Monday, January 25, 2010

Dogs. Can't live without 'em...

...Can't shoot them in the head.

So it's Sunday evening and things are settling down in the lair. Ghost can't settle down with them, a sign I should have interpreted more carefully than I did even if I got it wrong. He wants to go outside, nothing unusual, just wants to bark at the coyotes. So I let him out. I hear him barking in the meadow, I hear him barking on the slope. All perfectly normal for that time of the day.

Then I stop hearing him bark. I stick my head out and call, wait, no Ghost. Not perfectly normal, certainly not optimal, but not so unusual I'm ready to summon the Marines. Wait a while, call, no Ghost. Repeat. Nothing.

I'm starting to think in terms of mounting a futile search when there's a knock on my door. The shades are down and LB, my totally f*cking useless single remaining watchdog, doesn't alert at all so I figure it's W. W is the only person who could conceivably be knocking on my door after six in the evening unless the caller is carrying a warrant and backed by tacticops in the bushes, and I'm not expecting that guy right now. Must be W, so I just open the door.

It isn't W. It's D, my neighbor from a few miles down the road. He raises his hand, looks embarrassed, and says, "I've got Ghost in the truck." Ghost has reached a new milestone in his budding career as a pain in my ass - now he isn't waiting to be led astray by the more irresponsible dogs in the pack, he's just going off and doing it himself. At night.

Ghost! The one I thought I could (sort of) depend on to stick around - if not the yard, at least the property. Gyarr!

See, I'm just winging this whole "dog nanny" thing. All my experience is empirical and all my predictions are based on assumptions which often prove unfounded. In this matter I've been working on the assumption that dogs are creatures of habit, that the thing they're used to is the thing they like, that if you can trust them to do a thing you will be able to continue to trust them to do that thing. Now I'm starting to think that Magnus and Fritz were creatures of habit because they were older dogs and never all that adventurous in the first place. Ghost, when he was young, was a wanderer. For the past two years he stopped doing that. Now I'm thinking maybe he was restrained in his behavior by the older dogs, now both gone. His behavior is increasingly not so restrained.

This morning dawned the coldest I've seen in weeks. Per routine, as soon as Uncle Joel begins to stir it's time to go outside and take care of some long-delayed business. I hop to the door, which is frozen shut, pry it open and the dogs shoot out like cannonballs. All according to routine. Ghost normally stays out only a few minutes and then wants back in - LB sometimes takes a little longer but never goes far first thing in the morning. This morning, of course, they both vanish.

Time passes. Call and call. More time passes. No dogs. I suit up like an astronaut, figuring that if a few minutes of calling bears no results I'll be taking the Jeep to D&L's, making my second apology in less than twelve hours for not restraining my wayward dogs. As soon as I step outside, Ghost comes around the corner of the lair like everything's fine and wants inside. No LB materializes at my call. I start to move away and Ghost pops out of the lair. "No!" At the tone of the command, I assume, Ghost rotates mid-air on his own axis and disappears into the lair. One down.

Just about that time I hear W's dogs raising hell inside his nice warm lair. LB's on their porch inviting them out to play. Did I mention it's frickin' cold? I'm swaddled like Nanook of the frickin' North and still slowly freezing solid, and he's trying to get a stickball game started or something and doesn't come at my call. I offer slow dismemberment as an option, and he trots on home as if that sounds like a good idea. Now they're both curled up inside like nothing's wrong.

What the hell am I going to do with these guys? I'm actually getting into a situation where two dogs are more trouble than four were. Arithmetic shouldn't work like that.

In an hour or so I have to call the vet and make an appointment for LB who's got some sort of growth on his paw. I don't know what it is - at first I thought it was just a random wound, then maybe a festering spot around a cactus spine or something. It doesn't seem to bother him at all, he barely licks at it, but it's getting bigger and more pronounced so to the vet we go ASAP. Unless I disembowel him first, which would moot the whole vet thing.


The Grey Lady said...

Joel the bigger the pack the smaller the impact of any individual dog's personality.

In my experience as a life long dog owner: One dog is cute, two dogs are almost always easier then one, stops them from thinking they are folks. Three is a disaster, usually four is a calm cohesive group.

Joel said...

So...I need two more dogs? To quell dog-related chaos?

Must be some new kind of higher math. I didn't even know dogs could count, and now I find their behavior is based on logarithms or something.

Anonymous said...

I hope LB's growth is easy to take care of. Last week I was putting hot packs on my senior dog's flank to help her sebaceous cyst drain.

"L2, what did you do today?"

"Why I had the most interesting day-- I held hot towels on my dog's ass to help drain gunk from her cyst." =)

She's healing up dandy and it never bothered her a bit. Me-- glad I don't have to be swathed in latex gloves anymore and feel like I need to sterilize myself to rid my brain of the icky cooties every 45 seconds.

Also, dogs are curious creatures. What at D and L's place is so much more interesting than yours? They've created a pattern. They are not wandering over there just because it is the only road to travel. They enjoy something over there very much and the siren song is calling them. Disembowelment and severe grumbling be damned.


The Grey Lady said...

SO maybe my theory says more about me then about the dogs. ;)

Of course dogs do math, have you never heard of Maggie the counting dog?

L2 glad to hear your dog is doing better. Yes what is at that place that they like so much...

Anonymous said...

The Grey Lady,

Thank you for your well wishes. My girl is a trooper. Not much bothers her, except our little one who insists on herding her around as any cattle dog worth his weight would. =)She is about the size of a calf.


Anonymous said...

Not logarithms, monotonic approach to an asymptote. Grey Lady knows her dog packs.

Perhaps a model based upon quantum wells and the free energy of two or more interacting dogs would explain the tunneling behavior past barriers and into forbidden territory. The binding energy of additional dogs would significantly reduce the probability of tunneling. Since the results would be the same -more dogs or more fences required - it's probably not worth the effort.

Has anyone explored the upper limits on pack size? Shudder.