How does your dog love you?

In moments of frustration with the dogs, there is always one thought that makes me slow down, pause, and smile. It is this: I think these animals really like ME.

And I think they like me because they express happiness in my presence and seek affection from me, even when food isn’t involved. This is why humans have always been coming back to dogs, I suppose (or how dogs became dogs in the first place): Dogs, perhaps more than any other animal, are drawn to people. And vice versa; we are an easily flattered species.

Weird dog
Pyrrha Louise.

I have never doubted Pyrrha’s love for me. She bonded intensely with me just a few weeks after we adopted her, this shy, terrified mess of a dog (and as a consequence, she has not really bonded with Guion at all; she still exhibits fear of him in certain moments). Pyrrha hid from me in corners of the house when we first brought her home, but gradually, she started to depend on me and then, to seek affection from me.

It is a special thing, to have a relationship with an animal who lights up when you enter the room. Some dogs (most golden retrievers I’ve ever met, for instance) do this with any person who is present, and so everyone feels good about themselves. But it is a different thing when you have a dog who only lights up for you, no one else. Generally speaking, Pyrrha’s attachment to me is a great weakness of hers; in my absence, she is never truly at ease (so say my husband and everyone who has ever watched her when I’m gone). But emotionally speaking, how can I not lap up this unconditional affection? How could I not reciprocate it?

Pyrrha is so gentle and sensitive; when she looks at me, I can’t help but assign more human emotions and thoughts to her. (Let’s be real, even the science-loving among us can’t resist the temptation to do this with our own dogs — at least to a degree.) I can just make eye contact with her from across the room and her tail wags. This doesn’t happen with anyone else. She likes to come up to me and bury her head in my chest and just stand there, immobile, soaking up the pets.

Portrait of a lady. #pyrrhagram

If we get a quiet moment on the sofa, Pyrrha will come sit next to me and put her head in my lap. This may not sound like a big deal to those of you with cuddly dogs, but this was HUGE when Pyrrha first did this. She does not enjoy being touched by people, and the day she first voluntarily put her head in my lap, I almost cried for joy.

In many ways, Pyrrha is a dog-shaped mirror of my own complicated, anxious self, and she’ll always be my first girl.

Baby girl
Eden Loretta!

And then we have Eden. Eden is more of a universalist with her love, which is one of the main reasons we adopted her. We wanted a puppy who thought everyone was a friend and ally, and we have that in Eden in spades. (She distinguishes herself as a shepherd, however, in that her family comes first, and she doesn’t think every single human being is her instant BFF).

We’ve had her for a little over a month, so I’m not sure if she’s necessarily bonded to us yet, but I feel like she does like us. She likes to hurtle her body at you when you walk in the door (something that we’re working on), and when she does manage to sit, her body is trembling in anticipation of human affection. When Eden is over-excited about greeting us in the morning, she likes to nip at our hair and clothes, which is not my favorite expression of love, and so we’re working on that too.

Guess she's allowed on the chairs. #ediebaby #germanshepherd

Eden isn’t much into tail wagging, at least for me. I think she might like Guion more, which is OK with me, because I already have 100% of the other dog’s affection. Guion gets ample tail wags when he comes home. Eden’s method of showing me that she cares are the quieter moments in the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, and she saunters into the bathroom and then leans up against my legs, or lays down and puts her sweet little head on my feet. How can you not pause and think, Surely, makeup can wait. Surely, this is why we keep these crazy animals around.

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! How do your dogs seek affection from you? How do you think they show you love?

Pyr gets a visit from her favorite uncle

This past weekend, my sister Kelsey and brother-in-law Alex came to stay with us, and we had a wonderful time with them. As I’ve mentioned before, Alex may be the only man that Pyrrha truly loves. She is somehow naturally magnetized toward him, and she is unusually affectionate with him for as long as he is around.

The only man she loves. #family #pyrrhagram
She loves Alex.
Straight up: she won't let any other man do this. #dogwhisperer #pyrrhagram
Seriously, she won’t let any other man do this.

We also got to take a nice, long walk on the trail along the river, in which we saw a large herd of deer. Pyrrha was, of course, very interested once she saw them.

Stumbled on a herd of deer

Watching the deer

That night, she got to spend lots of time in the yard with us while we made dinner (homemade pizza in the cob oven that Guion recently built). All in all, a good weekend for Pyrrha: her favorite man came to visit, and she got lots of attention and affection.

Crazy sky tonight. #lazydog #summersky #backyardliving

Backyard meditation with the shepherd. #backyardliving #pyrrhagram #germanshepherd

How did you and your dog(s) spend the weekend?

Rainer continues to settle in

Rainer in the yard

Although two potential adopters have since fallen through for Rainer (through no fault of his own), we hold out hope that he will find his perfect home soon. How could he not? Look at that adorable foxy face!

Life has been busy lately, so I haven’t had much time for dog updates, but rest assured that the pups are doing well.

Little dog-related events from the past week:

  • We have witnessed subtle, spontaneous bursts of affection between Pyrrha and Rainer, which is very heartwarming. It certainly took them long enough! Rainer tended to make Pyrrha pretty uncomfortable, especially indoors, but lately, I catch them sneaking kisses when they think I’m not looking. One of them will sidle up to the other and start licking the muzzle, pawing playfully on the side, or throwing out a play bow. It kills me every time.
  • Last night, Pyrrha had an unfortunate on-leash reaction to a small Australian shepherd while Guion and I walked her and Rainer. I just kept walking and tried to pull her away. I wasn’t sure what else to do; we couldn’t have turned around (or we’d be following the other dog) and we were walking alongside a busy street. She was fine as soon as the dog was out of sight, but whew. It’s so embarrassing and exhausting. And inconsistent! Some dogs set her off; others, she passes with no reaction at all. We kind of think she might be “showing off” for Rainer, who is still pretty shy when strangers/new dogs pass on the street. Sigh. I need to talk to our trainer about this in-depth.
  • I’m also interested in the different dynamics between the dogs depending on the location. For example, INDOORS, Rainer is in charge. She defers to him with the dog bed, the shared water bowl, going through doors, etc. But OUTDOORS, Pyrrha rules. She bosses him around; she knocks him over; she gets him to be belly-up when they play. It’s very interesting to me. I don’t intervene; if this is how their power dynamics shake out, that’s fine with me. It’s just curious to me. Have you ever had dogs interact that way? Different roles depending on the space?

Keep your fingers crossed that Rainer will find his forever home soon!

If you are interested in adopting Rainer and live in the southeast United States, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue! Or spread the word that he’s up for adoption! Here’s his online adoption profile.

Brando update

Poor ol’ Brando got neutered yesterday, so he’s still really out of it.

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter

When he got home, he stumbled around the house and would freeze for minutes at a time, just staring at nothing. Sweet dude!

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter

This morning, he was livelier, although still weak in the back end.

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter
Couldn’t keep his little tongue in his mouth… so cute.

On the flipside, an unexpected advantage of the presence of an affectionate foster has made this little lady more attentive to her human dad:

Leaning on Guion

Leaning on Guion

But here’s the UPDATE:

Brando is moving to another foster home this weekend. Cue big sad face.

Why? Because the rescue organization needs us to foster a puppy right now, and we are one of the foster homes with a more flexible schedule (e.g., able to come home in the middle of the day).

We are very sad to not continue being a foster home for Brando, but we are also confident that he will be adopted in no time at all.

Dazed and confused: Brando post neuter

We will miss you, Brando!

Updates to come on our NEW foster, who sounds like he’s a feisty little puppy!

If you are interested in adoption Brando, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue!

Pup links!

Actress Donna Drake and her cocker spaniel. Source: LIFE Magazine Archives.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

The Furry Ties That Bind. A beautiful post that reflects on what it is that makes us dog people, tracing the deep connection that children often feel with dogs. (City Dog/Country Dog)

You Don’t Have To… This post by trainer Tena is a great reminder that there are multiple alternatives to any given technique or method. It’s relieving to read. I’ve had lots of people tell me that I HAVE to use a prong/choke collar if I get a German shepherd, that I have to use physical punishments, etc. As Tena would say, “You don’t have to.” There are other alternatives. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy when it comes to training your dog. (Success Just Clicks)

Hierarchy: These Are a Few of Her Favorite Things. A ranked list of Elli’s favorite toys! This was fun to read, and a nice place to start for good ideas among the overwhelming cornucopia of dog toys. (Identity: V+E)

Conflicting Gestures of Affection. Why declaring a “National Hug Your Dog Day” might not be the best idea. (The Bark blog)

DIY: Liver and Potato Grain-Free Dog Treats. This sounds like a (fairly) easy recipe to make homemade treats. (The Hydrant)

AKC’s Top 11 Dog Breeds by City. This is an interesting report: Do certain cities prefer different breeds? It seems so! What breeds do you think are most popular in your city? And what does that say about your city? I think Charlottesville probably has a higher proportion of setters and spaniels than most cities; they seem to complement the landed gentry image that is somewhat prevalent around here. Here’s the more complete 2011 AKC breed report by city. (Woof Report)

Run, Doggy, Run. Laura Benn shares some great pointers on how to prepare yourself and your dog to run together. (iRun)