There is something in a dog’s gaze – the intense, eye-locking look – that gets me every time. It’s in that moment that I feel my dogs tell me everything. Amazing, really, considering that without even uttering a word (and yet, somehow, I expect them to open their mouths and talk at any moment) they are perfectly able to tell me how they feel, express their wants and greatest needs. This simple yet supremely powerful gaze makes me want to protect them, love them and give them everything.
So, yes, I am totally guilty of humanizing my dogs. I admit it. But here’s the thing: maybe we aren’t that different from our pets after all. Our basic needs are the same. This weekend, as we invited our little 3lb houseguest, Cooper, into our home, I witnessed this phenomenon first hand. Cooper fell in love. For real.
Cooper (Coops, as we’ve started calling him), being the friendly little chap that he is, entered our home eager to make friends. The usual getting-to-know-you sniffing ensued and things were copasetic. But then, not surprisingly and as very commonly happens, Cooper started mounting Nellie as they played and bounced around. It was obvious that Nellie found it playful and was determined to carry on about her day with little Cooper latched onto her leg. It’s pretty fun and terribly sweet watching a 10lb dog walk around the house pretending that she doesn’t actually have a 3lb mini Yorkie growth on her bum.
Yet while none of this behavior is atypical and is actually quite common, the carefree dominance of Cooper’s activities morphed into pure infatuation for Nellie. He pined for her with very audible squeaks as he stared longingly stared at her while licking her all over. When Nellie got up, Cooper got up. When Nellie walked into the kitchen to have a drink of water, Cooper walked right behind her, gazing at her as she rehydrated herself. Nellie would return to bed and Cooper nuzzled up next to her, never losing sight of his new found love. Nellie was very content to absorb the infatuation, even revel in it.
Now the sun is going down, everybody has retreated to their individual beds and Cooper has given up his courtship for the day. It’s quite exhausting being in love after all! Tomorrow is a new day and little Coops must recharge his batteries for a new day of chasing – and winning over – his one and only.
We are approaching the first anniversary of the adoption of our second dog, Nellie, which has given me pause to reflect on our year with her and all the adjustments associated with getting a second dog. Despite our initial trepidation about getting #2, most especially how her presence would impact our very needy and attention hungry Bosworth, we are so lucky to have Nellie as part of our family. And, in the end, I think it’s Bosworth who is most happy to have her around; this fact alone makes finding Nellie a blessing.
Paul and I always pondered getting a second dog from the day we rescued Bosworth. Truthfully, the idea of bringing home another canine kid came from the fact that we quickly fell in love with Bosworth and wanted him to live forever. We thought a younger, spunky companion might help keep him young. Ok, ok, so Boz wasn’t exactly ancient when we rescued him….he was a mere 3 years old. But still!
See, when I was little, I witnessed my somewhat aging Lab, Indy, revived and revitalized by his younger sibling, Libby. The beginnings of their relationship was not what we expected; there was some avoidance, lots of indifference and as cute as Libby was, I worried that Indy thought we were replacing him. But eventually, the spunky Libby won her big bro over and added years to his life. The two pups would lay together, bodies intertwined, as Libby would nuzzle up next to him and Indy would rest his muzzle on her little body. There is definitely something to be said for the healthy affects companionship can have on a dog. And I wanted this for Bosworth.
But, nothing is that easy. Here’s the thing. Boz is quite needy. He loves affection and being doted on (you would honestly think he’s human, given how much he loves his 22lb self to be carried everywhere…. I’ve often been asked if we should invest in a baby bjorn for him). So, the question became: would sharing affection with a sibling make him happier or absolutely miserable? It could go either way. While a sibling positively affected Indy, how would it affect Bosworth? Unsure, but interested, we started looking for a companion….casually….and decided that IF we found the right one, we would know.
During our search, we were told that some dogs are actually happier and healthier being the only dog in the household and ruining this dynamic could be stressful for the #1 dog. Oh, Boy. Great. That was all I needed to hear. I was absolutely convinced that Boz was happier getting every ounce of love and affection from Paul and myself. He would despise a sibling. The search ended.
But things changed a couple years later when one of our clients emailed me a photo of Nellie. A 10lb female Rattie, a supermodel as the Shelter called her, Nellie was up for adoption at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Because she was so close, we figured we’d just go meet her. What was the harm? If nothing else, Boz would have fun (or not!) playing with a new pal for the afternoon. We loved her and Boz played with her. While Boz was a bit aloof towards her, we knew him well enough to know that he secretly loved being followed around. They had a special something. A connection. They pounced and played for a long time. It was decision time.
A couple days later, we concluded that Nellie was The One. The deciding factor was that Bosworth doesn’t often play with other dogs, but he played with Nellie. Although happy to walk alongside doggie pals, Boz is kind of a loner and pretty picky about who he engages in playtime. So, given that Boz and Nellie seemed to have the beginnings of a playful friendship, we took a chance and brought the supermodel home.
As with a lot of rescues, Nellie has plenty of issues (fear of people, loud noises, her toys and chews being stolen) all of which we work on every day. But, she absolutely lives for her brother and her doggie pals and is the queen of making doggie friends. What’s even better is that Bosworth adores her right back. It took many months to sort out who was boss but now they play constantly. They lick each other, sleep on top of one another and Boz is the Boss (which he finds totally cool…and Nellie is quite happy having a brother to look up to and follow around). They are a team. They respect and love and play with one another. They are better dogs for having each other.
We must thank the Center for Shelter Dogs at The Animal Rescue League of Boston and to Dr. Sheila D’Arpino, Behaviorist Extraordinaire! And we owe a HUGE thank you to our very special clients and friends, Monica and Justin Roy (and their Tuckered Mutts, Maia and Charlie) because without them, this adoption wouldn’t have happened. Thank you for sending us that first picture of our Nellie and bringing Boz a lifelong companion and playmate.
While you will never know how your #1 dog will fair when introducing a second dog, my vote is to give it a shot. Test it out. Because even though it may not work out, the mere chance of having dogs as happy as mine are makes the risk worth it.
For me, one of the most difficult experiences to go through in life is losing a beloved pet. Since I’ve had a dog my entire life, that means I’ve lost a lot of best friends. And although some people say that going through tough experiences only makes you stronger, or the more times you experience tragedy the easier it gets….losing a pet never, ever gets easier for me. If it were up to me, all my canine companions would live FOREVER; I would never have to say goodbye to any of them. As a child, I relied on my parents to make the death of my dogs less painful and more explicable but despite their efforts, the pain of my loss stuck with me for a very long time.
Now, as I play surrogate mom to lots of doggies during the day, I get to experience the circle of life first hand. I cuddle with the newest of puppies as they stumble around still learning to walk, and I support the seniors as they struggle to still use their limbs. I laugh at the adorable, helpless cuteness of the puppies and sometimes cry for the helpless seniors; in any given day, I experience an array of emotions that is as vast as the life stages for which I care.
Just this past week alone, I met Barley (OMG – CUTENESS!) and lost Jager, a 14 year old Dalmatian and my walking buddy for the past 2 years. As I begin to create a relationship with Barley (and her parents), I struggle with the sadness of saying goodbye to Jager and the pain I know her parents feel. Jager’s parents would say that she has been very patient in waiting for them to be ready to say goodbye. I would say that although this is probably the case, dogs are pretty amazing and resilient while waiting for us to be ready, I also want to honor her parents for being such wonderful, patient caregivers during Jager’s final months. It’s funny how I enter homes day in and day out, care and nurture the most treasured creatures, rarely seeing the parents. And yet, the relationships I establish with the owners are very special to me. Somehow, without ever seeing each other, we share experiences that forever bind us. As I sit here remembering Jager, I know her parents are doing the same. They reminded me that our relationship will never end as we have such wonderful memories of Jager in common.
Today, I celebrate Jager and all the family dogs I’ve loved and lost. I love you: Molly, Dubers, Libby, Indy, Twiggy, Emma and Blue.
One of our favorite things about our job as dog walkers is getting to know the different personalities of the dogs in our care. We love watching how each dog may react differently when presented with the same situation. Take the first meeting between 2 dogs, for example. For some dogs, the first getting-to-know-you butt sniff will progress into carefree pouncing and playing. And for others, an initial meeting can be stressful, full of indifference or aggression. This is a little story about how two different dogs, with very different personalities, eventually turned their initial indifference into a jovial friendship.
Meet our little adopted dog, Nellie (Nellie Belly, Nells Bells, The Stink – you should smell her breath! Why is it we develop so many monikers for our dogs?) Anyway….Nellie’s goal in life (besides hoarding and identifying all rawhides, tennis balls, cozy blankets as her’s) is to make friends. No joke. And it gives us such pleasure to watch her do what she does best: bring another dog out of his/her shell with a very respectful invitation to play. Here she is (ahem, protecting her beloved tennis ball):
But still, not all pups are inclined to instantly trust – let alone play with – every dog they meet. Now meet Maizey (aka: Crazy Maizey, when flashing her zombie-like eyes while honing in on her beloved treats, Maizey Moo, dunno how she got this nickname but she jumps around with pure joy when we say it so it’s stuck, Maizers and The Creepy Creeper – when stalking her squirrels). While Maizey has certainly had a couple of these instantaneous friendships (cousin Jersey and Daisy), she is generally not one to immediately befriend another dog. She is never aggressive but rather a bit indifferent to four-legged playmates (well, like we said, unless the four-legged creature has grey fur and taunts her while scurrying around eating nuts). Although she is as sweet and lovely as they come, Maizey would take a human buddy over a doggie pal any day (humans give treats, after all, and Maizey is no dummy).
Recently Nellie and Maizey reminded us that, like humans, dogs with different personalities can become playful friends. It may take time and persistence….and trust….but it can happen. Maizey and Nellie walked along side each other, almost every day, for 6 months, with little interaction and lots of indifference. Perhaps reading Maizey’s desire to walk without being bothered (too much squirrel stalking, grass sniffing and treat-begging to do!), Nellie rejected her usual need to make friends and instead walked alongside Maizey without much interaction…for 6 months. Then one day, after a particularly awesome stroll….it happened. They played. Nellie took a chance and Maizey engaged. And luckily, while trying hard not to laugh at the pure sweetness of it all, this interaction was captured on video. Watch how the initial stare down moves into the beginning stages of play (which ended up developing into a fun game of pouncing, leg-biting and bum-in-the-face….Nellie’s favorite move). We hope you enjoy the video!
Oh, the joys of walking in cold weather. Let me first address the fact that I am not a Husky and I don’t dream of frigid temperatures and sheets of ice coating the sidewalks. Let’s be honest, I’m a little Rat Terrier and although I like my exercise I would MUCH prefer to be cozy and enveloped in a down blanket during this time of year. But, despite my dreams of warmth in front of the forced hot air heating vent, my parents insist on taking me outside…..everyday…..for lots of exercise. Ugh.
Now, not only do I have to concentrate hard to navigate the luge that is my neighborhood, I also get to sport my ever-so-cool blue and white striped sweater with…you guessed it….red pom poms on it. Great. Just when I think I am gaining respect in my neighborhood as the cool dude, my parents put me in this get-up. And as if it couldn’t be worse, my lil’ sister, Nellie, wears the same one! Fabulous. Anyway…So, here I am, strolling around the ‘hood, lame sweater and all, marking as I go. Then I see it: A rose bush just over the fence, begging to be peed upon. Demonstrating my superior athleticism, I hop the fence with little effort and meander on over to my target. But then it happened. My STUPID sweater gets stuck on the thorns. Seriously? Playing it cool, I look around to make sure none of my doggie pals caught a glimpse of this embarrassing travesty while I waited for my Dad to pluck me free from the thorny bush.
A word of advice: mind yourself when walking in winter while sporting a chic sweater.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that says it all. It was a giant paw print surrounded by the words: “Who Rescued Who?” OK, so admittedly I can be a bit of an emotional basket-case sometimes but this saying moved me to tears. These words speak everything I think and feel about my little rescue, Bosworth. But really, owners of all dogs, rescues or not, can probably relate to the sentiment. I am a total dog nut (shall we say dog FREAK?) and my life is just not complete without a dog in it. Let me digress for a minute…..
Growing up, the family dog was always my best buddy. I think the thing I loved most about my four-legged siblings was the fact that they listened to me when nobody else would, and they loved me unconditionally and with everything they had. When I was small, and learning to read, I recited bedtime stories to Molly, my Irish Setter. I would pretend to be a famous fashion photographer and dress-up my Lab, Indy, in various embarassing outfits (embarrassing for my parents as my photo shoots often took place in the front yard for all to see). I used to sneak down stairs after bedtime just to watch my Black Labrador puppy, Libby, sleep because it filled me with a warmth and comfort that made all the day’s yuckyness (is that a word?) go away. My life growing up was infinitely better for having a dog in it.
Enter Bosworth. My happy memories of childhood dog ownership are enlivened with Bosworth. He is a magical creature, the most perfect companion (my husband might fight me on this), and a hilariously entertaining soul. He loves passionately, lives fully and plays emphatically. It’s because of Bosworth that I started Tuckered Mutts. There are tons of Bosworth’s out there and they all need love and care, just as he does. Dogs deserve the best we can give them. And as someone once said so perfectly: “your dog is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”
All my dogs, Molly, Dubers, Indy, Libby and now Bosworth totally rescued me and continue to rescue me everyday. And now, I get to rescue dozens of other dogs everyday, too. I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding job.