Sunday, March 16, 2014

Family dogs

My sweetie and I recently moved to Navasota, and with us came three dogs. We're a blended family--Lucy, the oldest, is his; Jazz, the smallest, is mine; and Riley, the fast-growing pup, is ours. Labrador, Shih-Tzu, and Springer.

Riley is rambunctious, rowdy, and the life of the party. He's 11 months old and leaps, like a jack rabbit or antelope, rather than runs. He love-bites Lucy, pounces on her like a kid bushwhacking an older sibling, and chases around the yard like a dust storm. Lucy is subdued and maternal, sort of like a menopausal mom. She's patient and will rough-house with Riley, tugging with a rawhide or squeaky toy, until she gets tired. When that happens, her growl will change from playful to a don't-mess-with-me tone, and Riley backs off.

Jazz, who was an only dog for six years and still hangs onto that notion, is stand-offish with the other dogs. She flops off by herself and watches the frolicking with tepid interest. She's used to being pampered, not pawed, and she sees no logic in pretending to like Riley's attention.

My sweetie fenced in the yard and put a wire kennel on the back porch for the dogs. Lucy and Riley pile together inside the kennel. There's plenty of room for Jazz, too, but she sleeps outside on the porch by the back door. What can I say? She does not share well; she wants her own space. My sweetie, who understands that every dog is as unique as its paw print, is building her something to fit.

When we leave the house for errands, I bribe the dogs with milk bones so they won't whimper and yowl. Lucy gobbles her treat in three bites. Riley takes longer, but he chomps it down pretty fast. Jazz, on the other hand, grabs her treat with her sharp little teeth and retreats under the picnic table. Like a princess having her own private tea party, she mouths the treat and takes tiny bites, making it last. Lucy will eat as many as you give her, but she won't steal from the others. Riley? Well, that's another matter. With his eyes averted, he takes the sand crab approach, walking sideways but moving closer to Jazz. Jazz isn't fooled though, and she growls around the treat that sticks out of her mouth like a slim cigarillo, letting Riley know that she'll take a piece of him before he will get a piece of her treat.

I sit in the backyard with them in the mornings while my sweetie does his man chores. Riley will pounce around the yard with a chewy bone in his mouth as a challenge to Lucy or Jazz. Sometimes Lucy will chase after him. If the chew bone drops and they continue to parry and play, Jazz will walk over, get it, and scoot back where I'm sitting in the shade of a Bartlett pear tree. She'll nestle between my feet and gnaw on the bone, confident that the other two will consider her off limits. Doesn't matter. Riley is more interested in having a good time than in chewing a gnarly old bone crusted with dirt. Lucy tires before Riley and drops in a cool bed of clover. Riley paws at her, trying to get her back in the game, but she ignores him. He gives up and bounces over to the fence to play sentry guard, checking the perimeter. The neighbor's cat, hidden in the monkey grass, is startled to its feet, and Riley howls. All three dogs are suddenly in hot pursuit, but the cat fires through the fence to safety.

My sweetie is a former police officer, so he's adamant about locking the house and securing the gates. He thinks there's an element out there in any community that, given the chance, will rob you blind, so he believes in canceling their chances. I'm more trusting, but my trust is in our dogs. They're sweet and loving and loyal. But I have no doubt, they'd eat you alive before they'd let you burglarize our home. They're territorial and protective. Just ask the cat.