Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Single Dog

Zachary at 6.5 weeks
A few years ago, when a good friend of my was commenting on how much energy her large-breed had, I suggested she get another dog. Beau was a Single Dog from puppy hood until 4.5 years, and the addition of Zachary as a puppy at that time had really done a lot to calm the big dog down (or maybe he had sudden onset maturity. Hard to say.)

My friend replied that she would like to, but her hubby felt that the dogs would bond more with each other than with him - or the new dog would bond more with the old dog than with him (it's been a while.) But the upshot was that he would somehow be left out of the loop.

As our breeds, dogs, and families are very different, I shrugged and said perhaps and left it at that, but in my heart I knew that two was better than one and that our relationship (the dogs and I) was not adversely effected.

Now, having gone from two dogs back down to one (at least for a few weeks here) I can see that I was both right and wrong.

I believe I can say with 100% certainty that the addition of Zachary to the family did not have a negative impact on Beau, or his relationship with the two-legged family members.


My big dog remained my big dog, and while he definitely enjoyed the canine companionship, I'm doubt that he would have shown much (if any) change (ie: mourning or sense of loss) should Zachary have been taken first.

With Zachary, the story is more complex.

I freely admit that there were parts of Zachary's education and entertainment that we left fully to Beau. The big dog took on Bite Inhibition (those poor ears) and Wearing Out without a single complaint. Zachary clearly looked to Beau for companionship, guidance, and leadership in all things "doggie" - although it's interesting to note that Beau often seemed to lead from behind.

And Zachary was clearly distressed and confused when his friend and mentor vanished from his life, although he seems to have put that behind him now.

But there is more.

I've come to realize that there are a few things about Zachary that I don't know that I did know about Beau.

For example, I never knew that Zachary doesn't look you in the eyes "just because" - at least not directly. He'll do it if we are training it, and yes, that took a lot of work, but I guess I always thought that was because he didn't know what I wanted, not because he didn't want to do it.

Beau would stare at me with soft eyes, seemly because he just wanted to connect with me (and sometimes because he wanted a cookie from the cookie jar!)

I could get lost in those eyes, and often felt that they were windows to an old soul.

I also didn't realize that Zachary didn't see us as creatures that could be played with. He would play tug and fetch just fine - games done from a distance - but anything done up close or "in your face" clearly made him uncomfortable.

That's really not too surprising, as he and Beau played hours of bitey-face and we were happy to leave that to them. But when I saw that Zachary was missing that kind of interaction and tried to supply it, he was clearly uncomfortable.

Beau and I used to play like that Before Zachary - things like keep away, paw games, gentle shoulder shoving,... etc.

Thankfully, at least that has been easy to fix.

A few weeks ago I couldn't get a puppy fast enough. I felt Zachary needed companionship right away, and seeing him look so lost made a hard time even harder. Now, I'm glad we've had these few weeks to get to know one another a little better, and I'm going to make an effort to continue these one-on-one sessions with Zachary, and make sure I have them with little One-of-Ten as well.

Just two more weeks.

I can hardly wait!


katie, Maizey and Magnus said...

Admittedly it doesn't take much to bring on the tears right now, but this hits close to home. In just over 24 hours I can't believe the things I am noticing in myself as a one dog mom and in maizey as an only "child". I am still figuring it out and I know we are not meant to be a one dog house and she particularly a single dog, but I am so uncertain what direction to go. . .

Of course it is soon and doesn't all need figured out right now, but this gave me more to think about. (Thanks! . . . I think;))

As for the doggie lessons I just posted how our big girl was teaching our little girl right to the end, so fascinating and confirmation to me that we need another pup in our house!

Thanks for your thoughts and well wishes, can't wait to see how the contest turns out!

Sage said...

It's been 8 long months since our Maggie left us and it still brings tears to my eyes to think about her. Toby was lost without her, but bringing a puppy (Sage) into the household cheered him up immeasurably. He has taken on a new lease on life and has taught her lots of dog stuff.
I can't wait to meet the new puppy!