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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drip dry

We met our neighborhood nemesis on the last mile of a three-mile morning's walk in the Seattle mist. Benny is a calm, off-leash herding dog who acts like he could care less about us. Seeing him usually sends Bella - and then Spike - into a barking frenzy. Today, after I put a stop to the racket, I asked the couple for permission to officially introduce the dogs.

"Sure, but Benny doesn't like small dogs," said the owners. "We tell him little dogs are mean and vicious." (Which probably explains the vibes Bella is picking up.)

Small dogs often are poorly socialized by doting owners. It's easier to let a little dog get away with things. I know I'm tempted because mine are so darn cute. I remind myself that they need boundaries and live happier as dogs than people. A dog who knows what's expected is more readily accepted by people and dogs around them, too.

"Their people keep picking them up, and they never learn good manners," said the dog walkers. But they stopped, let the dogs sniff around Benny, and all was well. He ignored them and walked up to his owner with a patient and relaxed stance.

"Hope that's done it," we said as we walked away. We're tired of Bella yapping and straining on the leash when Benny comes into view. If I don't catch her early, she sets Spike off, too.

I wouldn't trust our dogs off-leash yet: when Bella first got here, she and Spike tried to attack other dogs. They've been very good lately, and even ignored a cat this morning to walk peacefully by when I said, "Leave it." But off-leash? wouldn't count on it at this point.

We got in the front door, where the dogs wait patiently for me to take off their dripping coats and dry their legs and tummies. No sense in wiping the grit onto our rugs (especially in a shoe-free house.) When they were clean, they sprinted their loop through the kitchen, DR, LR, family room, and hall until they were panting. With 20 minutes on the treadmill in the evenings, they've become fit and content. Bella eats almost as much as Spike most days.

Otherwise, it's been a few days of walking and normal life around here. I've kept my eye on Bella, and yes... she's the one who starts the fun. She'll jump Spike when he's not looking and run away. If he doesn't chase her or catch her right away, she'll do it over and over. And if he chooses a toy, he might as well just hand it over unless he's in the mood for tug-of-war.

Spike never retaliates or goes after her toy unless they are fetching and he knows there's food. He snaps up any treats she drops. He's quick and efficient, but she's getting faster and hardly gives up a thing!

"Mom, I think Bella is getting food-driven," remarked Jono. She's still fussier about the treats she works for than Spike, though. Spike: it's edible, it goes down the hatch.

The kids were over Sunday for lunch. Watching them play, my daughter-in-law remarked that I have the pair I hoped for, two dogs who play happily together and keep each other amused. So true. Good doggies!

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