2009-08-06 / News

A new girl in the house

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

What have I done?

My life was great. It was peaceful. My husband and I enjoyed each other’s company, ate leisurely dinners, worked in the garden, walked and played gently with our aging English setter.

Then I had a big idea: Wouldn’t it be nice to have another dog to keep the old guy company?

A friend of mine has a philosophy about dogs. She says that you have to get a new one before the old one dies so you have someone who understands you to grieve with. I haven’t gone through this experience yet, but it makes sense in a quirky, dog-lover kind of way. She calls it a “back-up dog.”

So now we have a back-up dog, a 5-month-old female English setter who is endearing herself to us by creating chaos and mayhem around the house and yard.

Let me say first that she is incredibly cute and, when she feels like listening, she seems to be a quick study, especially if there is a reward involved. But despite the fact that they are cut from the same cloth, breed-wise, their personalities could not be more diverse.

Sky has always been needy and clingy. Throughout his entire life, I have been able to find him by looking down toward my feet. He’s right there. He will spend hours standing by the couch or a chair with his head in my lap and loves nothing more than having his ears scratched.

When I start the process to feed him, he goes to a far corner of the kitchen and stands out of my way so I can get the job done effi ciently. Then, he won’t eat until I tell him what a good guy he is and give him a pat. He needs a lot of reassurance. He won’t touch anything that does not belong to him.

Stella, the new gal in town, is a different story.

She’s very much like a cat and will often sit off in the distance, thinking her own thoughts. She even sits with her back to us sometimes when she’s in that kind of mood. I leave her alone when she’s behaving this way because, first, she is quiet and at peace, and second, I can understand a girl’s need to have her own space, even though I can imagine that she’s plotting her next destructive act. When she is up, she is very, very up, but that is to be expected of a puppy.

She likes to dig holes in my lawn, and she loves to shred things, like the red pool noodle that went from a five-foot solid object to a pile of fluff in a garbage bag in about six minutes.

She stole a turnip, the bestlooking one, from our harvest basket last weekend, and proceeded to eat it. I didn’t realize what she was up to until I heard a sound like someone munching on an apple and I ran to investigate. She didn’t seem to favor the flavor of the turnip, but she gave it a good try.

It was not love at first sight for Stella and Sky. We arrived home after a long drive to buy her and everyone was tired. But Stella was the kind of toddler tired where they tend to throw tantrums and run around the house in circles. The meeting was chaotic and noisy. Stella immediately leaped at Sky, who had been sound asleep. He reacted as if he were under a home invasion, as he bared his teeth at her and growled. We were kind of impressed by that because we’ve always thought of him as a Harvey Milquetoast. Smartly, Stella recognized that Sky was the boss and she left him alone.

On day two, Sky regarded Stella coolly. He spent much of the day muttering under his breath. He would not sit in the same room with her unless he saw me patting her, in which case, he came over immediately to get his share of the love. We’re calling him Mr. Fair and Square now. By day three, he no longer growled at her – not even when she was licking him in the face and chasing after him. On day four, he picked up a toy that she had previously been playing with and stood in front of her with his tail wagging. She took the bait and the two of them invented a game that involved running in circles while passing the toy back and forth. Things have calmed down between them and he is being very tolerant despite her frequent crazy hours.

I don’t trust her not to destroy my house yet, so I am having trouble getting anything accomplished, like this column, for example, which was due yesterday. As I am writing this, she is sleeping nearby, a petite beauty with gorgeous eyes, who I know will be my best friend someday.

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