Sunday, October 9, 2011

Canine Cousins

We are "watching" our grandsons while Rob and Mandy take a long weekend together.  They went to see a Pitt game (if you can call a 34 to 10 shellacking by Rutgers a game) in New Joisey. The boys more or less just take care of themselves with a few intermittent episodes of drama now and then but we enjoy spending time with them now that they're old enough to keep their sibling rivalry on a less than lethal level. Our real concern heading over here Thursday was how would the dogs behave together.  Lucy, the American Bulldog we inherited from Cathie (too big at 65 Lbs for her apartment complex) and the boisterous Coco, the Labradoodle, would be meeting for the first time. A close encounter of canine cousins.  Despite just being a few years old, Coco thinks she's a puppy. And a lapdog. I'm not sure what she weighs but it must be close to 40 Lbs or so and when she jumps up on you the inertia factor makes her a flying missile of 140 Lbs!  Lucy, at 10 years + is a little calmer.  She likes frequent naps, snores like a buzz saw, and had lived in the same house with two Dachshunds a few years ago but lacks exposure to dogs closer to her own size. I worried for days beforehand that Coco, beautiful, sweet, and always hyper Coco would drive Lucy nuts. Or worse yet, Lucy would react like a wild cornered beast with snapping jaws and drooling Cujo-like ferocity. We just didn't know but hoped for the best as we put together our game plan for introducing the furry four-legged cousins to each other.

We decided that Sandi should arrive first and let Coco get some of her exuberance out of her system before we shocked her with the arrival of another four-legged house guest. Coco has a greeting ritual she has patented that includes finding a gift for visitors (her choice of stuffed animals, pull toys, or anything handy), frantically whining her vocal joy with the "gift" clenched in her jaws, and a full aft body tail wag/prance routine that is charming but (we feared) waaaay over the top for quiet, sleepy, mild mannered Lucy. So get that out of her system and then bring in Lucy. That was the plan.

I followed a respectful few minutes later.  With preplanned efficiency we introduced them still tethered; Sandi in the family room restraining Coco from her ritualistic greeting and me holding Lucy with the short leash. I swear they sensed each other before I ever got Lucy out of the car. When I entered the hallway Lucy was snorting like a bull and I could see and hear Coco whining and straining to meet (or attack, I didn't know which) the 65 Lbs of quivering white fur whose all four legs were skating in place on tile surfaced foyer in a desperate attempt to meet (or attack, I didn't know which) as I held on for dear life. It was all Sandi could do to restrain Coco and it was all I could do to keep Lucy back from charging into the family room. I advanced with Lucy as slowly as I could keeping a watchful eye in both dogs for rabies induced foaming at the mouth that seemed to be the imminent next stage of this clash of the Titans. Neither Coco nor Lucy cared for this dangerous game. They both growled and whined and displayed obvious (to us, at least) distaste for each other. They both wanted to smell the other but neither wanted the other to smell them in the area where dogs like to sniff each other. Sensitive for their personal space, I suppose. But the good sign was that both of their tails were wagging. We took that to be an optimistic sign that they did not have homicidal intentions. But it still was a scene of jousting like thrusts at each other with growls and snapping jaws when either one tried to sniff at the other's tail. I was beginning to think that I was going to have to take Lucy home and leave Sandi and Coco behind because the two of them were never going to reconcile to each other.

We decided to see if they would behave better if unrestrained and outdoors. Sort of outdoors being the pool and pool deck area. If they were going to fight to the death, at least we'd have them in an enclosed arena with the screened pool area. Off with the leashes! Out to the pool! The two of them scrambled outside and immediately transformed themselves into model canine citizens. Lucy exploring. Coco watching. Lucy following Coco. Coco following Lucy. They were actually playing together! And when they got bored or tired they were tolerating each other.  And eventually they were ignoring each other. Except when one got a treat (going outside to relieve themselves is rewarded with a treat) the other made sure they got one too. Same with affection. They both like their chins scratched. They both like their bellies rubbed. They both like to go for walks. The only thing they don't like is for the other to sniff around their butt. But a growl and display of fangs seems to discourage this act quickly and surely. Seems to be a no no, even for canine cousins.