Dogs, we're told, evolved along with humans. So just as what other people do is a source of both joy and exasperation for us, family dogs are adept at the same behaviors.
As are children, of course.
This is why I never regret having only one child. Early on I realized the truth of basic arithmetic: a mother and father together (2) outnumber a child (1), and apart equal the child (1 = 1). However, a mother and father together (2) equal a pair of children (2), and apart are outnumbered by them (1 < 2).
Which explains the qualms I had when my wife, Laurel, decided that we needed a younger backup dog in addition to our twelve year old Serena, a Shepherd/Lab mix.
Instantly my not-yet-completely-senile 64 year old mind understood that when I went on an evening dog walk with two dogs, rather than one, they would form a pack and I would still be simply me. Like toddlers racing off in different directions, the dogs could team up to confound my theoretical Pack Leader status.
Highly theoretical, I can assure you.
My wife is much more adept at dog training than I am, largely because I never try to train our dogs. I follow the approach that worked so well in raising my daughter: give in, because its easier; if she isn't harming herself or anything valuable, or at least is doing so quietly, all is good.
Just as my daughter was cute on the outside yet devilish on the inside, so are our dogs.
Here's Serena modeling her raincoat after it was delivered (tag is still on). Due to her age, Serena has lost most of her ability to vigorously shake off water, and her fur accumulates rain, so we got the raincoat to make it easier to dry her off after Oregon'ish walks.
And here's our new dog, Zu Zu, modeling her punk rocker Halloween costume. She's supposedly a Shepherd mix (her coloring supports that theory), but Zu Zu radiates mutt-ness in a most appealing way throughout her small, compared to Serena, wiry body.
Our vet figures Zu Zu is about two. That sounds right -- in dog years, a teenager. With all this entails.
When we first got her, I'd take Zu Zu and Serena on leash walks around a two mile loop in our rural neighborhood, because we didn't trust her off leash on trails. I looked like a cartoon character with elastic arms, a leash in each hand, one arm extended way forward attached to a little young dog straining to pull me along, the other extended way backward attached to a big plodding old dog used to walking slowly.
Laurel would tell me that I could train Zu Zu to not pull on the leash. But it seemed easier to do the elastic arms thing.
I was happy, though, when Laurel did enough training with Zu Zu to enable us to take her for walks on trails leashless. I became competent in yelling "Zu Zu!," then rewarding her with treats when she came back. The beginning of my evening dog walk now looked like this.
However, as trained and cute as the pack is, there still are two of them and one of me. Which means that while I'm focused on a dog in one direction, the other one often is up to a Drive The Human Crazy trick that canines are so adept at.
The pack's newest irritation involves a small dead deer. I call it a Loaves and Fishes deer, because no matter how many times Laurel and I try to get rid of the bones remaining after coyotes feasted on the animal, more seem to multiply.
Zu Zu and Serena have different approaches to sniffing out the forbidden fruit bones. They've been buried by coyotes and thrown deep into thick brush by us. Yet they keep reappearing.
Young Zu Zu will race ahead on the trail to the creek, dashing over a little bridge as if she's heading in the right direction. Then she'll circle back through the brush to search for a bone. I'll stand like an idiot calling "Zu Zu!," facing where I last saw her, then see her running toward me in the opposite direction from the deer graveyard, crunching something white in her teeth.
Serena, on the other hand, is too old to run fast. So she ambles behind me, looking innocently this way and that, like a shoplifter pretending to just be out windowshopping. When I'm focused on trying to locate Zu Zu, who I affectionately call the "Little Monster," I'll look back and notice that Serena suddenly has ambled out of sight -- which means she's searching for deer bones.
Thankfully, Zu Zu has some cat-like genes in her. She likes to carry back a couple of vertebrae, or whatever, and proudly drop them at my feet. I then stash them in a crook of a tree outside of dog reach.
Best of all, today I trailed Serena and found the deer skeleton mother lode: a long leg bone and some other scattered bones. I picked them up, walked home, placed them in a trash bag, and put the bag in our garbage can.
Deal with that, Little Monster Zu Zu and your pack mate! (Unfortunately, I expect on tomorrow's walk they'll somehow discover more pieces of the Loaves and Fishes deer.)
I could go on and on about how our dogs drive me crazy while simultaneously keeping me sane. For now, I'll content myself with just one more example: Serena's newfound attraction to dining like a Queen. An extremely spoiled Queen.
It used to be that we'd put high quality expensive dry and canned dog food in her dish, call "Serena! Dog food!," and she'd walk over to the pantry where her water and food bowls are kept. Given her German Shepherd heritage, sometimes she'd look at her meal snootily, as if it was beneath her notice. But eventually she'd get around to eating it.
Now, though, she tends to lay on the living room rug and just look at us when a meal is served. On a good day, we can take a section of the newspaper, lay it in front of her, walk to the pantry and pick up her food bowl, then position it (with a bow) between her Queenly Paws on the "place mat."
Serena then deigns to lower her mouth to the bowl. Still comfortably seated, of course. On a bad day when Queen Serena is in an even more demanding mood, one of us has to dip our fingers into the bowl and hand feed her each bite.
Since we're vegetarians, I find touching canned turkey wet food and dry meaty kibble kind of disgusting. Having a dog tongue lick it off my fingers isn't a great feeling either.
But that's what you get with a dog -- or a child. Craziness along with cuteness; hateness along with happiness. Wouldn't have it any other way.