“Get Out From Under My Feet”
I used to hate it when my father, who was big, would say this if he stepped on me or my sister, when we were small. I'd think, “Hey! You stepped on me. I'm the one with the ouch. Why am I getting yelled at?” Of course one did learn to stay out from under his feet. In fairness, he had very big feet and couldn't always be expected to keep them clear of small children frantically running to and fro. Also in fairness, I must add that if I actually cried my father would quickly scoop me up in a hug. Sometimes it was worth it to get in his way, manufacture a few tears, and reap the reward of his undivided attention and affection!
Benny's leash training continues apace; I walk him now many times a day with Nico and it's all about “no face” (overtures to play always begin with face sniffing and licking), “no play” (two Malamutes playing on leash on the trail is a bad idea! – picture it and no further words are required I'm sure), and “get out from under my feet!” Benny is indeed, a puppy. At five months he now stands almost as tall as my other two boys: he is as long-legged, big-footed and uncoordinated as any pre-adolescent child whose brain is struggling in vain to keep up with grow spurts that happen between lunch and dinner. The good thing is that as the days go on, Benny is no longer making every effort to grab my boots, or to position himself between my legs or directly in the place where my foot is about to come down. Now when it happens, when he ends up directly under my boots such that we do indeed all fall down, it is largely due to a failure to pay attention, or rather, his attention being drawn to something monumentally significant like stalking a butterfly, rather than where he is going and what, including my feet, might be between him and the object of his pursuit.
The boys are doing great. Full integration in the play yard is still a goal, not an achievement, but every day I watch Nico develop in his understanding of what we want him to do with the puppy and the restraint he needs to exercise in order to continue to enjoy having his company in the yard. Benny is doing his part; he is very like Thunder in his ability to ignore Nico when he tires of being “it,” or when Nico refuses to share the toy after Benny has run all over kingdom come, or, at least, Kingdom Play Yard in pursuit of it.
Benny has also learned to sit when I go in the kennel to collect him, while Nico is waits outside. Of course, he sits right in front of the inward-swinging gate, which can be awkward. His favorite trick is to hit the gate with his paw just as I come in through it, so I get clocked in the head every time. Meanwhile Nico has managed to hold his down--stay while I get the puppy out of the kennel, even when the puppy's “sit” looks more like “let's dance”, and even when the puppy jumps on me, as I crash to the ground suffering yet another concussion from the swinging gate. Most of all, Nico is learning to hold his position when Benny gets in his face. I see no sign that Nico might transfer any frustration at this discipline to Benny when given the opportunity for free play. When they are set loose in the yard together Nico grabs a toy and seems genuinely interested in nothing other than getting Benny, who has lately become fixated on digging to China in one particular place, to play chase with him.
Benny is a great puppy; Nico is remarkable dog. I think it is time I began to tell Nico's story from the beginning at least as far as I know it. It is not an atypical story: that a dog can one minute be unwanted, neglected and slotted for “disposal”, and the next become someone's loved and adored companion is what Rescue is all about. But every dog is special, each and every Rescue drama has its own moments of tension and hours of anguish, days, months and years of joy and happiness. The character of the resolution is always unique for it depends on the personalities of the dog and the people who come to love him. So I will begin. What follows, what I will try to write about for the next few days, is Nico's story, the story of what it took too bring him home.