We’ve had a Havanese/Poodle mix for six years. We bought her as an 8 wk old pup.
Annabelle… Royal Princess and Alpha Pup.
When we first looked at her six summers ago, I was wearing sandals. She nipped me on my big toe while she was playing with my foot.
“Oww!” I exclaimed. “This is the one!”
We brought her home, and for the first few months, she was the original wild child. But she learned to go in her crate at night. Pretty soon, she was peeing outside more than inside, and by the time she was four months old, she was pretty much housebroken.
Every time she nipped us as a small pup, we would scream “OWWW!” and she soon gave up the habit of nipping.
We took her to a dog training class when she was six months old. That was a disaster. Primarily because she figured out immediately which pocket held the treats. “The hell with this sitting and staying crap. I know where the treats are; let’s just cut to the chase”… and because she wanted to run with the bigger dogs during playtime. She’d slam into them and knock them over until they’d gang up on her, get her on her back… and she’d have the biggest smile on her face. She loved it. All ten pounds of her.
Fast forward six years. She’s pretty much a house dog. We take her out for walks. Today we went to the park for her “sniff walk”. Since her nose is her primary organ for sensory imput, we consider the park to be her library… and today, she read at least three books. We move at her pace in the park, not ours. But in that particular rhythm, we get a pretty good interval training work out as she trots from bush to tree to fencepost.
Her dinner is at six p.m. and at 5:30, she begins looking at me intently and licking her lips.
“Not yet, Annabelle”. “It’s not time, yet”. And she takes daylight savings time changes in stride. Regardless of whether we turned the clock forward or back the night before… at 5:30, she’s looking at me with longing intensity and licking her lips. How does she do that? I have no clue.
They say that dogs are incredibly sensitive to their humans’ emotions… perhaps that’s it. Perhaps at about 5:30 I begin wondering when she’s going to attempt to scam me into giving her dinner to her early… and she picks up on that… it’s the only thing I can figure.
Her understanding of particular words is pretty amazing, and even now, her vocabulary continues to grow. We gave up counting about four years ago… when we passed the mark of about 30 words.
“You want to go out on the porch?” She runs to her leash and halter.
“You want to go night night?” She runs to the foot of the stairs.
“You want a bath?” She slinks beneath the dining room table.
“Where’s your chicken?” She goes and gets her rubber, squawking chicken.
“Where’s your lambikens?” She goes and gets her stuffed lamb. (she’s on her fourth of these… she chews the ears off of them and starts pulling out the stuffing on a regular basis)… and Amazon can get them to us withing 3 days… we haven’t yet bowed to the invevitable and ordered the “Three pack”
But her favorite is her Kong toy that we fill with a dollop of almond butter… “Where’s your nut ball?” She runs and gets it, wherever it is… she seems to keep track of its location. Then she brings it and drops in on my foot, and I go to the fridge and give it to her after filling it with almond butter. She gets one a day and seems to know that. After she’s had one, she’s good for the day.
We’re both retired, so we’re with her pretty much 24/7… and that was especially so during COVID. We do leave her at home most times when the supply run or visit with friends will take less than four hours. We try to take her walking in places with other people and dogs at least once a week- just to keep her socialized with others. We’ve noticed that if we don’t do this for more than a few weeks, she might growl when she gets out in public
But I have to say that we don’t spend much time disciplining her or showing her who is boss. We know that such attitudes are necessary to turn out a well trained dog, but Annabelle is Annabelle, and we are quite happy to watch her being a dog… and she is very good at that.
We are her pack. She is our shepherd. She herds us. And as long as she doesn’t pee in the house, or steal food from the table, or bite strangers, or chew on the furniture (and so far she is very good about observing the limits we do set)… then we are quite ok with her ignoring our commands to “sit”. She knows that command very well, and all you have to do is tell her to sit while holding a treat in your hand… but hey, why should she “sit” if there’s nothing in it for her?
Barely 12 1/2 pounds of pure love, humor (yes, dogs have an amazing sense of humor), and a fine representative of her species… which leaves us baffled quite a bit as we wonder what is going on inside that doggie brain of hers… quite a bit is going on, for sure, but just what it is, we often don’t have a clue… except that the behavior that emerges from whatever signals her brain is sending… often appears to be the product of some sort of higher order thinking.
Empathy… yes, dogs have empathy… or at least their behavior mirrors what we call empathy.
The other day, my hip was hurting terribly after working in the yard for several hours; I went in to lay down on the couch. Up she jumped. I fell asleep, and three hours later, Judy told me that the pup never left my side. What is that? Sure looks like empathy to me.
Anyway, my prayer, which I repeat quite often; I may have even mentioned it here before…
“God, please help me become the person my dog already thinks that I am.”