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All photos ©RaineIMAGES
I have spent my entire life in the company of dogs.
Each relationship has been unique, each dog has made its mark on my personal history. I remember each with
fondness I cannot adequately express. But I am faced with the
reality that none have made such a mark as Emma. Her endless optimism, her
multi-faceted personality, her VOICE on most subjects, and her boundless
energy have made her a force in my existence.
There are three dogs living in our house. (When this was written!) All three are black tri Australian Shepherds, Emma being the oldest, the smallest and the alpha. This particular event is very small but, I think, very telling. I will try to be brief.
three dogs have birthdays very close together. December, March and April. And
each one was given a birthday party this year (don’t ask) complete with
gifts and cookies and those little kiddy cardboard hats with the elastic
It was not until the next day it occurred to me that
it may not have been the hat at all. Emma has many routines that need little
help from me…….one of them is her fascination with the empty toilet paper
roll. You know, the cardboard in the middle? As a puppy she followed me
EVERYWHERE, as all Aussies do, including into the bathroom. Faced with her
limitless adoration of me, even in the bathroom…….well, I felt the need to
give her something. So, caught in a bind, I sheepishly handed over the empty
toilet paper roll.
So my complex, intelligent little dog is a continuous source of amusement.
I have watched them check the empty bag 1000 times. I never thought much of it. The little empty shopping mall bag that says "whatever came in this bag, you paid too much for". It is slightly bigger than a lunch bag, flat rectangle bottom, and sort of clear but frosted looking. I have watched them stick their head in the empty bag 1000 times. They check the garbage all the time too.....stick their head in, look around, never touch anything.
But this morning, I noticed something IN the bag. After all this time? It was a colored "stuffie" (dog toy). It barely fit. It had clearly been deliberately placed. One side of the bag was folded in and the toy was pushed to the bottom. Now please understand that the bag is not in a place where something would just FALL into it. It is in the hallway to the bathroom, right up against the wall. There are no other toys in sight, it is a place where the dogs pass frequently, but do not "hang out". I laughed in my head as I realized how MANY times they had checked the contents of that bag! How disappointing to never find anything!
Just as I was contemplating all this, Merry checks the bag. Again. BEHOLD! She dashes off with the toy, very pleased.
I figure she put there in the first place!
My first impression is………well……… that not all
the marbles have been polished to the same degree. I am talking, of course,
about Emma and Parker. Parker, who is such a super star in his own right.
Beautiful in the show ring, mild mannered and gentle, sheepishly needy. But
faced with a harsh correction, his eyes glaze over and he looks, wild eyes, for
an escape. Then, as he rips gleefully around the yard, clearly joyous that
he has not been killed, I realize that he has ZERO comprehension of whatever it
is that I am having a fit about. This is one reason I so often find myself
underestimating my boy in the brains department.
Nonetheless, he continually surprises me.
We have a baby gate that slides out from the wall that
acts as a barrier to the kitchen. While this works perfectly for the opossum
that resides loose in the kitchen, for the dogs it is merely symbolic. But they
are expected to respect it under any circumstances, regardless of which side of
it they are on. All has been as it should be until recently.
Every morning I leave the dogs in the
kitchen, and my roommate lets them out to play a little later. The other morning
I got the call at work “Have you been leaving Parker loose in the house in the
morning? I found him asleep on the tile in the entry way.” Of course not! I
replied, realizing right away we had a repeat offender. So in the next few days
I tried impress on him the importance, again, of the baby gate. To no avail.
That precious piece of tile, so visible from the kitchen, was irresistible. And
of course I thought to myself…well, he is not the sharpest stick in the pile.
So each morning I would get “the call”
that would disclose the latest crime. Only this time I was hysterical. It goes
something like this. Parker hears my roommate in the bathroom.
The door opens quicker than he can move! The bathroom door is positioned at the
end of the hall. From the bathroom door you have a clear shot to the pathway to
Parker comes flying from the entry, across
the hall, clears the baby gate effortlessly, lands in the kitchen, whips around,
puts himself in a “down, stay” up against the baby gate. “PARKER!” she
says. He looks up innocently, nub wagging, front feet crossed………….and
The world according to Parker probably says
the spirit of the law requires quite and restful behavior. Snoozing on the cool
tile was surely within these bounds! Silly humans. Baby gates are for opossums.
I stood in the kitchen, watching "the boys" just outside the sliding glass door on the deck. Because of the reflection, they did not notice me. So I took this opportunity to observe. I am never disappointed.
Baron, who just turned 6 mos, was lying down, peacefully gnawing on a piece of firewood. (I listed in my head, the countless things that would be WORSE than chewing on firewood, and let him be) Parker, 2 yrs old, lay about 5 feet away, with a piece of firewood next to him. He was watching Baron intently. As I watched, he suddenly got up (like he couldn't stand it anymore) and snatched the wood from Baron, trotted back to his spot and spat it out next to the other one. He slumped back to the deck, head down, with a big sigh.
Baron looks mildly perturbed. His long puppy legs hoist him back to the wood pile. He takes another piece and picks up where he left off, this time eyeing Parker as he chews. Parker is on full alert again. The scene is repeated verbatim. Only this time, when Parker comes back, he lies down ON THE STICKS!!
The silence was broken as I burst into laughter! Parker knows the firewood is off limits. And just yesterday, he witnessed the puppies being reprimanded for digging..........apparently it had an affect on him! He wanted no more trouble!
sees me now, in the kitchen, and rolls over to expose his belly.........still on
the sticks. :)
As I looked out over the yard, I watched the puppies, now 3 mos old, playing with Parker. Parker, now 2 years old, saw them as babies a couple of times, when Mommy Emma wasn't present, but not much since then. He seemed very taken with them, no sign of jealousy or anything.
Now, the 3 of them ripped gleefully around the yard. The puppies were ecstatic with their new "toy"! But what now? They have all stopped still. Parker has found a huge knuckle bone in the grass. His head is lowered near the bone and he watches the puppies intently. I hold my breath. This will be the first encounter of this kind that I have allowed. Only one way to find out right? My mind raced, trying to think of alternatives....
Suddenly Parker grabs the knuckle bone by a thread and dashes off. His face has lit up with joy! The bone falls from his precarious grip and puppies pounce on it. Parker rushes in, comes out with it dangling again. He runs faster than ever, with the puppies in hot pursuit.
Shew. Guess that settles that! And to this day, Baron, (who is now almost 4 years old), and Parker eat from the same bowl every morning.
Merry is possibly the sweetest dog I have ever met. And truly, she has prompted the "She is SO sweet!" remark many times from other people, and they look me in the eye when they say it. To make sure I am listening. She is really a darling.
Merry's favorite toys are the rubber ones. The Hamburgers and balls made out of rubber. Her favorite is a green rubber Christmas ball covered in candy canes. She lies down on the bed, with the ball pinned beneath one paw....and she watches me like a hawk! At just the right moment she lets the ball go shooting of the bed, jet propelled from the pressure of her foot. And then, of course, I am late for work, because I cannot resist this invitation. :)
Merry hates for me to take a shower. As soon as I open the sliding door to turn the water on she starts pawing at me. "I need a hug!" She reaches up with her front paws, wishing to wrap them around my neck. I have no idea what the problem is with the shower. But it makes me laugh, and I am late for work. Again. )
At a show, Merry tries to hug anyone who will come within "arms" length. She will stand precariously on the edge of the grooming table, while her front legs are wrapped around some innocent by stander who just had a question or two. Busily removing make up all the while! And eye glasses too if they are in the way.
Merry is completely biddable. Whatever I ask, she assumes it is of great importance. A firm word will stop her in her tracks, as she checks in to see whats next. She moves with lightening speed and great accuracy, a born agility dog. But she is also the one I would choose to nap with. She will just drape herself over a leg, no matter how uncomfortable, and go to sleep. She is also the tiny puppy who spent a couple of hours sleeping on my shoulder. When she was about 4 weeks old. Hmmmm.
A beautiful example of elegance, humor and purpose, she is a delight.
For six and a half years, my funny little dog has played the same game. She has taught it to every dog that has every been in my care. She taught her puppies as soon as they could walk, she has taught anyone that has visited even for an afternoon, and she has certainly taught any dog that has been boarded here.
The game is called "Want What I Have". Most dogs love this game. Until, by chance, all their wanting is actually rewarded by some divine stroke of luck. Then they are reminded why the game is called WANT what I have, not TAKE what I have. They are immediately relieved of possession. And expected to play again with a clearer understanding of the rules. These events are repeated over and over. In fact, my other dogs refuse to play anymore. Even being smacked in the head with the toy, will not change their mind. In fact, Emma will pin them to the ground and try to PUT the toy in their mouth, and they will wiggle and squirm and look away. They know the rules!!!!
But today, after six and a half years, she has a new game. In six and a half years, she has seen sheep twice. The second has had a profound affect.
The barking brought me from my chair to the deck. We had a boarder at the time, so I needed to be sure everything was OK. And what do I see? Emma, running our poor boarder up and down the fence. No toy in sight. There was no mistaking those herding moves. Every time he tried to pull off the fence, she'd put him back on. It would have been comical, had the boarder not looked so distraught! "Somebody HELP me!"
The reason this one is taking so long is because...where do I start? Emma, ringside. Parker when he has the bed to himself. Jolie & Baron in the car. Merry...just about any time! Every day is filled with their humor and charm.
But I really do need to get started. This story will go on and on. So be sure to check back.
EMMA ringside. I don't think anyone has ever waited outside a conformation ring with Emma and not known she is there. She is at the end of my lead, facing the opposite way, excessively free stacking for every pocket in the near vicinity. With intermittent chirping. Every one has their own dog....but her bossing is really hard to resist. I spend most of my time trying to distract her and sheepishly shaking my head. I hear people looking for more bait.
PARKER when he has the bed to himself. He LOVES to have the bed for himself. Occasionally I will get a hotel room with 2 beds. And I will look over at him and say " I am NOT getting you your own bed." His tongue is hanging out, his eyes are grinning and there is alot of snorting. He is on his back squirming and rolling. Determined to drill down to the basic bed sheets. One time I turned around from my desk (I pretend to discourage it) and he actually FELL off the side of the bed!
JOLIE & BARON in the car. Both prefer to ride with their cheek pressed against my right shoulder. There is just nothing better. If Jolie is in her seat belt and can't reach my shoulder, she will press forward as far as she can and rest her head on the console with her nose just touching the back of my elbow. As an adult, she will stand with her head even to mine, watching the road ahead and her left front foot digging into my thigh. Off and on during our trip, she will present her check for kisses. If my car is packed with gear, and dogs are in the back, I can see Baron in the rear view mirror. Upside down, all 4 feet in the air. All his long wispy hair flowing with the bumps in the road and the air conditioning.
MERRY anytime. Anytime I hold my hand out Merry puts her paw in it and pulls. As she does it she tucks her chin down. I love those things you can count on! Anytime I wake up in the night, there she is, upside down. Sometimes Baron is lying next to her...also upside down. He looks huge!
When someone is miss behaving I often catch myself saying "Do you not speak ENGLISH?????!!!!" While this seems entirely appropriate to me, it does sound a little weird out loud. Definitely a favorite. :)
not every day that you have the opportunity to have a dog as a hood
What a BOLD little girl! Her sense of entitlement was enormous. She reminds me of Yurtle the Turtle. Remember the Dr. Seuss story? Whatever Yurtle could see, he claimed as his own.....
Anyway, little Tink (as she is most often called) had been a few places. The car was clearly the place to be. Sitting in the front seat where she belonged, with destinations of great importance before her. Sometimes we even got to play with the SHEEP after being in the car! The car was a giver of MORE things she could be entitled to.
The lovely car waits patiently for us in the drive. We go in it sometimes, but more often we are just visiting while on a potty run.
This time was different though, than all the other times. The importance of the car had been duly noted in her sharp little mind.
Upon greeting the car, she circled it, looking inside. Did she ever look back at me? To ASK me to open it? NO. Clearly, she intended to take matters into her own hands. She continued to circle, rearing up to look inside, pausing mostly at the 2 front doors. I could tell she was getting frustrated. I tried to offer consolation. "Trinket, we're not going anywhere. GO POTTY."
She would not be deterred. In fact, since I was clearly NOT on board, my voice only egged her agitation.
Now she stops in front of the car. My driveway has a fairly deep slope, so she can see best INTO the car by standing at the high end of the driveway, looking in the through the front window.....within a second, she had contemplated her options, and made her move....
She landed, spread eagle, on the hood of my Rav 4.
Surely that giant window would open for HER! I am not sure she was planning to take me along.
Season of Mischief could not have possibly been
more apply named. Unless I had named
her Season of the demon spawn maybe. (Just Kidding of course!)
or at least Seasons (as in many) of Mischief.
or at least Seasons (as in many) of Mischief.
she zips through the house from the yard, through the newly open sliding glass
door…which is NOT allowed. I say "Trinket come!"
(she's gotta great recall at least!) She comes dashing back, and stops
short a few feet from me…expectant.
say "Trinket? OUT." She stands transfixed by my request. Her
body is facing me, her feet planted, her body stiff. She is
actually LEANING away from me, on her haunches,
front feet stretched out in front. She is as FAR from me as she
can get....without moving her feet. She stares at the floor in
front of her.
is not confused. She knows EXACTLY what I mean. She is PROCESSING her options. A
good 60 seconds it takes, and one more "Trinket get OUT." on
my part. The silence is deafening. As she processes the pros and
cons on her various options….so do I. "Where is the
whacker?" I hear in my head. That is the chuckit ball thingie. When
I hold it…I mean business! Its one way to have a longer arm!
Right about then, my darling puppy trots easily, purposefully, right out the sliding door, back out to the yard. Peace prevails! And we are both content with her decision. The lessons are starting to sink in!