Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

Acceptance difficult for visiting dog

July 13, 2006

The Saturday before the Fourth of July weekend, my father-in-law, John, dropped by the shop as we were finishing up for the day. John knew it was better to arrive late in the morning, as my wife and I would be able to spend some precious time with him.

The occasion this time was to drop off Mac, their 3-year-old Sheltie male, for a couple of weeks while they were on vacation. Usually, Mac stays a few nights in the clinic's boarding facility, but because it was full, we took him home.

Now before I get into the meat of the story, I need to describe this critter to you. Mac was born on the high plains of Burlington, Colo., on a farm in the middle of nowhere. My mother-in-law, after the death of Skippie, their former Sheltie, thought John needed a replacement. It just so happened Mac's mother and Skipper's were sisters, so Norma thought Mac would fit the bill.

John and Mac are "buds" after three years and very much inseparable, but Mac is his own dog and no Skipper. Some of Mac's characteristics include below average smarts (for a Sheltie), fear of loud noises (thunder, fireworks, etc.) and his own shadow.

Those familiar with Shelties know they bark -- a lot -- to the point of being obnoxious. Needless to say, we were leery of having Mac stay for two weeks as company to our three dogs and two cats. We were determined though to care especially well for ole Mac, out of respect for John, who was dearly missing his best friend out in the California desert.

Because of the fireworks and brief thunderstorm July 3, Mac got off to a shaky start. We contemplated drug therapy for Mac, but decided against it, once again out of respect for John. But after being awoke the next morning by his constant, irritating whiny bark, we thought twice. We found him outside on the porch that morning in his custom kennel, apparently placed there by our son after he was making too much racket.

The next day, we let Mac out to play with the resident pet population. He bounded out playfully to our border collie Susie, who greeted him with a growl. She was seen later in the day stepping on his foot while fetching a Frisbee, causing Mac to come to the house screaming and yelping with hurt feelings -- so much for befriending Susie.

Later, Mac padded up to our old matron Jessie, our 13-year-old Sheltie, thinking he would have better luck at making a new friend. She greeted him with her trademark curled lip, bearing her fangs.

Twice rebuffed, Mac next tried to forge a friendship with our rat terrier Minnie. His luck was no better. Minnie has a way with strangers that involve making a sound akin to that of a Tasmanian devil.

Poor ole Mac. That afternoon, Minnie unexpectedly bounded out of the brush just as Mac was passing by. Mac jumped about three feet in the air and three foot sideways. Minnie did not miss a beat, looking as always the dominant female she is.

Having struck out with our three dogs, Mac decided to attempt a greeting with Sylvester the cat, who was sunning himself by the back door. As Mack approached, the cat's tail rhythmically swatted downward, but he did not give ground. When Mac got to within about of foot of Slyvester's muzzle, he was greeted with a playful swat to the nose. With that, Mac screamed and ran barking to the back door, barking frantically to get in. Once in, he sought out the comfort and safety of his kennel, hiding there the rest of the day. It seems Mac had found himself at the bottom of the hierarchy.

The last few days we have just let Mac out to roam and play with the other canines. A certain tolerance for this "city boy" from Leawood has developed. When John called Tuesday from California, he was pleasantly surprised and pleased his "boy dog" was minding his manners and beginning to get along with his country cousins.

I wonder if he misses his master at all. We'll find out in a few days when they come back and Mac returns to his plush Leawood lifestyle.

I can't help but see a little humankind in this canine to the country scene. Sometimes, we tend to exclude a newcomer from the crow, too soon.

We could all take a lesson from this dog-world reality and remember to open up to a stranger in our backyard if that person doesn't pose a threat. Who knows? You might be entertaining an angel aware of it, or just being friendly to an old dog like Mac.

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