Long-time members of The Readership know that I have a sweet, adorable, weird little dog named Oscar. Actually, not everyone is convinced he is a dog, although no one is quite sure how else to classify him. Cat is often suggested, but never entirely confirmed. Paul, on the other hand, has a most doggy of dogs, as well as a moderately doggy cat, and a tank full of assorted fish. As far as we know, none of those are overly doggy, although lately the catfish has been racing hectically around its hexagonal enclosure. Whatever that means.
Already on our second date, in spite of the fact that at the time neither my Paul nor I were all that impressed with each other (another story for maybe another time), we introduced our dogs. Oscar, who has come a long way since his rescue days but still intimidates easily, was moderately overwhelmed by Shemp, but it didn’t take very long for them to achieve at first a tolerance of each other, and then a sort of brotherly buddy-ness.
The two dogs stayed with Mom-Elizabeth and her family during the honeymoon, but it took Oscar maybe a week after that to realise we weren’t going to sleep somewhere else at night, and that he and the large dog who sometimes like to chomp on his head were finally and truly and irretrievably part of the same pack. After that, both dogs seemed to settle quite well together. Take the bone, for example. Shemp has a nylon bone, but both dogs love it. They try to trick each other out of it, and yesterday I promise they were silently negotiating over whose turn it was to gnaw on it, but they never fight over it. Oscar will make odd little annoyed “Furby” noises when Shemp tries chomping on him instead, but mostly they get along swimmingly. (Shemp’s the swimmer. But Oscar learned to cross a stream and not be afraid of getting wet on a hike last autumn.)
The dogs’ interactions with the two humans in the pack, however, seem to take on a different dynamic every week. Here’s the thing. There’s no question that we’re a happy little dog-and-people family, but there’s also no question that Paul still prefers his dog, and I still prefer mine. Shemp is big and smelly and in-your-face, and Oscar’s little and quirky and passive-aggressive, and . . . what? Did you just say that thing about owners being like their dogs? Now now, The Readership. Let’s not get cheeky.
Up until approximately today, the dogs seemed to share these affinities. You might have noticed, however, that I said up until today. Today, instead of the two of them waggling around at the bottom of the stairs to meet me as I descended in the morning, Oscar barely restraining himself from bounding up (upstairs is one of his favourite things, but it is not permitted for dogs in this house–so sometimes I still
bring him to work with me so he can run stairs)–well, today, it was only Shemp. Oscar was reclining on the couch, looking up with interest as I appeared, but making no effort to greet me. On the other hand, when Paul went into the bathroom to get ready for work, Oscar trotted over there, lay down in front of the door, and waited for him to come out. When he did, Oscar pranced around him and wagged his tail.
“What’s he doing?” I asked, feeling a little uneasy about this change in behaviour.
“I don’t know,” said my Paul, puzzled. “He keeps following me around.” Well that was a shame. I had been hoping I was just paranoid and making it up.
Then I got out of the shower and Shemp was outside the bathroom, waiting for me. I thought I might have been sensing a theme here.
Maybe it’s that Paul is clearly and evidently the Pack Leader here, and Shemp’s looking for a softer touch and Oscar’s looking for a firmer one. Maybe they’re just trying it out. I don’t know. For the first part of this evening, Oscar was lying on the floor at the Paul-and-Daughter end of the couch, and Shemp was trying to fit all 90 pounds of himself on my feet. Now Shemp’s in his bed. Oscar’s at my end of the floor–but still the floor, and not the couch, snuggled up against my right hip as usual.
The main thing though, is that they’re bonding, these two funny, different dogs. Probably tomorrow will bring some other little tweak in behaviour. But mostly I think it just means they’re in league. Which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.