All right; we’ve had the 411 on the old guys – if you knew them, you probably got what you needed, if you didn’t know them, you wouldn’t care. Consider this more of same.

loki

Loki

Loki came to us through one of our first friends in New Mexico. Her teenage daughter had given him to her teenage boyfriend as a kindhearted but ill-conceived gift and it worked out as it probably often does – the boy’s parents told him to get rid of it or they would. We’d met the puppy several times and found him adorable and we took him in without hesitation. It was pretty win-win.

A charming, cute puppy, he’d share a dog pillow with his older buddy Watson and chase his surrogate mother Sheba around. They were told he was a Rottweiler mix, but he looks like some special pureblood Shepherd more than anything now that he’s grown. (Part of his charm, to be honest. Watson was a coarse haired, robust Shepherd Rottweiler mix with black and tan colors, so we had a soft spot for animals factory-configured the same way.) He’s grown into a good looking dude.

When we did the math, it was possible that he’d been taken from his mother too early, and that may have caused some behavioral problems later. He’s been reliably edgy around strangers,and when he first became an adult, he horrifically attacked Watson and in all likelihood shortened his life.

We took him to a dog behavioralist we were recommended shortly after the big attack. The doctor confirmed that he was wired a little funny, and his natural urge to be the alfa (younger, bigger, stronger, healthier) was fighting with his nervousness about it and it would build up until he lashed out. He gave us some techniques to help him feel more confident, and slowly but surely they have made a big improvement. The behavioralist was clear that it was very unlikely that it was most likely genetic and not the result of something anyone had done to him. He’s always been great with kids and with the other dogs, and as tempting as it was a couple of times to put him to sleep or rehome him, he has turned out to be a good dog and gets better all the time. I’ve let go of blaming him for Watson’s passing – Watson was on this earth for 15 good years. And I’ve learned a lot about fighting the temptation to assign human motivations to canine behavior. His attack on Watson was very hard on me, and it’s probably going to take me the rest of our time together to get completely over it, but letting go of things is far more transformative than we can know until we actually try it. As much as I hate things that provide me with “experience” or “opportunities for growth,” the experience of living with him has given me opportunities for growth. There. You made me say it.

So he’s got a that tough exterior and a pretty tender soul. He’s quietly affectionate, bordering on needy at times, and his edgy nature means he knows where every single living being in the house is at once at all times. Even if there are 20 people visiting.

molly

Molly

Anyway, Molly showed up a little over a year ago during the last ugly snowstorm of the season. My wife was out and about in the snowy, nearly zero degree  when she noticed a pickup rapidly driving down a side street with a dog chasing. She pulled over and tried to get the dog’s attention, but it was a little timid. Knowing there wasn’t much she could do to get the dog to come to her if it wasn’t interested, she walked back to our truck, and by the time she’d hopped back in the dog was waiting next to it to join her. Apparently, someone had figured that after sunset on one of the coldest days of the year during a snowstorm was a pretty good time to just release a six month old dog out into the wild. “Someone will come along and help her, it’ll be fine.” People…

When she got home, we introduced her to Loki first because the old dogs were going to more or less fine, and they played instantly. (Without any real pause for basically a whole year.) While it’s anyone’s guess what kind of mix she is, I see pit bull and boxer. She’s amazingly athletic and has remarkable energy. Every once in a while she’ll slip out the front door and lead us on a chase, but besides that and occasional protective barking outside, she’s a joy. She’s tough looking from whatever melange of breeds she happens to be, but there’s not a mean bone in her body. (She might hurt people from time to time by stepping on their feet or headbutting them though.) She mouths; if you walk down the hallway, she’ll walk right next to you and put your hand in her mouth. It’s not painful and it’s not aggressive, but it can be startling to guests who aren’t used to being around dogs. We work with her on the little things and there are no big things. She’s very affectionate and very sensitive – if you actually yell at her, she’ll hide from you outside for a while. She’s gifted a finding the single most uncomfortable position for you on the bed, like on top of your legs or where she bends your spine just half a centimeter, but it’s THAT half centimeter. Other than wrecking little stuffed toys that she’s not supposed to have, i.e. my daughter’s, she’s never done anything. She figured out the dog door instantly, no accidents, no nothing. I really enjoy having her around.

Lupé

Lupé

Guadalupe, or mostly just Lupé, is a chihuahua. She’s the first small dog I’ve ever lived with. She’s the closest thing to a purebred I’ve ever owned. (We think she’s the real deal, but I don’t care enough about it to do anything to find out.)

I was surfing craigslist as I often to to clear the cobwebs out while I’m between tasks for work, and she was being offered for rehoming because a young family had discovered one of their kids was allergic. We met under suspicious circumstances in a supermarket parking lot and they basically handed her off. My wife was there (I keep saying “my wife” not to be objectifying or something, but I’m trying to pretend to be anonymous and smart with my privacy and all that) and asked some good questions. Lupé is evidently 2-3 years old and she’s lived more than  a couple other places. She’s probably had pups at some point. (“She’s got TITTIES,” as one nurse friend pointed out.) We never found out if she’d had shots or anything, we just redid everything with our vet to be safe. She started out kind of timid with us, and she didn’t completely get the Go Outside To Do Your Business thing for a while. Not like constant incontinence as with Watson, more like “I don’t feel like going out in the cold so, sssssssss. There, done.” It was probably not helped by having old Watson having constant accidents in the house to mark on top of, and unless we forget to open the dog door after a storm or something she’s self-corrected and bats 1000 these days.

She’s awesome. She’s funny and sort of smart and mostly good natured. She’s less yippy and protective than the chihuahua you’re thinking of. (The vet said, “Wow… is she always like this? This is a great chihuahua.”) Where a big dog can run three steps without turning or slowing down in our house, she can run full speed. She leaps up the 2 steps from our bedroom like Superman. If a weird noise happens, i.e. a loud and unexpected fart or a buzz from a musical instrument, she barks at it. She looks like a fruit bat when she eats. She’s super affectionate and always ready to play and always happy to see you and she embodies the un-cautious exuberance that makes me love canines.

It’s a lot like having another real dog. It’s also a little like having a cat. It’s also weird, like her brain is so small that she can forget things after 5 minutes and she’ll end up barking at me when I come out of the shower because she forgot I was home. But once she realizes who I am she’s happy to see me again.

the crew

the crew

She plays full force with the big dogs – she’s 10 pounds or so, Molly’s in the neighborhood of 40, and Loki’s coming up on 80 pounds. The big dogs don’t play full force with her, and they’re very good at modulating. Like the two bigger dogs can be playing tug of war fully intent on dislocating the jaws of the other dog. Lupé will jump in the middle, and they’ll dial it back from 10 to maybe 1 or 2. Still sincerely playing, but at the right pace so the little one can be involved.

The way they all work it out is impressive, and she only gets hurt when one of the others joyfully steamrollers her, never from paw or or teeth. If it gets a little carried away, she has a special Yip, it’s kind of like dog “tapping out” and they just reset. And she’s so small that every room provides 25 places she can take refuge if she needs a time out.

(Old Watson accidentally toppled on her the first day she was with us, it was a thing he just did toward the end, and she’s had a little limp ever since. It’s kind of sad to think about since Watson was such a good-natured dude and would never harm her on purpose, but it doesn’t actually seem to bother her. Plus it’s kind of gangsta.)

They are all friends and they sleep on top of each other and don’t fight over food. When little Lupé, now spayed or neutered – never remember which is which – humps Molly, Molly just relaxes and enjoys the little energetic back massage. They’re better friends with each other than our previous crew ever was, and it’s funny and charming and awesome. It’s about as different a group as you could pick in most ways, and when I see how well the balance works I’m pretty sure we’re not going to take in another dog because it would be so easy to screw it all up. They come in and check on my during the week while I’m working; Lupé just rarely these days, once she seeks out a sunny spot, she’ll stick there unless she wants to stomp through the wires and boxes on my floor to look for wayward food crumbs or plastic bottle caps to chew on. Loki will quietly settle behind me and I won’t even know he’s there until I get up to get some tea and he’s getting up at the same time and leading me to the door. Molly will burst into my room Kramer style every once in a while and nudge me with her wet dog nose and then disappear just a quickly once she got what she came for.

It’s a little sad because all old Watson wanted from his companions was to play and to be friends, and as well as they all got along, he never had that kind of thing with his crew. He would have loved this.

As different as they are from the last batch, there are also a ton of parallels; Loki’s the alpha but he’s mostly hands off like Watson was. And he’s a big, daunting shepherdy dude with some genuine herding behaviors. And he’s the one who keeps an eye on visitors, and he’s the one who hates it when one part of a group runs ahead while we’re hiking or something.

Lupé is the second oldest, like Ruby, and she’s got exactly same coloring and more than a few of the same behaviors. She’s real girl, and truly lovey to just a few people.

And Molly is our scrappy junkyardish dog like Sheba was; Betty Davis eyes like Sheba had, and more of a dog’s dog than the other 2 put together, also like Sheba. No illusions about being a person with her, with the farts and barking and unrestrained dogxuberance. Rough around the edges with a heart of gold. The one that nobody looks at first, but the one that’s least likely to do anything aggressive or unkind.

Parallels.

It’s a good little team, and the more time they spend with each other and with us, the better they get. Nobody’s perfect, the people included, but man… dogs are pretty great.

For more dog photos, check this album.