A friend or a snack? When dogs collide

By Gary Abernathy - [email protected]

Lora and I hosted a family cookout Friday evening, ostensibly to celebrate the one-year anniversary of adopting our dog, Paisley, but also to try out a new charcoal grill we had recently purchased.

It seems like everyone in the family has a dog or two now, some of them about half the size or less of what some of us consider actual dogs. My sister, Ann, and my daughter, Chrissy, asked if it was OK if they brought their little dogs. Sure, I said. Paisley might be hungry.

Paisley was advertised by the dog pound as a “boxer mix.” Uh huh. Everyone who sees her says something like, “Oh, I used to have a pit.” Now if you go online and look up mixed breeds like, for instance, “boxer-labs” you’ll come across pictures that look a lot like Paisley. So maybe that’s what she is. Or maybe she’s a boxer with a little bit of pit, or, possibly, a pit with just a little bit of boxer.

Either way she’s a great dog, playful and friendly. She spends her days in our fenced-in backyard chasing every bird or squirrel that dares enter her realm, endlessly optimistic that she will someday scale those trees. When she encounters other dogs during our walks out at the Southern State track (where dogs are required to be on leashes, by the way), she loses all focus on completing our appointed rounds. She wants to go pounce on the other dogs. Anytime we have had her around other dogs during visits, especially smaller ones, she wants to play, but I worry that she might unintentionally hurt them with her pawing and pouncing.

Even though they were forewarned, Ann and Chrissy brought along their little furry dogs, while the rest of the dog owners in the family decided to leave theirs home. The visiting dogs were each barely a quarter to half the size of Paisley, their white fur – all three of them have white fur — contrasting sharply with Paisley’s dark brindle coat.

As predicted, Paisley was beside herself, and then quickly beside the dogs, pawing, sniffing, pouncing, jumping, yelping, as Ann and Chrissy tried protecting their little pets from Paisley’s antagonistic overtures.

Then, this happened: Paisley was standing there yelping and growling at her menacing best, when the smallest of the dogs – Chrissy’s new tiny little pure bread Shih Tzu named Coco (even though its white, short for Coconut) – walked right up to her, lifted her head and stretched her little neck to get as close to nose-to-nose as possible, and barked right back. Paisley froze, and sat down.

Soon, friendship and harmony reigned. Coco walked away in a huff, having settled the matter. Charlie, Chrissy’s other dog, a Shih Tzu mix – a little larger, about half the size of Paisley — decided it was ok to begin venturing around the yard, and Paisley followed cautiously but closely behind, mimicking Charlie’s steps paw by paw.

If Charlie sat, Paisley sat. If Charlie ran, Paisley ran — close enough to be Charlie’s shadow, but never actually inhibiting Charlie’s progress. And this wasn’t casual “let’s go for a jog” running. This was flat out, record-breaking speed sprinting, with twists, turns, spills and stop-on-a-dime directional shifts. It was hilarious.

They ran. And ran. And ran. And then they would sit. And then they would run. For hours. Coco joined in occasionally but not often, while Ann’s pup, Veda — a half Maltese, half poodle, or “multipoo” — kept her own company, mostly walking circles on top of our patio dining table. The independent type.

Paisley is a high-energy dog who needs frequent walks. But for the rest of the weekend, all day Saturday and Sunday, she was exhausted from her Friday night company. She barely moved.

I texted a picture of a zonked-out Paisley to Ann and Chrissy on Saturday. Chrissy replied that maybe she wasn’t exhausted, maybe she was sad because she missed her playmates and wants a brother or sister. “She’ll have to remain sad,” I replied.

We fell for that years ago. When Lora and I got our first dog – our Great Dane, Bela – we decided after a couple of years that maybe she would like a friend. So we found a rescue dog in Dayton, a golden lab mix – a nice, gentle dog we named Boris (of course).

Turns out, Bela didn’t want a friend. She liked living alone. They never really fought, they just ignored each other — for years. Even after a decade, Bela would walk up to us with a look that said, “Seriously, how long we keeping this other dog?” Bela passed away a couple of years ago, and we’re convinced she remained annoyed at us. Boris lasted another year.

We had always sworn that when they were gone we would remain canine free. But a few short months after Boris passed away, Lora and I were sitting around the house when I looked at her and said, “We need to get you a dog.” She agreed, and we soon visited the pound, coming home with our new “boxer mix” (right).

A year later, Lora thinks Paisley has become more my dog than hers. I think it’s a close call. But one thing I know is that Paisley will remain an only child.

However, it’s nice to know that when her “cousins” come to visit, she’ll enjoy a nice, playful romp rather than a hearty, furry meal – although just to be safe, I think it’s a good idea that we feed her right before they get there.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456, or follow on Twitter @AbernathyGary.


By Gary Abernathy

[email protected]