Top dog or bottom dog, it’s still a dog’s world

Emmitt B. Feldner • forThe Review

The dogs don’t have us outnumbered in our house yet, but they do still have us out-legged.

The human population at our place is at a constant two now, and should stay that way for many years to come, but unfortunately the canine population is never that stable.

We’ve ranged anywhere from one to three permanent canines – and the more than occasional guest canines – but for the moment we seem to have settled at two.

Of course, there’s no guarantee how long that’s going to last – though any increase in number will certainly not be of my choosing.

We’ve had Gracie, a Plott Hound, for going on three years now, ever since Terry went to the other side of the pond – all right, the other side of the nearest Great Lake, but far enough – to get her as a rescue pup.

Then, about a year and a half ago, we somehow gained custody of our son Ethan’s two dogs, Tank and Maggie.

Tank was an old – even in dog years – big black Labrador, hence the name.

Maggie is officially listed as an Australian sheepdog, but I think they just threw one dart at a map of the world and another at a chart of dog breeds to come up with something to classify that mutt.

Tank wasn’t with us very long, as he succumbed to old age and various ailments last year, but Maggie is still hanging in there.

She’s officially listed as six years old, but again that may be as much a guess as an accurate number.

It makes her Gracie’s senior, but respecting her elders is just one social amenity that Gracie has never picked up.

There’s a good reason why she’s called Gracie and not Grace – grace of any kind is far from this dog’s strong suit.

Gracie gets her pick of sleeping places, table scraps, places to sit – usually in the middle of Terry’s lap while she’s in her easy chair – and other perks.

I do have to say that Maggie is pretty accepting of the situation – as she came to Ethan’s house long after Tank had established himself there, she seems to be pretty used to taking a subordinate role in whatever four-legged situation she finds herself in.

For the most part, the two of them leave each other alone, although Gracie, as the younger girl, seems to want to play and rough house a little bit more than Maggie seems to care to.

One of the ways Gracie seems to assert her primacy in the canine kingdom is to decide when Maggie needs to go outside at night.

Maggie will be peacefully sleeping underneath the coffee table when Gracie, for whatever reason, decides the old lady needs to go out.

She’ll bark at and prod Maggie – as well as the two-legged residents of the house – until Maggie decides to head for the back door and Terry or I go to let her out.

Gracie apparently seems to think that Maggie is old enough to be suffering from some kind of canine incontinence, although we certainly haven’t seen any evidence of it ourselves – and believe me, I know it when I see it.

One reason Maggie goes along with it may be that it gives her a little alone time outside, since Gracie seems satisfied to stay inside once she’s gotten Maggie out the door.

I don’t know about during the summer, but as the temperatures have dropped, it may be that Gracie wants to spend as little time as possible outdoors.

Maggie’s a little furrier than Gracie, so the cold doesn’t bother her as much.

Gracie, on the other hand, when she does go out to answer nature’s call, makes it a pretty fast answer.

Indeed, I don’t think I’ve seen a dog as proficient as doing it on the fly as Gracie seems to be – on the coldest nights, she’s out and back in faster than an Olympic sprinter.

At least she has yet to replicate the trick one of our earlier dogs pulled off.

We had a pug for a while who, one extremely cold winter night, was in such a hurry that he didn’t wait to get off the concrete walk outside the back door before piddling.

Unfortunately for Milo, his aim wasn’t too good and he got it all over his paw – which, as cold as it was, instantly froze in place on the concrete.

Gracie has been smart enough to wait until she gets out in the grass to take care of her business, so we haven’t had to extricate her from that kind of frozen situation.

As I said, we’re holding steady now at a population of two dogs, but that number is always subject to change without notice.

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