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Three Dog Nights
Clockwise: Benny, Thunder, Nico, that is if you are talking about the placement of face shots this collage. In terms of getting up in the morning and who starts at what time, the order is a little different. All three boys are sleeping inside most nights now. There are just too many mosquitos and deer flies out there and they are especially vicious when the humidity is high. So after our evening walk we brush off what we can, scurry into the house and curl up in the basement where it is cool and blessedly bug free, at least after the first few minutes of deer fly squishing and mosquito bashing.
Come morning its Benny who starts things moving. He remains the most loving, overtly affectionate Malamute I have ever met. Just before daylight he climbs in to bed with me. Anyone who ever had a child I'm sure remembers deluding themselves with the notion that if they let the toddler climb into bed with them
they would settle down and everyone could grab another hour or so of sleep. Settling down happens for about three minutes. Benny lies there very quietly just gently pushing his head against my chin. I stroke his head and then as I doze off and stop petting him he pushes a little harder. Soon he's flat on his back wriggling, wanting his tummy rub, and pushing me with his legs at the same time. If I stop rubbing he pushes harder. He is now an adult Malamute of a working dog line. His legs are long and strong and when he pushes there is no ignoring it!
Needless to say we are soon up and about. Benny goes out into the yard and we collect Nico, who spends the night under the bed upstairs where Rick sleeps. I would sleep there too, except when all the dogs are in, they all want to be in the same room with us and that's just too much Malamute in one room. So I sleep downstairs with Benny, Rick sleeps upstairs and Nico, who long ago claimed the space under our bed as our safe place, crawls in and doesnt' come out 'till morning.
That is, until I put Benny out in the yard. Then Rick brings Nico to the back door and both dogs get some yard time before breakfast. Great. It's only about five a.m. Rick and I crawl back into bed congratulating ourselves on building the yard so the boys can have a play time in the cool hours of early morning while we steal a few more minutes of sleep. Something like the thinking parents have when they make the back yard child safe and fill it with interactive toys, thinking that the kids can enjoy the sandbox and the teeter totter in the morning while they doze.
Of course, the first thing that happens in the yard is the singing lesson. Benny gets in Nico's face, barking, or at least making the Malamute approximation of a bark. He wants Nico to play but Nico isn't ready yet to rip and tear. So instead he starts to sing, opening up a full throated howl which Benny tries to imitate. They do this in the afternoon as well, and then it becomes a full fledged operatic training session. Benny actually tries to match pitch with Nico, his voice breaking, and faltering, and then as it would appear he gains breath control, finally joining Nico in full coloratura. In the morning however it quickly deteriorates to rather silly yips and woofs. Then they start to run.
That lasts for about fifteen minutes. We watch from the bedroom window and it is better than television. By now of course we are fully awake, but have not quite abandoned the hope of more sleep. That comes soon though as both boys suddenly realize they haven't had breakfast yet, and that the waiters are just on the other side of that screened window watching them.
So, at Nico's instigation they leave off playing and begin to yip and yodel in that time honoured way that every Malamute ever born has used to manipulate his or her people into delivering food. That's it for sleep: we're up and about now and its breakfast for the boys, a walk in the woods and forget about sleeping in. Forever!
Forever. I like that word when it comes to our dogs, which brings us to Thunder. He is still with us and if not a hundred per cent all the time, still enjoys quality of life. He doesn't sleep outside at all anymore, or at least not in the yard. He still likes his porch and asks to go out, or come in in the course of the night sometimes two or three times. So in terms of the clock, Thunder is pretty much a twenty-four hour concern. That's alright. Rick has gotten used to getting up and opening the door for him and very nearly does it in his sleep now.
We don't exactly know why Thunder is so restless sometimes. He is on medication that eases the pain but we think maybe despite that sometimes he just can't get comfortable. Sometimes he settles if I lie down on the floor beside him. Other times he doesn't want to be touched, just wants to know we are nearby. Come morning though he is as lively as the other two, coaching the play in the yard from the window without sparing his voice or the peace of the neighbourhood.
Best of all, is when after eating, when Rick takes him and Benny out into the front field to do business. He starts out with Benny on the long leash. Thunder doesn't need to be attached anymore as he is no longer interested in running off anywhere, and if he were to decide he was we know we can now outrun him. Benny sticks with Thunder like glue, so once Rick gets them out in the middle of the field he lets Benny loose. Then they run in together. This was the way we used to let Thunder run off his energy when he was in his prime. He always got a treat when he made it to the front door and so you can be sure he always ran straight for the porch every time. Now he sometimes runs straight while Benny tries to cut him off, but other times gives in to Benny's playfullness and runs in circles with him until he remembers he's not a pup anymore, then heads up the hill to the house.
Thunder makes me think of my father, who like Thunder suffers severely from arthritis and has some substantial structural damage that makes walking, much less running, a decision. However, if he hears a a fiddle tune, a jig or a reel, my father cannot keep his feet still and then he's up and dancing like he did in his youth. Of course, he can't walk for a week after that. Thunder similarly, spends the day getting over his ten minute indulgence, but is a wonderful thing to watch him him play like that. Thunder has always been a pretty serious Malamute, since he came to us anyway. He and Nico never played much: I think it might have been important with Thunder to keep the lines of authority very clear with Nico. With Benny however he seems to feel no such imperative. Perhaps this is because Benny so obviously and consistently shows a puppy attitude. Whatever the reason, they make a delightful Grampa and his boy pair together. It gives us great joy to see Thunder having fun with Benny, and then curling up near him when they come in the house like the great old friends they have become.
This is Benny's great gift: his ability to find a way to get along with just about anybody, and even more, to get them to play and enjoy life. I suppose it is what any young creature brings to a household: a breath of fresh air, the lightness of heart that makes the day seem short even when it starts at five a.m. He and Nico are now quite established in their understanding of each other. They enjoy the yard together during the cooler, less bug ridden times of day and do continue to sleep together out there on dry cool nights. Nico, a middle aged dog now, no longer has the frantic energy of the young Malamute to work out, his own that is. He does however have Benny's energy to content with, and that is keeping him fit and young in body. Meanwhile Benny finds in Nico a strong, athletic adult dog who can certainly keep up with him for having the muscle development and endurance of an adult, if not the frantic but short lived energy of a yearling who has yet to learn what it is to pull in harness. It is Benny who starts the play to be sure, but it is Nico who, once Benny is worn out, shows that he is just getting warmed up. That's when I put Nico in harness and he hauls the wood dumped in our driveway up to the woodshed, while Benny, like any other teenager I ever met, lies around on his back in the yard, all four legs in the air, plugged in if not to his IPOD, then the birdsong and frog-croak equivalent.
The Benny - Nico - Thunder interaction, while endless fascinating to me on a daily basis, has become something natural and easy to live with, therefore less subject to minute circumspection. I haven't been writing a lot in this blog as a result. I will try to post more pictures as we go along, and as we get better with the camera. Meanwhile I have been working more on Nico's back story. Nico will always be my miracle dog: another installment describing more of what that miracle entailed will be coming soon.