Thursday, November 27, 2008

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.



At 27 November 2008 at 18:23, Blogger The Boisterous Butterfly said...

Was that an apple Callie had that Toby wanted a taste off? She sure is a big dog, isn't she? I would love a dog that size. I doubt very much that I will find an Irish Wolf Hound in the Netherlands.We just have smallish dogs here.

At 27 November 2008 at 18:26, Blogger Babaloo said...

That video is fantastic! Callie's not sure what to do with the kong but one thing is clear - Toby's not getting it!

I can only say one thing to all your worries about eating grass and copying off each other. Relax!

They'll be fine. Obviously, because of their size you have to set a limit to playing in the house. But other than that - they'll be OK.

Honey eats grass all the time. Every day. At first I worried she had an upset stomach as Ben, our first dog, only ate grass when he was unwell. But no, she just likes eating grass I guess. Jack is nibbling as well now, occasionally.

I guess you'll have to lock the laptops and other fragile equipment away in a safe room now... ;-)

At 28 November 2008 at 05:45, Blogger -Ann said...

TBB - Nope, it was a Kong. The world's best dog toy. Funny enough, most of the dogs in Ireland are smallish too. A lot of the people I work with have never seen an Irish wolfhound up close.

Babaloo - Thanks for the calming words. :)

At 28 November 2008 at 08:36, Blogger Babaloo said...

Ann, true, I've seen very few Wolfhounds here. I met one a couple of months ago in Farran Wood, a very cute girl and very friendly. :)

Did I say that I like the pic of the two of them? It's cute how Toby is in the middle of the carpet while Callie is only getting the edge of it. It's clear who's boss here!

At 28 November 2008 at 13:43, Blogger laurie said...

wow, they both love that Kong, eh?

boscoe eats grass constantly, and he is 13 1/2 years old and very healthy and went on a four-mile walk yesterday morning, and another hour-long walk in the afternoon. grass will not hurt either one of them.

it's very common for dogs to eat grass.

i can see where you are a worrier, but you might as well limit yourself to things that are worth worrying about and not worry about everything.

i'm glad they're getting along so well. they play fight in the house because that is where they feel the safest. so you're going to have to secure the computers and video cameras until you can get them to listen to you. and they will, eventually. for now, let them play because it's helping them bond.

they're great and beautiful dogs.

At 29 November 2008 at 01:42, Blogger Kaycie said...

They are adorable together. What a treat.

Jack and Maddy roughhouse inside like mad. Of course, they're only 22 and 16 pounds, respectively. I cannot imagine what it would be like if they were huge.

Both Jack and Maddy eat grass, too. Every day, multiple times. The only time I can think of that Maddy threw up grass she also threw up a dead frog.

Relax and enjoy them, you worrywart.

At 1 December 2008 at 14:02, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having greyhounds, I have to worry about Bloat also. I won't feed them if they've been running crazy for any length of time. If it's just a few moments it's not a big deal. Of course, mine don't usually run first thing in the AM when I have to get out of the house to go to work!
Mine also never ate grass until the took them to the barn and they saw they horses do it.
Good luck, and I'm so glad their friends!

At 5 December 2008 at 19:14, Blogger -Ann said...

Thank you all for the reassurances regarding grass. The only times Kodiak ever ate grass, he puked. Caper never ate grass (although he did eat his own poop, clearly his standards were quite gourmet.)
I am a ridiculous worrier - it's part of my charm.

At 5 December 2008 at 19:16, Blogger -Ann said...

Oh, and regarding the Kong. Toby had it first and was chewing it the way he does when he's self-medicating. But then it popped out of his mouth and rolled toward Callie. She gave it a few tentative chews and then starting nosing it, which is when I started filming.

I don't think she was that particularly interested in it, just curious, until Toby decided he wanted it. :)

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