Things have been a little quiet around here on the blog, mainly because my real life has been so insanely busy lately. But rest assured that Pyrrha is still doing well and being her typical goofy self.
Her latest thing: BARKING!
But only a little bit. Compared with your average German shepherd, I think Pyr is very quiet—in that she never barks. The only times I’ve heard her bark are when she’s playing with Dublin. She usually just slinks around the house, whines very rarely, and is otherwise a silent dog.
So, I was surprised early this week when I heard her barking in the backyard. I went out to investigate, and it turned out that we had an intruder. Albeit a 10-pound calico intruder. The neighbor has a very old, cranky cat who likes to hang out inside our fence, under shrubs, or under the shade of Guion’s hop tree, which sits just outside the fence. Pyrrha’s tail was swinging back and forth wildly and her hackles were up and there she was, facing the cat, barking.
And how did this curmudgeonly cat feel about this vocal display from the 70-pound German shepherd? Completely nonplussed. The cat just sat there in the yard, glaring at Pyrrha. And Pyr, our big, brave girl, was so uncertain of this cat’s behavior that she finally turned away and slunk back toward the house. So much for a confrontation and a cat deterrent.
Guion wishes she were more assertive toward this cat, because the cat likes to dig up the seedlings in our garden and uses our plots as its personal litter box. It’s nasty. But the cat doesn’t have a bit of fear toward Pyrrha. The cat seems to understand that Pyr is all bark and no bite… Oh, well!
Obviously, I’d be perfectly happy if the only pets I ever had were dogs. Dogs, dogs, and some more dogs. But I just love animals in general, and so a large part of my daydreaming involves thinking about all the animals I’d like to have in my life one day–including my small pack of dogs.
Here’s a list of the non-dog animals I would also love to adopt, ranked in order of desire:
I adore rabbits. I think this is because our first family pet was a rabbit: Spencer, the mini Holland lop, who was the Greatest Bunny Who Ever Lived. Spencer was the gentlest and sweetest bunny. Miraculously, despite being somewhat roughly handled by the four of us as children, he never bit us, not even once. We liked to think he played “hide and seek” with us in the backyard; he enjoyed chasing us around the yard and hiding with us underneath bushes and small trees. I would get rabbits in a heartbeat–although I think they’re probably the most tempting (and defenseless) small animal to bring home if you have a dog like a German shepherd. Rabbits, unlike cats, have no defense mechanisms and I don’t know if I could ever trust a dog with a rabbit, but that somehow hasn’t dampened my desire for a bunny of my own. Maybe one day.
Backyard chickens are the new thing for suburban dwellers, it seems–at least in our area of Virginia. Everyone (ourselves included!) wants to think of themselves as quasi-farmers. We have lots of friends who have a small coop of egg-laying hens in their yards and I confess that the idea has become very attractive to me lately. I don’t know if we’ll have enough room at our new house–and I think chickens would also be a constant, maddening distraction to a high prey-drive dog–but it’s a nice daydream. They’re certainly not as loveable or companionable as a bunny, but I like them just the same. They’re also not as stupid as people tend to think.
Like many little girls, my horse obsession began at a very young age. I think I actually became fixated with horses before my dog obsession began. I read all the horse books I could get my hands on. I memorized horse breeds. I begged my mother for riding lessons. The equestrian life is, however, a very expensive one, and my parents couldn’t afford to send me (and my copycat little sisters) to riding lessons. They did, however, send us to a horse camp where we mucked stalls and groomed horses in exchange for a few lessons in the summers. I loved every minute of it, even mucking stalls. The sweet smell of hay and the presence of these glorious, sensitive animals filled my little heart with joy. While I haven’t had much interaction with horses in a long time (*excepting one of the best parts of our honeymoon: Guion knew about my lifelong adoration of horses and surprised me with a two-hour trail ride in the Blue Ridge mountains), I do dream about them still. They’re a serious, serious commitment, but they’re also a nice thought.
Goats are such ornery, funny creatures. I like them a lot, even though they may be somewhat hard to love (excepting those babies). I also love chevre and goat milk soaps and such, so I daydream about having a small dairy flock of my own one day.
5: FINCHES or BUDGIES
I like birds a lot, even though they are a pain to take care of/sometimes saddening to think about living your whole life in a cage where you can’t fly. So, maybe I won’t get a bird. But I grew up with a Zebra finch named Sprite and a pair of budgies that I received for my thirteenth birthday, whom I christened Monet and Renoir (they were in love). They are messy and noisy, but oh-so-beautiful to look at. Maybe not reason enough to adopt some, but I love them just the same.
I am very ambivalent about cats, but I like them most of the time. I don’t think I would like to take care of one or actually be responsible for one, but I have my moments of soaring adoration and affection for cats. It’s perhaps not surprising that my favorite cats are the ones who act like dogs. The only cat I’ve ever truly loved was my roommate in Denver, a tabby lady I called Kitteh. She was inquisitive and affectionate without being obnoxious. Kitteh was charming and intelligent and I loved sharing a bed with her. I would get a cat if I could get one with a temperament just like hers, but I’m doubtful about how likely that is. I think cats are supremely beautiful. I think they make every room look more elegant. But I wonder how quickly I’d resent a cat if I actually dared to bring one home. Who knows? Maybe one day there will be room for a cat.
Do you have other animals, besides your dog? How do they interact, if at all?
Inter-species friends are my favorite, favorite thing in the whole wide world. Animals playing with different animals! This thrills me to my core and I become like a six-year-old girl whenever I see an example of this, the most glorious feature of life on planet Earth.
I recently watched the 1988 film adaptation of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (featuring a rakish Daniel Day-Lewis and a perfect Juliette Binoche). The couple, Tomas and Tereza, adopt a puppy (played by a totally charming Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen) and name her Karenin, after the novel they were reading when they first met. After the Soviets invade Prague, Tomas, Tereza, and Karenin flee to a farm in the Czech countryside, where Karenin befriends the farmer’s beloved pig, Mefisto. The scenes of Karenin and Mefisto just lounging together in the grass, the dog lovingly sniffling the pig… ah! My favorite. I wish I could find a screenshot to share with you. (M.C., I kept thinking about you and your canines in film project! This could be one for your review.)
Does your dog have a friend from another species? (Excepting yourself, of course.) In the examples I’ve seen of dogs and cats living together peaceably, it seems that the cat is most definitely the overlord and the dog understands his or her place as the humble serf. And maybe “friendship” is too generous a term there, but coexistence is still heartwarming between a pair so often painted as eternal enemies. I really, really hope our future dog makes some inter-species friends, although this seems less likely with a German shepherd, who seem to want to chase and strangle most things that move…
Musings aside, here are some more examples of inter-species snorgling, because I can’t help myself! Dogs, being friends with other animals, as featured on the matchless Cute Overload:
OK. I have to stop. I need to go do something with my life, because I could do this for hours and hours on end…
Size Matters. Patricia McConnell reflects on a study about the way people treat and perceive big and small dogs. She also considers why small dogs are usually less well-behaved or, really, just less well-trained, than bigger ones. Interesting stuff. (The Other End of the Leash)
Drafting Dog. A German shepherd attends a drafting event near our current town. Looks like a great event for a strong dog! Has anyone ever participated in a drafting before? (German Shepherd Mom)
Dog Vaccinations: What Not to Do. Jana Rade’s opinions on vaccinating your dog. What do you think? I know it’s a touchy issue and it seems that it’s often a divided war between veterinarians and dog owners. I confess that I’m not really sure about many of these issues; I feel like I have a lot of research to do. (That Mutt)
First Diabetic Alert Dog in Scotland. Meet this sweet-faced spaniel who can accurately predict this Scottish woman’s diabetic comas. Pretty amazing. I imagine diabetic service dogs will become increasingly interesting to Americans, where diabetes is something of a national epidemic. (Dog Days)
Robin + Fiona. OK, here’s a game: Guess the puppy breed! These are such sweet photos of a litter of white puppies… Any guesses as to what breed they are? I confess I feel stumped myself. Some kind of terrier? Or am I totally off-base and it’s just a scruffy-looking litter of white golden retrievers? I bet one of you can help me out here. Trickier, since the photos are all in black-and-white. (Cramer Photo)
A Big Batch of Bean and Friends. This, clearly, is not a pup link, but I don’t have anywhere else to share this, and I’m just enamored with these photos of a beautiful mama cat and her precious kittens playing together. Yes, they are cats, but they are really warming my heart this morning. (The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee)
I know. Another Nicholas Dodman book! This is because I just like reading stories of dogs with behavioral problems, I guess. (And there’s a beautiful Aussie on the cover…)
You could also say that Dodman is kind of like the modern James Herriott: The good-natured, occasionally cheeky veterinarian who saves troubled animals and gets thrilling stories for dinner parties in exchange. He seems amiable and energetic and likes being able to save the day. What I appreciate about Dodman, though, is when he admits to mistakes–or when he occasionally gives his human clients the benefit of the doubt.
His stories also help me empathize with the veterinary profession, especially those who are called in with behavioral problems. So much of their work is rehabilitating the people and convincing them to do what is right for their pets. That would certainly be a thankless task. Re-training a dog isn’t a big deal; re-training a person? Nightmare.
I like Dodman. Even though I don’t necessarily learn anything new, I’ll probably keep reading his books as they keep coming out–because they’re entertaining and often eye-opening glimpses into the busy, fascinating world of a behavioral veterinarian.
Woof vs. Meow: What Our Furry Pals Reveal about Us. A fun and well-designed infographic about the differences between cat and dog owners. According to this survey, dog people are more likely to be extroverts, physically active, use an iPhone, enjoy Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom, and be conservative. Pretty fascinating. (Laughing Squid)
Wag.com. A new beta pet supplies site, the successor to Pets.com, launched this past week. Check it out: Fast and free shipping available. (Wag.com)