Monday, April 27, 2009

I Am Not A Dog Toy, Part I

I'm "a little serious", believe it or not. My very entertaining uncle said that a while back. "You've always been a little serious," he said. So it probably won't come as a big surprise that, as a general rule, I don't play. When I had cats, I had little furry mice, balls of tin foil and pipe cleaners shaped to look like little people. I'd throw the mice or balls and the cats would go get them and chew on them. Ove the years, one or two of them became fetching cats and would bring them back for another toss before they got bored, or decided such activity wasn't quite dignified enough for a cat, and took a nap instead.

Then I got dogs. Dog need to play, and yet, I don't really play. I'll pet your head. I'll rub a tummy or snuggle up on the sofa but play? Not so much. Perhaps I think it's not dignified. Maybe I was a cat in a former life. Actually, that wouldn't surprise me in the least as I'm not fond of getting my feet wet either.

But...I have dogs. High energy dogs that are easily bored and boredom causes them to "savage" one another as the herd dog lady calls it. We don't call it that. Thanks to my sister, who does play, we call it the pirahna game. Open, toothy mouths accompanied by growling, weird whiny yipping and the occasional snarl. Face biting, rolling around on the ground like gymnasts on crack, one's cheek in the other's mouth while the former hangs on to a neck or ear or snout; whatever's handy. The herd dog lady says they absolutely, unequivocally, are not to "savage" one another so I need to find something for them to do.

My husband is a walking dog toy. He'll roll around on the floor, allow himself to be double as a chew toy and act completely ridiculous with no concern whatsoever about looking or sounding silly. I, however, being one who generally doesn't play and is not remotely dog toy-like, am open to fetching. Fetching requires nothing of me beyond throwing something or other someplace other than where the dog is. It's a low energy job for the thrower that allows for computing at the same time. A good game as long as your dogs aren't quite as compulsive as my sister's Borders. One of them can wear out a human with the whole fetching thing.

Before we got the pup, Dinga (cute name, huh), we had one rescue cow dog. She didn't know how to play so we got along pretty well. However, I kept thinking about how dogs need to play so I again swiped an animal related sisterism "getcher butt". My version is necessarily altered from the original which involved a small and highly entertaining parrot named Olive.

I played this game with my big dog prior to getting Lirra, the cow dog, and with him it went something like this: He would be walking in front of me or standing around looking bored and I would grab his behind, one hand on each hip, flex my fingers and say, "Getcher butt!" He in turn would spin around and make silly noises and we'd continue like that for 5-10 minutes. Then we'd go lay down.

With Lirra, I got a little fancier. Of course she's a lot smaller (75 # smaller) so I have more options. One day while in a rare good mood, I straddled her, grabbed her butt and enthusiastically said, "Getcher butt!" She immediately lowered her head and looked at me with that what-did-I-do-wrong look so I have to convince her she wasn't naughty. Once convinced, I did the same thing while pushing her head first through my legs. Getcher butt doggie leap frog. A couple of times and she had it figured out. Mom's playing! Smart dog. All I can say is it's a good thing no one had a video camera cuz, trust me, this game doesn't come anywhere near being dignified. However, it is entertaining. She wiggles, makes funny noises and spins around in circles or rolls on her head in a spine bending somersault, however the mood takes her.

Now we have the pup and she's learning to fetch. It was actually kind of day I was bemoaning my dogs' lack of interest or understanding of fetching and the next day Dinga suddenly figured it out. Doggie light bulb moment. She's still a bit inconsistent about bringing it back to where I can actually reach it without getting up but at least she brings it back. Lirra on the other hand looks at it and then lays down somewhere. Or tries to climb on me. She tries that a lot.

When Dinga wants to play she barks the loudest, most high pitched bark on Earth right in my face. Allowed to continue, it can lead to a massive, brain pounding headache but if I grab the clue, it leds to fetching. I throw, she tries to catch in mid-air and then runs to beat hell in pursuit of whatever it is she's decided she wants thrown. At first, Lirra just looked at us like we were insane....and loud. Now, on occasion, she too will pursue the whatever it is, snatch it up with a cocky ha, ha, I got it and you didn't look, carry it to one rug or another....and eat it. Not a great fetcher that one but a truly excellent destroyer.

More on that later........


Mojo said...

Put very simply, dogs rule. My guy knows that when he comes in from the yard he must (a) stop, (b) sit, and (c) wait for me to wipe his feet with the towel kept by the door for this purpose. This is more about establishing the Order of Things than it is about keeping muddy paw prints off the carpet (though it does that fairly well too) because Tonka's a fairly high-drive dog even at 6 1/2 (not nearly so much as in his younger years though). Occasionally I think he's got the purpose behind the "game" figured out too because "Stop-sit-feet" gets translated as "stop,flop-on-the-floor-and-squirm-in-a-fashion-that-makes-it-impossible-to-do-the-foot-wipey-thing". I always win in the end, and I think he knows I'm going to, he's just trying to get his little pyhrric victories where he can.

For all that I wouldn't take any amount of money for him. 'Cos he simply rocks.

Naimhe said...

I do "feet" too. Keep yer damned wet feet off of my good rug, dog! In the door, sit, feet (wipe wipe) or if you want to argue about it - get in your house! I am the head dog in charge around here, thank you very much. hehe

Griffox said...

who is the herd lady and why does she think "savaging" each other is bad?

Naimhe said...

The herd dog lady is a local woman who trains herd dogs and agility. She's nationally known in agility circles. Apparently herd dogs aren't to get into the habit of biting things unless it's controlled, commanded nipping to move livestock. Tell me dogs that.