The Dynamics of Dog-dom

The Chesnut dog kingdom is an evolving society, played out on a complicated four-legged stage, largely for the amusement of the two-legged audience. Let’s introduce the players:

Rosie – The oldest member of the yard at eight years of age, Rosie is the queen-bee of this society. She knows all the procedures, expects the best of all her humans and does not do anything she doesn’t want to do. She has been known to look down her nose (which is difficult, considering her sheltie head is only about two feet off the ground) at newcomers and still considers herself to be above her boy’s wife (me) in the pecking order. She is dainty and regal and carries herself with an air of authority. Rosie’s primary role in the yard is to patrol for cats and bark at her humans’ cars as they leave. She is the brains of most operations.

Lexie – Lexie is technically the “middle child,” although she is by far the smallest of the lot. This tiny sheltie is about five years old and easily frightened because of her small size. She has as much hair as she does actual body mass and is the primary look-out for the return of the humans’ cars, emitting a squeaky bark to alert Rosie when the people have returned. While never the primary aggressor when cats and other intruders approach, she will run after Rosie and defend her back from 10-15 feet away as a show of support. Lexie is a known thief and her favorite activity is to sneak into closets and bathrooms and steal anything that smells good and hide it around the house.

Meera – Meera is the youngest of the yard at less than two years old, but is the largest and fastest of the group. She is the primary muscle of most activities, using her loud, echoing bark to threaten intruders and birds and surprising them with her incredible speed. She is also the one who creates the most trouble and has made the dainty shelties hear the dreaded word “NO” more times in the past month than they’ve heard in their entire lives. She is not incredibly smart, and the shelties have learned to use this to their advantage.

For example: Meera has a perfectly good doghouse and I’ve seen her go into it – so I know that she knows that it’s there – but she can’t seem to figure out under what circumstances she should use the doghouse (like when it’s raining). [Side note: This gives a whole new clarity to the phrase “doesn’t have the sense God gave a goat,” because the goats next door go into the barn when they are cold and wet, while our dog ignores her dry doghouse and sits in the rain instead.] We had hoped she would eventually get tired of being wet and follow the shelties’ example, but instead the plan has somewhat backfired. Instead of Meera learning to sleep in her doghouse, the shelties have learned that if they DON’T sleep in their doghouses (and instead sit by the back door with Meera and be cold and wet and miserable) we will eventually have pity on the stupid one and bring her inside… thereby giving the shelties a free pass into the big house as well.

Oh how they know us.

Meera has also developed the bad habit of pulling over Lexie’s food barrel and eating to her heart’s content. We fixed the stealing problem with a heavy-duty bungee cord, so now instead of eating the food she drags the can across the yard and chews on the lid in frustration. (She’s not hungry. We feed her well. She’s just bored.) This morning we had to have a come-to-Jesus meeting about that. And wouldn’t you know that not FIVE MINUTES after I came back inside, I looked out the window and saw her pull the thing over again. We had to have another talk about her attitude. And she KNOWS that’s why I’m mad at her! Because she jumps around all happy to see me and then the closer I walk to the barrel the lower she slinks to the ground. She knows!! People who tell me she doesn’t know what she’s doing and doesn’t know why she’s in trouble are wrong, because she definitely knows that I’m going to be mad about the trash can.

Rosie has also trained Meera to chase the cat from the yard behind us. Meera’s never really had a problem with cats before, but Rosie hates cats and Meera is Rosie’s minion. Generally how it works is that Rosie sees the cat first and sends up the alarm; Meera takes off toward the back fence at rocket speed; Rosie observes from the middle of the yard, where she can help and give directions as necessary; Meera eliminates cat; Meera does victory lap around the yard; Rosie goes triumphantly back to her porch chair and goes back to sleep without having had to do very much work. All hail Queen Rosie.

All the while Lexie is dancing around the perimeter barking encouragements and trying not to get run over by the great gray bullet.

Rosie is too old for rough dog play, and quite frankly is too dainty to play even if she weren’t eight years old. Lexie plays primarily by keep-away, both by taunting Meera to chase her and then running behind furniture and by stealing clothing and keeping it away from its human owner. Meera, on the other hand, wants to tackle and tumble and wrestle and basically roll around in a fur-flying frenzy with anything that moves. So, since her sheltie sisters won’t wrestle with her, she tries her best to play with the goats next door. They are of course separated by a fence, but Meera will run along the fence where the goats are eating and bark at them, puppy butt in the air and tail wagging furiously. The female goats don’t seem to pay her any mind and continue their eating, but Meera and the big billy goat have become strange buddies. The billy will come right up to the fence and allow Meera to stick her head through the gap and smell him right in the face, and he will grunt back at her when she barks. It’s an odd friendship, but they seem to make it work.

Meera went from having a tiny strip of grass that she couldn’t roam without a leash because of the gardeners, to having more than 1/2 an acre of open yard with tons of trees and wood piles to smell and places to dig and birds and cats to chase… and yet her favorite thing to do is climb up on the couch and nap with her legs in the air. Silly dog. I guess you just can’t change the court jester.


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