Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Year of the Dog, XI

The dog, a Boxer named Daisy, will be one year old this Sunday, which in real dog years may be another age altogether. By that I mean she's still not completely house-broken, unless you count one or two accidents a day as "house-broken." And she still chews. Today she destroyed a straw cowboy hat and a leather shoe.

But earlier this week she did something I've only  rarely seen a dog do. She went into full protective mode.

She's been raised with my granddaughter, Kerrigan, coming into the house when the little girl was about 5 months old. Daisy tolerates every accidental small slap or bite the girl unknowingly inflicts on her; she allows the girl to pull and tug on her; she even remains motionless while the little baby crawls over her.

Tuesday, my mother-in-law had given Kerrigan a feather-duster to play with, which went along nicely until the younger, male Boston terrier seemed to display what animal experts term "prey drive." He thought the feather duster was a real creature, a live bird to be chased, captured, and eaten. He was no danger to Kerrigan, simply snapping at the duster when she trailed it around behind her, but as Kerrigan stepped into the room where I was typing (and Daisy was sleeping) to show me the duster, Daisy sprang up and attacked Doc, the Boston. She knocked him across the room and held him down with her forelegs, growling in a fashion I had never heard.

Frankly, I didn't recognize that Doc's reaction to the feather duster had set her off, and so I simply separated them. Kerrigan continued to wave the duster, and Doc circled around and snapped at "bird" again. Once more, Daisy launched herself between Doc and Kerrigan and knocked him away, again pinning him to the floor.

With that, I began to understand that Daisy wanted to protect Kerrigan, that whatever unusual signals Doc was sending off (and to me his behavior simply seemed playful more than aggressive) meant jeopardy to the pack in Daisy's mind.

It was comforting to witness. It makes me think if any neighbor stray ventures near Kerrigan we have a dog that will intervene and protect. Perhaps too it means any of us in the household giving off an aura of fear because of a dog, or a person, or any other thing will have a dog willing to protect.

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