Upsides and Downsides
After The Incident on Saturday afternoon that had Toby growling under the kitchen table most of Saturday night, I expected it would take weeks for canine relations at our house to improve. But the fragile peace of Sunday turned into the relaxed detente of Monday and Tuesday.
By Wednesday, Toby and Callie were chasing and romping, play-bowing and mock-growling. They mouthed at each other's necks as they pranced up and down our long, narrow hallway. And when they got tired, they adopted matching poses on the one bit of carpet we have in the sitting room.
The playful relationship that is blossoming between them has been a lot of fun to watch. But it does introduce two new elements of possible difficulty into our lives.
The first is the in-house rough-housing. Watching 200 pounds of hyper dog tumble and jump about a room with three laptop computers and a video projector is nerve-wracking. And once they hit a certain play critical mass, no amount of shouting or scolding can slow them down.
Another downside of this exuberant activity is when it occurs. This morning, Toby tried to initiate a play session right after breakfast. My trusty handbook on Irish Wolfhounds warns that it is important to keep the hound quiet for an hour before and two hours after meals. This is to reduce the risks of gastic torsion, a horrifying condition in which the stomach fills with air, seals on both ends, and then flops over. Because of their big barrel chests, wolfhounds and other large breeds like Great Danes, can develop this condition, which is nearly always fatal.
Peter thinks I worry too much, but here's the problem - I've totally fallen in love with this dog. (Peter also says I'm easy - that any giant dog with soulful eyes and a Kodiak-like personality would have run off with my heart.) If anything happened to her, I would be devastated. I worry about her getting the bloat, running out of the yard and getting hit by a car, or having a some other sort of random health crisis.
(It's times like this that I start to suspect I am not cut out for parenting human children. That the random vagaries of fate and the universe of outcomes outside my control would turn me into one of those half-crazed mothers who wrap their offspring in cotton wool and never lets them out of sight.)
The second potential area of difficulty is that I'm noticing the concept of monkey-see, monkey-do playing out in the canine world. Sometimes, it's a good thing. For example, Toby has an infuriating habit of saving up his urine like it's gold and he's living in a high-inflation gold standard economy. When he finally goes, the result is a urination session that would put Austin Powers to shame.
Callie is different. She will go every time you take her out, even if it hasn't been that long between outings and she doesn't have much to empty. I've noticed that Toby is peeing way more than he used to, and I can only attribute the change in behaviour to his observation of Callie.
But you have to take the rough with the smooth, and this copy-dog behaviour has some downsides. Callie loves to eat grass. The Wolfhound handbook says that as long as it's clean grass, this can be considered normal behaviour. But I still worry, especially since she seems to delight in eating grass on the run, like she's frolicking through a salad bar.
In the nearly two years that Toby was a single dog residing in our household, I could count the number of times Toby has eaten grass on my thumbs. But I've caught Toby eating grass four times today. I know that some dogs like grass and for some dogs, it has no emetic effect on them, but still, something about grass-eating weirds me out.
I suppose if a bit of roughhousing and grass-eating are my biggest complaints, I'm living a charmed life. The upside of two dogs far outweighs the downside. And sometimes, even the downsides can provide moments of entertainment.