A Tale of Two Canine "Frenemies"
A day at the beach that was no day at the beach for one dog!
This story is about two dogs and their behavior. Two canine children that belonged to different family members happened to be spending a weekend at the beach together in Galveston, Texas. Pets are family, but like other family members, they don't always get along with each other. What you're about to read is a story my sisters and I laugh about often because it brings back lots of good memories. Not just because of the two dogs we all loved very much, who made this memory so special, but also because of a very special weekend we all shared together as a family many years ago in the early 2000s.
A friend of mine at work owned a house on the beach in Galveston, which I arranged to use one weekend. So, my sisters and I planned a three-day outing on the beach. The group consisted of me, my older sister, her son, and his dog, Sparky, and my younger sister and her dog, Rupert.
The Galveston, Texas, Beach Wasn’t Big Enough for Them!
We had to travel from the far southwest suburbs of Houston, at least fifty miles, to get to our weekend destination. Since we’d be gone for several days and a few nights, each of us had a lot of stuff to take along on the trip, so we decided to take two vehicles. My youngest sister was Rupert’s owner, and she had driven down from Dallas in her silver Honda CRV. I rode to Galveston with her and Rupert. My older sister drove her green Honda CRV, and Sparky and my sister’s then-fourteen-year-old son, Chris, rode with her. Anyway, riding in separate vehicles during the trip, each dog’s behavior was fine, because neither one knew the other one was going along with the family.
Sparky, a poodle and terrier mix, and Rupert, a Chow and Lhasa mix, had never met before that day. Both dogs were absolutely beautiful. Rupert, golden brown in color, had a big round teddy bear face and eyes, and Sparky was a cute little blond with brown eyes. Both dogs were very friendly, happy, affectionate, and always a lot of fun to have around. The problem was, in their own homes, each dog was an "only doggie," used to getting all the attention and not accustomed to sharing his or her people. As for their personalities and behavior around people, well, the two couldn’t have been more different. Rupert was adventurous and outgoing, the type of dog that could easily be stolen because, shortly after meeting someone, he usually fell madly in love with them. But little Sparky was nearly the exact opposite. Timid and shy, she only loved the people she knew belonged in her little world, and then only if they acted like they loved her back.
We arrived at the beach house in the early evening hours on a warm April Friday, got settled in, and then decided to take an evening stroll together on the beach. That’s when each dog discovered the other was there, and that’s when the behavior problems began: our canine companions realized they were going to have to share the people they loved.
Both dogs were on leashes, so we were able to keep them apart once we saw that Sparky (the tiniest and the older of the two dogs) wasn’t nearly as thrilled as the rest of us to have Rupert along that weekend. It was Rupert’s first trip to Houston, but since my younger sister had visited at my house (and we had visited her in Dallas), Sparky was well acquainted with my sister and considered her to be part of the little world of people she loved. Everyone was well acquainted with Rupert, except for Sparky. She quickly let us all know she wasn’t cool with the idea of having to share us with any other dog, not to mention the behemoth that Rupert probably appeared to be to her.
All evening, Sparky took fleeting, disapproving glances at something she no doubt saw as a new and greedy entity that was shamelessly gobbling up attention and affection that should have been hers and hers alone.
Dogs Behaving Badly
For the remainder of the evening, the next day, and Sunday morning, Rupert’s behavior was fine—and he quickly got down to the business of having one of the best times of his life. He frolicked in and near the water, made countless new friends with random people on the beach, caught frisbees (even those not owned by us), and thoroughly enjoyed a doggone good old time playing in and out of the water. But as it turned out, our days at the beach, for Sparky, were no days at the beach. In the daytime, instead of playing and enjoying the water and all the interesting smells, creatures, people, and adventures possible for dogs having a weekend at the beach, she looked on worriedly as the much bigger Rupert stole most of the attention and hogged all the fun. In the late evenings, when we were all back at the beach house, we had to separate her and Rupert to keep him from taking any food or water meant for her. At one point, Sparky seemed especially frustrated with having to dodge him while working extra hard, not only to grab even the shortest moments of attention and affection from her people, but to get even the tiniest scrap of seafood (which she loved, and which we had bought fresh that weekend and cooked ourselves).
For a brief moment, after our walk on the beach on Sunday morning, Sparky found herself unleashed. Always a notorious runner and finally fed up with the whole "beach affair," she took off running fast and furious, like a wiry little racehorse. Even though she was in unfamiliar territory and even though neither we nor she had any idea where she was going, she was headed somewhere lightning fast. My younger sister and my nephew took off after her, and my older sister and I, and Rupert, just stood there watching as the tiny little doggie far outpaced her would-be rescuers.
My sister finally caught Sparky, but since she was, officially, my nephew’s dog, he was able to coax her into his arms and get her calmed down. After we got her back on her leash, we got packed up and into the cars, and then we headed home.
Over the weekend, my nephew had grown especially fond of Rupert, even though Rupert had bitten his finger (that was after my sister, his owner, told our nephew "don’t wave your hand in his face, or he’ll bite you!"). But it was only a minor little cut that we took care of, and the two of them made up and became fast friends. Rupert was more of a big, sturdy, rough-and-tumble "boy’s dog" than prissy little Sparky, his own pet. Therefore, my nephew liked him and decided to ride back in the CRV with Rupert and my younger sister.
Sparky couldn’t have been happier about the ride home. She was in the car with me and my older sister, and being free of that pesky thing that looked like a cross between a teddy bear and a grizzly was surely the ticket for her. All the way home, she seemed happy and jubilant, confident and once again in charge of her own little world. No more sharing, no more being nervous in her own space, no more fighting for attention and affection—finally, after not having been able to find a good space or place where that big thug wasn’t a problem for her, she was happy. There was no more Rupert; she was free of him, and she loved it!
My younger sister and nephew arrived back at my older sister’s place before we did, and after doing so, they decided to take Rupert to the nearest grassy knoll to use the restroom. Remember when I told you how Sparky’s behavior had changed? Well, we pulled into the driveway a few minutes after my younger sister, and Sparky hopped out of the CRV and started playing happily, overjoyed to be back in the place she knew and loved as her own. She wasn’t at all sad about not having enjoyed the beach, because all that mattered in the moment was that she was surrounded by her loved ones, and all had been set right in her world.
Free At Last!
My older sister and I watched as Sparky skipped around happily, clearly in the best mood we’d seen her in all weekend. Watching her while also unloading our things from the car, it was a relief to know she was once again her happy-go-lucky little self. Then, suddenly, she looked into the distance toward the grassy front yard, no doubt thinking of using the restroom, and instead of turning her face all the way back toward us to get our attention, she did a very quick double-take. There, less than 100 feet in front of her, was Rupert. She looked at me, then at my sister, and seemed to be asking with her eyes, "What? I thought we left that bear in Galveston!"
Sadly, Sparky lost her joy all over again. Luckily for her, my younger sister and Rupert were on their way home after a few more hours with us that day. But for the rest of that day, and many times since then, as we walk down memory lane with those two dogs in mind, we remember the look of utter surprise that we all saw on Sparky’s face (the dog in the photo is a "stand-in" for Sparky) when she did that double-take. We all saw it, and maybe you had to be there to truly appreciate the look we saw, but it was, and still is, one of the funniest moments of our lives.
I’m overtaken with joy and laughter sharing this funny story about two special dogs and their behavior that weekend. In a way, I guess this article is a testament to how much dogs become a part of any family; not just for their owners, but for everyone in the family who comes to know and love them. I’m sad to report that both of the dogs in this tale have since moved on to the great green and grassy playground in the sky. You know the one. It has lots of soft meadows that are perfect for rolling around in with no fleas or ticks of any kind, fire hydrants every eight feet in any direction, ample trees and bushes both large and small, lots of squirrels and birds waiting to be chased and barked at, and balls and sticks being hurled into the wind constantly, challenging takers to come and enjoy the chase. And I’m sure Sparky and Rupert are both having a good time there, and have finally become the best of friends.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD