13 September 2012

Our Drie Honden

I've mentioned our dogs every once in a while, that we have three, that we moved them overseas with us, that they're good-humored about being terrorized by an growingly active toddler. But what I haven't told you is that I love these dogs with my whole heart, even if I now have to share that heart a bit more. That before we had a child, they were my complete universe. That I worked at a doggie daycare and dog food store throughout college to feed them the best food possible and ridiculously spoil them on a student budget. That I was terrified to have children because I thought none of them would tolerate pinching fingers, pattering feet, or sharing. Specifically, sharing the two people they'd known as their own for a very long time.

That, if this scenario unfolded, I'd choose the dogs over any kid.

What I found, contrarily, is that after a few small impediments, our dogs grew to accept Julian as a part of our pack.
Rabbit, our labrador/Staffordshire Terrier/boxer/all-or-none-of-the-above-mixmutt, allows Julian to sit on him, pull on his lips, touch his nose, lean in for kisses. He has soft eyes, a big bully-dog head, a long tail that thwaps against the floor when he's lying on his side, and a long list of neuroses that mainly revolve around me leaving the house. He spends most of the day on his big, soft bed on the main floor, occasionally accompanied by the Julian, whose head is dwarfed when he lays it down right next to Rabbit's.

Sully is our teeny tiny little Boston Terrier; she sleeps snores under my side of the covers and has a penchant for green bell peppers and brisk belly rubs. She follows me to Julian's room every time I climb the stairs to wake him up in the morning and after naps. She initiates her weird little scoot-and-roll play with him, popping out from under the bed and sending him into giggle fits. She kisses his nose through the crib bars. Her response, to me, is the most unexpected; anyone who knows Sully also is aware that she has a long history of nipping and a well-established intolerance of children. When we first came home from the hospital, she thought the baby was a little animal and couldn't wait to test her theory... with her teeth. That ended quickly, however, and she's been Julian's funny-shaped little pal ever since.

Ruthie, our boxer, is exorbitantly affectionate and a staunch believer in lifelong puppyhood; she tilts her head back and forth at new noises, letting her ears dramatically flop from side to side. When anyone comes to the house for a visit, even people who she sees often, her body cycles between curling into the letter C and bouncing off all four legs in joy, her entire being exclaiming YES! I've been waiting for you all day, IHAVEIHAVEIHAVE! Now an old lady, she spends most of the day quiet because, I think, she's conserving her energy for greetings. This dog is exuberant.

When Julian came along, her jealousy steeped through her positivity a bit, but it didn't mature until he moved from grub-status and started crawling. Ruthie wanted nothing to do with this grasping, bobble-headed alien who wanted to invade her personal space; I think she panicked a bit, until realizing she was much quicker and could trot away. Now, the two have a treaty. He throws the ball for her, feeds her food off his high chair, and occasionally gets to pat her. But mostly, she happily keeps her distance, which is fine.
I needed to write this down. Our dogs are all in their ninth year of life. Rabbit's birthday is coming up in October, and both girls will be one decade old in June. Sully's premature gray has turned to white, the light hairs now peppering Ruthie's once ink-black muzzle have spread down her side, and Rabbit gets up a bit slower in the morning.

When That Day comes, I will want to package up my pain and put it away somewhere deep. And I know that I will not be able to talk or write about it, or them, for a very long time. But, for now, all is good; we and our beloved hounds are healthy and in good spirits. The bad stuff can wait.