Monday, December 12, 2011

Dogging perspective

"Hello!" Says Wiggle-Britches. (c) 2011 by RLMT

If you've never had a Border Collie around before, you probably aren't aware that a complete idiot and a whiz-bang genius can coexist in one medium sized canine body. It takes a special brand of thinking just to keep such a dog out of trouble while they're 'helping out around the place'. Even Border Collie mixes exhibit a steady stream of generally harmless yet definitely cockeyed logic. Young or old, Border Collies are never boring.

When our full-blooded female and half-bred male chose that the time was right to 'get together', they simply found a slight weak spot in her heavy-grade chain-link kennel and proceded to mangle out a space large enough for the big, part-Rottweiler boy to squeeze in through; the next morning, two happy faces met us from inside the kennel, instead of one. Seven glossy, mostly-black puppies (and a stout patch on the kennel) resulted of their union. We found good homes for five of the babies and planned to keep one more, a female of genteel ways. This brings me to Number Seven, who had the puppy-name of 'Outlaw' (little did we know... at least it beat calling 'hey you!' in his general direction at feeding time) until his Rottweiler-designed whole-read-end wagging earned him the more comic, less simple calling card. For Wiggle-Britches is always wiggling, always in motion.

Like the others in his litter, he is nearly solid black with only a thin ruffle of white on his chest and a few white toes on one foot to break the coal-dark shine of his easy care Border Collie-type coat. It's his head that gives away his mixed heritage; his skull is broad and square by comparison to his pure-bred mother's more wedge shaped noggin.  Two active, deep brown eyes and a nose constantly at work finish his portrait.

I could, for long hours, spin tales of this dog's escapades during his single  year of life. His mind is as active as the rest of him. Opossums beware! Mr. Wiggles worries 'possums to death (literally: four to date, in the last month).

Never do I step outside the door that he does not immediately show up and begin licking at my fingers, prancing in delight, his eye trying with loving desperation to catch mine. Though he does not usually like to be touched, his heart is one of endless love and concern. I stumble, he worries.

This does not, unfortunately, extend to Ronnie, regardless of the fact that this is the person who is in charge of feeding all of our large outdoor dogs as well as the cat population.

Mr. Wiggles makes his own rule. Mostly as life occurs to him.

Herein lies the crux of the matter, the nib of the pen that tells the wicked tale. I shall thus relate to you in regards to the Saga of Wiggle-Britches Versus the Man of the House.

First, a little foundation for the tale: Ronnie splits firewood and stacks it in the shed. Wiggle-Britches watches him. Ronnie carries in firewood to fill the box. Wiggle-Britches watches closely. Ronnie puts away his tools and goes into the house for the night. Wiggle-Britches sees this too, and in the long dark silences of his fitful night, he thinks about the day's activities. He decides he needs to help.

Just after dawn the next day, we arise to find many pieces of firewood, some of them too large to be easy for a dog Wiggle's size to handle in his mouth easily, scattered across the yard. They had been diligently carried, one by one, from the stacks in the open woodshed to the southern end of the house where we carry in our firewood. Every piece had been brought as nearly to where Ronnie had carried the other supply to as Wiggle-Britches could manage, having neither a door key nor proper thumbs to turn a key if he had one.

Wiggle-Britches was very proud of his accomplishment. Ronnie, not understanding the cause, was furious at his work being scattered, as he saw it. I explained to Ronnie, then to Wiggle-Britches, about the whole situation. Basically, I told them both to shut up (they were hounding each other verbally at this point) and think about their opposing points of view. Both of them grumbled, but did a nice crisp sit-stay regardless. I was very proud of their willingness to understand and cooperate.

Alas, men and dogs are both stubborn creatures. Especially when both of the combatants are hyperactive, friendly, hard-working, and 'helpful' types with obsessive focus at select times (as a long-term housewife, I call this 'selective hearing').

Did I mention obsessive?

Ronnie has a farmer's strong faith in reading the rain guage regularly. Strange for a man with an aversion to growing a garden, but his main crop of joy is the making of good hay. As soon as it stops raining, it is an all-important compulsion for Ronnie to seek information on how much rain fell.

There is a mound of sand in our southerly wood's-edge yard where I keep a small drainage cleaned out to prevent puddling in an unfinished but well-traveled section of landscaping in a state of casual non-completion. Instead of setting a short post or using any one of several taller tree stumps (pine; the beetles are deadly) to perch the gadget on, Ronnie crowned the sand pile with an inexpensive rain gauge he spent much time consulting.

After long months of taking it as an ordinary part of the landscape, Wiggle-Britches saw Ronnie remove gthe top section to read it (WB: "Hey, that can be lifted up!") read the gauge, and carefully replace it in its slender stand (WB: "He doesn't want it any more. It's fair game for me to play with now!"). And Ronnie walked away without a backward glance, the dog unseen and forgotten. He did not look for nor speak to the dog in any way.

It was my turn to watch, and I did. Having wasted enough of my breath trying to coordinate the two, I kept silent. I knew what was about to happen with an unshakeable certainty.

The next evening, sure enough, after a few hours of off and on rain, I heard a dual roar. Or dueling roars... whichever. Both? Ronnie was having a genuine 'conniption fit'. Wiggle-Britches had, of course, more or less eaten the rain gauge. Wiggle-Britches gave back admirably the same pitch, tone, and pattern of curses with amazing fluency, never missing a beat.

Ronnie stamped in the door looking for help, support, his mate... only to find me laughing so hard that all I could do was weakly wave a hand to try to shush him. Wiggles had followed Ronnie to the door, where he stood outside the shut panel of glass and Masonite, barking in the bossy tones of a guardian, clearly thinking something was wrong with me, since Ronnie was still yelling. "I ought to have known you'd be laughing!"

Ah, men and dogs. They don't like to share rain, toys... and you can't just shoot them when they mean well in what they do.

The moral of this story is that if you have a dog named Wiggle Britches and a man who owns an axe (and a treasured rain gauge?), you had better clarify the impending perspectives of all involved. Or else you need to hide the axe (and the remains of the rain gauge).

It's all about how you see it: perspective is the key. No thumbs required. 

Wiggle-Britches had an itch. (c) 2011, by RLMT