigeons…if the pigeons were a frenzied sort of rabid, savage, Walking Dead kind of pigeons.