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Unusual Housemates: Three Pit Bulls
Contemplation of the Move
"But they're friendly, Mom," my daugther's voice came over the phone. "I want to help you."
"I'll think about it," I said. We said our 'I love you, I love you, too' and the conversation ended.
Over the next several months, I did think about it. I had grown up on a farm where animals, including cats and dogs, were always kept outdoors. The only exceptions I could recall were kittens that had been abandoned by their mother. I had put them into a shoe box and brought them into the house in an attempt to save their lives. I was only five. The other exception occurred years later when the only family dog, a German Shepherd, suffered panic attacks during electrical thunderstorms. She simply could not tolerate the seemingly impending doom. We allowed her to come into the garage during these times. On the other hand, I knew how important pets were in providing companionship for the elderly. I had taken care of my widowed, octogenarian father-in-law after his hip surgery. Two dogs, a Lab-Doberman mix and an Alaskan Husky, were his companions--they also happened to be part of the reason he needed hip surgery!
So, three Pit bulls? It didn't seem like a very good propostion. As I learned from my farming days and the in-home healthcare experience, animals were a lot of work. But I hadn't seen my daughter in years, and I wasn't very happy about my group-home-living arrangement. As the saying goes, "blood is thicker than water," and I knew I'd be happier living with a blood relative who truly cared about me, so I decided to do my best to deal with the Pit bulls--all three of them!
The Journey Summarized in Sonnet
I left my state while still in winter clime
With daughter and possessions I did ride
To see the seasons unfold in their tide,
And the magnolia blossom in its time.
Left behind me were memories sublime.
Green espial met like pastoral mime.
Betony, Spanish moss, and river’s side
Comprise a new world before child-like me,
Caught up in the midst of expanded space
As I now endeavor to find my place.
Slowly, surely, I will know God-success
While learning about the community;
For wisely in his kindness, He does bless
His own children—wherever they may be.
A First Impression
We arrived at my daughter's home at 10:30 in the evening after traveling a little over a day and a half. When we opened the door, the dogs came to greet us with tails wagging in spite of the late evening hour. There was no barking and no jumping.
"So far, so good," I thought as I worked my way through the meandering furry bodies. Having arrived safely after driving a stick-shift the last half of the journey without any driving experience for four years, I was just glad the journey had ended as I took my night bag to my untidied bedroom. We would unload in the morning.
Kodiak, The Guardian Sage
I've shared the house with the dogs for over a month and am still trying to figure out the inner workings of this medium-large male that is part Mastiff. He sleeps much of the day in his favorite reclining chair and, when outdoors, can usually be found lying on a cool patch of ground in a shaded corner of the west yard. His movements are generally slow and he's a little over the size of the other two Pit bulls put together. In fact, he rests so much that he sometimes has difficulty getting up and walking initially due to delayed leg circulation. He enjoys walks, though, and his owners are trying to help him maintain a healthy weight.
Kodiak's greatest activity occurs in mid-afternoon when he runs back and forth along the western fence in a territorial urge to compete with the neighbor's dog. His second physical feat is when my daughter takes him to a pond off a public bike trail to fetch sticks thrown into the water. He seems to relish this task and faithfully swims out to the stick and returns it to shore for his owner to throw it again and again. This routine often lasts half an hour.
Overall, this dog reflects intelligence, enjoys getting brushed, but will vocal a low growl at the younger male Pit bull when there's space infringement at one of the three food bowls. Other than delayed cooperation during bath time, I have had no problem with this dog and enjoy his trick performances when offered a treat. I have to laugh, though, when he takes his belly-up, paws-suspended-in-air position in his recliner chair. The position makes me think he is in some kind of dog's nirvana, so I have dubbed him, "The Guardian Sage" or "Zen Dog."
Qinling, the Adorable Huntress
If you happen to sense a wet nose checking things out while you are opening the refrigerator, it's Qinling (KWIN ling). If you feel you're being watched while eating your lunch, look down, and you'll see Qinling's brown eyes adoring you in the hopes of getting a piece or two of romaine lettuce or a stem of fresh bok choy. You'll discover Qinling will eat almost anything that has a crunch: apple slices, carrot sticks, popcorn, and even watermelon. Grapes, onions, and spices, though, are off limits.
She is the most patient of the three dogs when it comes to brushing. Her tender rolls of fat beneath her fur at the neck and just behind the shoulders typifies her female physique. If I personally had to make a choice of which dog to keep, it would probably be Qinling for her gentleness and loving disposition, which seems a paradox the way she goes after small, moving creatures.
This dog has been known to kill squirrels and, during my outdoor garden preparation, bite a small, non-poisonous ringneck snake in two. She loves chasing lizards, so I have to remind her to stay out of the front flower bed when I go to mailbox at the end of the driveway in the afternooon. Other habits which seem less than feminine include pulling on her leash during walks and deploring the halti. She has outswum Kodiak during a fetch-the-stick excursion at the pond and enjoys playful sparring matches with Brindle, the younger male.
Brindle, the Budding Athlete
Last, but not least, there's Brindle, undoubtedly the most energetic of the three Pit bulls. The first thing you'll notice about him is that his tail is short--you might even think he's not a Pit bull or mixed with some other breed. The truth of the matter is Brindle's unbridled energy resulted in being hit by an automobile when he dashed after a neighbor's dog in the street, and his tail was crushed to the extent it had to be amputated.
In spite of his bouncy energy, he shows elements of loyalty by waiting outside my bedroom door for me to awaken. Like the others, he enjoys being brushed but I have to hold him by the collar in order to do this. He loves fetching but, unlike Kodiak or Qinling, is afraid of the water, so he limits his eager display of running and fetching on solid ground.
He mimicks Qinling by enjoying crunchy popcorn or the yummy fat of an avocado, but usually drops vegetable sticks after accepting them. While Qinling enchants you to feed her, Brindle's dancing, dark brown eyes seem to say, "Let's play!"
What I Get from the Dogs
My daughter and son-in-law work outside the home all day, so the dogs provide some companionship. I am a nurturing type by nature, so being with the dogs allows me to express myself by grooming and feeding them. They also remind me not to take myself too seriously and help me get exercise by playing with them in the backyard or taking them on walks. I have to maintain my confidence and authority when disciplining seems necessary. So, they are helping me to build character. While I'm not interested in having a pet of my own and still believe animals belong outdoors due to the way I was raised, I respect my hosting couple's choices as a guest in their home. And, for the most part, the arrangement seems to be symbiotic. The dogs seem happier with my presence, or so I'm told. And where else can you get a free tongue massage? . . . . Well, I'd best go sweep the living room floor--those dogs shed and bring in a lot of dirt!
Three Dog Groups with Five Associated Breeds
Australian Cattle Dog
Old English Sheepdog
What's your favorite dog breed?
© 2013 Marie Flint