Monday, May 3, 2010

Dog fights

Take one household, three humans, two dogs and add a single extra canine to the mix, and what do you get? A war zone. A canine war zone, I should clarify.  With lots of running and dodging, yelping, growling and hairs raised on the back of necks.  Oh, and sniffing. An unbelievable amount of sniffing--of food dishes, kennels, leashes, not to mention unmentionables.  Lots of sniffing of unmentionables.

Last night some friends for whom E regularly used to house/dog-sit when they lived here in our 'ham, called her.  They were driving back this direction from Arizona where they've wintered, on their way to Alaska where they intend to summer, with a week or two sojourn here to reconnect with many friends.  They'd just discovered that the guest unit at the condo-complex where they intended to stay didn't allow dogs.  They were a day away, dog in tow, and no place to house poor Lacy.  Hence the call to us.

We said yes, of course.  Lacy isn't the first dog we've cared for, of course.  Why our 'Big Lug', Jackson himself was once simply a puppy we were simply caring for.  Hmm, these folks better watch out, this Lacy is a pretty sweet dog.  (Just kidding.  Seriously, just kidding!).  But we've swapped dog-sitting with many friends who shared breeds with us, and just taken them even when there was no sharing involved.  We like dogs.  I like dogs.  I'm downright dog-crazy, frankly.

But we have an old dog here.  An old dog who likes his routine, likes to be in charge, knows he's the Alpha.  The smaller black and white mate knows it as well.  Our smaller (50 lbs is small to us!) Jamaica is scared silly of every dog, no matter what size--except Jackson.  Him, she'll beat up, pounce on, bat at like she's a cat because she knows him and he's patient with her.  But I'm not even sure she understands that other dogs are the same species as she and Jackson are.  Our Maica, she has a very small brain.

Hence, the dog fight.  Even when the interloper is as sweet and good natured as Lacy.  As willing to give way to Jackson, as willing to overlook Maica's fears.  She didn't ask to be left here.  She didn't try to infringe on their turf.  But Jackson doesn't care about her motives.  He could care less that she's feeling unsettled by being left with a bunch of strangers.  All he knows is that she's sitting next to Beve where he usually sits.  That's enough to make the Big Lug growl.  And Maica doesn't understand that Lacy isn't going to bite her ear, that Lacy is actually less a menace tonight than Jackson.  Maica doesn't like strange dogs. The end.

I wonder how often we get into situations and react like these dogs.  Growl or bark in panic without stopping to find out if there's really anything to worry about.  We assume we know how something will go because there's a stranger among us and that changes the dynamic, when, perhaps, that stranger might bring something good out in us that we didn't know was there.  Perhaps, perhaps we're entertaining angels unaware more often than we think, but we're so busy reacting based on former experiences--or our own small-mindedness--that we completely utterly miss them.

I'm not saying we're no better than these dogs, but if the hair rises on the back of the neck, and the bark fits...well, maybe there's a reason human battles are sometimes called dog fights.

At the moment there's an end to the hostility.  A ceasefire, so to speak.  Different than peace, but at least quiet for us humans.  And for that, we humans are thankful.

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