I have been struck lately by the significance people attach to their animals. A couple of people in our writing groups penned moving essays regarding their dogs. It leads me to think about my animals.
We have two golden retrievers. The older, Emma, is the beautiful, dignified one, but a bit dim-witted. She likes to be petted, but she can only take this intimacy thing so far — she begins to look a bit anxious if you snuggle her too closely. Emma embodies the “good dog” archetype, but her shadow is revealed by the selective hearing she exhibits when she doesn’t want to do what you’re calling her to do.
Dado came along second. She was supposed to be a pure breed, but I think we were taken. She has got some kind of mutt mixed in. Dado is more aggressive than Emma in terms of her need for attention and affection. She pushes her nose against my hand insistently, trying to get my hand to scratch her. She doesn’t stop until I get annoyed and tell her to bug off. Dado has this oral fixation thing going on. When she first sees someone, she feels compelled to quick find something to hold in her mouth — stray socks are particularly good for this — as though greeting somebody without an object in her mouth were bad etiquette. She chews pencils. We have to de-stick her when she comes in the house or else she will chew the stick to little fragments on the living room rug.
Dado barks loudly whenever she hears a sound from outside, which generally triggers Emma to bark as well, sharing the responsibility of guarding the pack. I have, however, never seen either dog be hostile to anybody who actually comes into our house. They welcome all who enter with the wiggle-their-butts dance in absolute delight.can be away from the house all of five minutes and I always get the same goofy dance.
We have an electric fence around the perimeter of our property, so the dogs spend a lot of time outside. More people in our neighborhood know Emma and Dado than know us. When one of their friends stop by, Emma will stand still, barking the same loud bark over and over, refusing to be silent until the person comes across the property line to pet her. Dado will dance and wiggle her butt and find a stick to prance with. Shamelessly, she will roll over on her back and expose her belly to anybody willing to stroke it.
Emma and Dado used to wrestle a lot, which was pretty entertaining. Dado,Â the smaller and younger of the two dogs, would always initiate the wrestle mania episodes. It seemed to keep Emma young.
But then the kitten arrived last June. Moses is black and white and fluffly, with something of an attitude. Within a day or so, the kitten had established himself as the dominant animal in the house. Now Dado and Moses are the ones who do the wrestling, which is even more entertaining. Presumably Dado could do some serious harm to Moses if she really bit down, but she doesn’t. There is a sweetness to Dado that is endearing even as she can be annoying as heck. Dado puts up with the repeated assaults by Moses, who bites and claws Dado for all he’s worth. The fur on Dado serves her well; Moses’ teeth and claws don’t seem to ever actually hurt her. And since Dado’s motto in life is, “Give me attention — any kind of attention. Whatever you do, just don’t ignore me,” she likes having the cat chew on her. It’s nice for Moses to have Dado around when these moods overtake him and he just has to kick somebody’s butt. I guess its a male brain chemistry thing and explains why the world has so many wars.
Emma and Moses interact less. They will sniff each other now and then, but Emma doesn’t go for being bitten the way Dado does, and is quick to let Moses know this with a deep short growl which leads Moses to back off and go look for Dado. Moving objects are irresistable to Moses, so Emma’s wagging tail occasionally entices Moses to a round of shadow boxing.
Moses gives mixed messages about intimacy. He follows me around the house, often sitting right beside me as I type away on the computer. He endures a bit of petting, but doesn’t care a whole lot for being cradled in a person’s lap. He sleeps on our bed with us. Sometimes Moses will jump on our bed and start purring, which is generally a sign that he’s getting ready to bite me, in a loving sort of way. Otherwise I don’t hear much purring come out of Moses.
There is this clear sense in which the distinct personalities of the three animals contrast nicely, giving each one more definition. Geez, it would be pretty boring if all God’s creatures were all the same.