Squirrel Sentinel

Russell’s dog Betty is here for a visit. At our house, her job is to protect our backyard from squirrel invasions. She sits atop the back steps, ever-vigilant, ceaselessly scanning for squirrel intrusions and the foul depredations that would inevitably follow if one of the furry rodents were to actually set foot in our yard.

At some point in the past, Betty’s ancestors must have had a serious run-in with squirrels. Betty carries around the genetic memory of that encounter in every fiber of her being. As a result, no house in the neighborhood is better protected from squirrel trespass than ours. The squirrels steer clear when our Squirrel Sentinel is at her post.

Advertisements

Dog Days Afternoon

Russell ‘s dog Betty is visiting for a few days. I took her for a walk this morning, and since then she hasn’t been straining at the leash to go outside into the dog days of summer. Staying inside on the cool floor with a bone is the preferred alternative.

Imagine being outside with a fur coat in this weather! Betty is one smart pooch.

Tentative Wagging

Russell’s dog Betty is a pretty smart dog, by dog standards.  She knows the basic commands, like “sit” and “hang on!” — the latter of which inevitably is used when she is trying to charge down the outside steps as we are heading out for a walk while I am trying to lock the front door.  And she clearly recognizes her name and words like “walk,” because the mere mention of the “w” word causes her to start leaping around with a pure, energetic ecstasy rarely seen in canine or human.

And Betty is a friendly, sensitive dog, too.  She’s a jumper who likes to greet her human friends with a set of front paws to the midsection, and she’s an inveterate tail-wagger, too.  Her full-fledged tail wag is impressive — the kind that can sweep glasses, magazines, and other bric-a-brac off the coffee table and send Betty’s hindquarters twitching back and forth like she’s being manipulated by some uncontrollable invisible force.

But sometimes the brainy part of Betty and the wagging part of Betty get mixed signals.  Typically this happens when a human being is directing some kind of communication to Betty that is of uncertain meaning.  The statement might be something along the lines of:  “Betty, the weather app on my phone says it’s very cold out today, so I’ll need to bundle up.”  Betty hears her name, and sees that the human is looking at her and apparently directing human speech at her, which I suspect she finds immensely flattering, but exactly what is being communicated is a bit of a mystery.  And, because Betty is by nature a polite dog, she wants to acknowledge the statement through some kind of response — but what is the right response?

Betty deals with this personal quandary by giving a quizzical look accompanied by what might be described as a tentative wag of her tail.  It’s not the all-out wag, to be sure.  It’s hedging, and usually consists of only one twitch, or perhaps two, of the tail.  The combination of look and wag says:  “I hear you, and know you are talking to me about something, but I’m not quite sure just yet so I’m reserving my full judgment and all-in reaction until more evidence is presented.”

I admit, I get a kick out of the tentative wag response.  In fact, sometimes I’ll talk to Betty just to get the uncertain wag.  It’s one of the things that makes it fun to have a dog around the house.

 

Going Off The Beaten Path

We’ve been watching Russell’s dog Betty recently.  She’s a very nice, well-trained dog — kudos to Russell on that! — who absolutely loves taking walks.  Every morning I leash her up and take her for a walk around Schiller Park so both she and I can get some fresh air and exercise first thing in the morning.

img_0028For the most part, Betty is an easy dog to walk.  She keeps her nose down, hunting for interesting smells, and stays on or in close proximity to the sidewalk, swiveling her head from side to side and remaining on absolute tactical alert for any random dog that might be seen off in the distance.

But the interesting thing is what happens when we depart from the sidewalk for even an instant — say, to drop a tied-off bag of doggie doo into one of the Schiller Park trash cans.  When that happens, Betty’s entire personality changes.  She goes from the dedicated, straight-ahead walker who diligently tracks down every stray scent to a young dog who clearly wants to frolic.  She does a kind of antic, bouncing dance, going down onto her paws then leaping into the air, makes a growling sound, veers suddenly from side to side with tremendous force, and then starts to nibble at my shoelaces while I’m trying to walk.  Frankly, it’s pretty annoying on a cold workday morning, but she’s just having a dog’s definition of fun.  After a few minutes of such play, I give her a tug on the leash and we head back home.

It’s instructive, isn’t it?  Betty likes her walks, to be sure, but what really charges her up is to go off the beaten path.  Betty’s little dance just demonstrates the value of departing from the straight line and going free form every once in a while.

The Ever-Present Audience

It’s been a while since we’ve had a dog in the house, so spending a few days with Russell and his pooch Betty means getting reacquainted with notions of, well, doggedness around the house. Like having the feeling that you’re being watched and turning around to find that, sure enough, two dogs eyes are gazing fixedly at you like what you’re doing is the most fascinating thing in the world. It’s unnerving until you get used to it.

I forgot about dogs being an ever-present audience. When I finished washing the dishes and saw that Betty was still there, staring, I felt like giving her the old soft shoe and a quick bow.

Much Ado ‘Bout Betty Boo

Russell’s dog Betty has been staying with us for a few weeks while Russell gets some work done on his builling.  Betty — who is known to Kish and me as Betty Boop or, in abbreviated form, Betty Boo — is making herself at home, as dogs always do, and there couldn’t be more of a contrast between the youthful Betty and the aging Kasey, who likes nothing so much as good morning, afternoon, and evening naps.  Betty is pretty much the exact opposite, and the difference between the two moved me to write some bad verse:

Much Ado ‘Bout Betty Boo

Damp tennis balls found in the halls,

A tattered sock and battered shoe.

These all, we know, are telltale signs

of Betty, Betty Boo.

Kasey wants to sleep so deep.

But things to rip, or tear, or chew

Are the very favorite things

Of Betty, Betty Boo.

She’s still a pup, and not grown up

With more energy than me or you;

A whirlwind of devilish play

Is Betty, Betty Boo.

It’s time to walk, no time to talk,

Then we’ll play fetch anew.

But she’ll never tire, no matter what

Will Betty, Betty Boo. 

 

Two Dog Night

We’re keeping an eye on Russell’s pooch Betty while Russell does some work on his new building and business. It’s interesting having two dogs in the house after a few years as a one-canine concern. Betty has a sweet disposition but is a bundle of energy compared to Kasey, who’s quite content to snooze the day away. But the dogs get along, and so do we. In fact, it seems like having dogs of different ages is a positive, and they kind of complement each other.

Now, I just need to get my tennis ball tossing arm back into shape.