It’s hard to believe our dogs came from the same home. Bobbie Sue is a rebel with claws; Pete is obedient, even cowering at times. Bobbie Sue is sometimes a runner, slipping out to explore the Great Front Yard when we open the door to a neighbor, or a Girl Scout, or the FedEx man. Pete never wanders far. If autism were contagious, I’d say they were on the spectrum. Bobbie Sue displays the hyperactivity Cowboy displayed in his younger years, and Pete has fears that seem irrational to observers.
On the farm where our dogs were born, Pete was the great white-haired hunter. He’d trot back to the porch with dead rats and look up at the nearest human for approval. Here in the suburbs, our back porch is his toilet; he won’t let the dew-covered grass touch his tushy, and won’t walk in tall grass. He has been citified. When Bobbie Sue spots a squirrel in the backyard through our picture window, a blur of brown flashes across the living room as she flies through the doggie door. Following her lead is Pete, looking as if he has no idea why he is sprinting after her. Once upon a time, they both fetched. Now it’s a spectator sport for Pete. He should get an Oscar for his performance before we bought him.
Because Bobbie Sue was our first dog, she was the alpha, growling every time Pete came near me. “Cut the umbilical cord, already,” Flash still says as Bobbie Sue follows me to the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedroom, etc. A clear case of separation anxiety.
But over time, Pete became more assertive; the time came to play his “man card.” He growled, barked, and wrestled for a spot by Mama. Now, like an old married couple, Pete and Bobbie Sue have found a peaceful balance. They have “settled in.”
In spite of aging, they still act like puppies. As Pete bounces from the couch to the loveseat and back again, he looks like a bucking bronco. And regardless of who comes through the door, including us, both dogs bark ecstatically for 10 minutes, minimum. Every time. Even if I go out to the garage for 10 minutes and then walk back in. It’s a celebration every time a door, interior or exterior, opens.
When first-time visitors enter, and the bark-fest begins, they ask, “Is it just me they do this with?’
“WHAT?” I have to scream over the clamor.
“IS IT JUST ME?!”
“No, they do it with everyone.” The visitor of the day looks deflated knowing she is just another pretty face. Living life out loud, our pets are attention hogs and use every opportunity to take center stage. I used to train them. I watched Dog Whisperer videos and worked with them regularly. To my credit, they sit and dance on command, but that’s as far as it went. Somehow, they trained me to not care so much.
“We need to train them to not bark and not jump on people,” Flash advised.
“They’re dogs; they bark. Let’s train you to not talk and see how you like that.” I know he’s thinking the same about me at the moment.
“They need to stop barking when someone comes in.”
“If it’s a stranger, they need to bark. I guess we could have a stack of name tags by the front door for people to fill out with “Friend” or “Foe,” so the dogs will act accordingly. I appreciate their barking when someone is out on the sidewalk before I have a clue anyone is nearby.”
What I don’t appreciate is their pickiness regarding cuisine.
I had, once again, forgotten dog food on my trip to Walmart earlier in the week. I was tired, so I stopped by a convenience store. I usually buy the gluten-free, preservative-free stuff. That being unavailable, I got something less expensive, but the picture on the bag looked tasty. When I got home, I filled their bowl to the brim. “Hey guys, I got a new flavor for you,” I called in my sing-song voice.
They glanced over at dinner, then went on about their business. I assumed they’d have some the next morning. As the next evening rolled around, the bowl was still full.
“At least give it a try. You might like it.” It was motherhood all over again, this time with a little bone meal included. “Don’t be brats.”
Still nothing. I’d seen Bobbie Sue turn her nose up at crunchy snacks, but never had I seen Pete have a discerning palate. This was a protest; they were making a statement, waiting to see which one of us would give in first. Bobbie Sue trotted into the living room holding a “Where’s the Beef?” picket sign. Pete started salivating as he dragged himself across the living room floor by his front paws.
I borrowed a cup of dog food from my neighbor to conduct an experiment. Maybe our dogs were not hungry yet. Maybe they weren’t feeling well, and it wouldn’t matter what brand of delicacies lay before them. I emptied out the rejected food and gave them the neighbor’s food. In 30.8 seconds, the bowl was licked clean.
Observing, Flash commented, “Yeah, that stuff you bought the other day smells bad.”
“What do you mean, it smells bad? It’s dog food, not Chef Emeril’s latest creation.” I stuck my head in the bag. Bam! He was right; it smelled synthetic.
The next morning I went to the store to buy their usual brand, hoping to get back in their good graces. Unfortunately, I decided to treat them to a new kind of grain-free food. Apparently, healthy kibbles are not all created equal; after I filled their bowl with the new food, it remained untouched for hours. Another boycott had been staged. Finally, I caught Pete woofing some down in a moment of weakness. But Bobbie Sue was in it for the long haul; she’s hard core. I wasn’t budging. It was man versus beast, and eventually she caved. I realize I won that battle only because Bobbie Sue cannot drive herself to the store. Yet.
With their tummies full, they returned to their busy day of lounging on the couch.
I have no idea who first said “Let sleeping dogs lie,” but “Let” implies that we can control whether they are in the prone position. As if we have some kind of power to influence their lethargic behavior. Before our dogs came to live with us, they were Greyhounds – running like the wind, strong and energetic, thriving. Now they’ve morphed into two fur balls who make sloths look like poster animals for ADHD. The only time they wake up abruptly is when they hear the pantry door being opened, the place we keep their treats.
I often ask them (yes, the dogs), “What do you have to be tired about? What did you do all day?”
“They walked from the bedroom to the couch to the bedroom,” Flash replies. “They ate. They drank some water. They went to the bathroom. They looked out the window. Then they had to rest again.” He’s always answering for them.
During one of Cowboy’s illnesses, he and I spent 10 consecutive days at home. Cowboy didn’t want to watch TV, didn’t want to read, didn’t want to draw, sometimes wanted to sleep. Mostly, he wanted to simply “be.” Every once in a while, I would insist we do something before my posterior took on the shape of my designated couch cushion. But laziness begot laziness. The more we sat, the more we wanted to sit.
On Day 5 of being shut-ins, I heard a strange noise in the house during one of our nap times. “Shur-lunk, shur-lunk, shur-lunk” woke me from a wonderful dream about sleeping. It sounded as if it were on the bed with me. After 20 minutes or so, I realized I was hearing the fat cells multiplying in my body. Our workout room right down the hallway is open 24/7, free of charge. But, I reasoned as my son slept soundly, I need to spend time with Cowboy. It’s important to watch him take naps. Every day, I told myself, “I will exercise tomorrow.” And every day, I found a reason to conserve my energy.
As Flash came through the door from work on Day 10 of The Great Plague, Cowboy greeted him with a broad smile. “Oh, you are feeling much better, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Cowboy answered.
“You going back to school tomorrow?”
Lying on the couch like a basset hound high on bacon, I started whimpering for attention.
“Are you getting sick, now?” Flash asked as he patted me on the head.
“No, I’m exhausted. I can’t keep my eyes open.”
“What did you do all day?” Flash asked.
“I walked from the bedroom to the couch to the bedroom.”
He looked at me the way he looks at Bobbie Sue and Pete.
“Well, I ate too. And I drank some water. I went to the bathroom. I looked out the window. Then, I needed some rest from all of it, so I lay here waiting for you to get home and give me attention.” After I talked incessantly for 45 minutes, Flash brought me a cookie from the kitchen, probably to shut me up.
Somehow I mustered up the energy to make it to the bedroom. As Pete and Bobbie Sue followed close to my heels, I suddenly understood their daily activities, or the lack thereof. I appreciated their lifestyle. As I pulled out my phone to check Facebook and play Candy Crush, I knew I’d never see my dogs’ eyes again if iBark devices ever became available. You who are without laziness, cast the first doggie biscuit, echoed in my conscience.
The dogs and I are now one; I have morphed. The three of us drifted off to much-needed sleep yesterday evening, until we were awakened by the squeaking of the pantry door. We raced to the kitchen to see what kinds of post-nap treats lay in store for us before bedtime.