Friday, August 22, 2008

Bravery, Bluster and Territorial Expansion

Baxter has always been brave in the face of uncertainty. He faces whatever life throws at him with the unflappability and curiosity of a gun dog. When he sees a new person standing in the yard or walking toward him on the street, he walks right up to them quietly...not in a particularly waggy, friendly way, but rather in the spirit of investigation. When there's a loud noise, Baxter runs toward it -- whether it be thunder, a gun shot in the woods or me dropping a kitchen utensil. When we're in a new place, he's an intrepid explorer, running ahead of the pack (as far as we'll let him go), sticking his nose into every nook and cranny. Whenever a box is opened or a bag is unzipped, Baxter is there with his nose right in it. And, as I've mentioned before, every single birthday gift and holiday package we've sent over the past nine years has had Baxter nose hair stuck to the scotch tape.

Kirby is a whole different animal. Frequently, when we open the door to go outside, he exits the house with a deep woof, as if to tell the world "I'm Kirby, I'm tough and I just wanted to let you all know I've arrived." Yet, when he is surprised by a new person in the yard or a neighbor coming out their door, his first reaction is an alarm bark. Any loud noises at all (even just a loud clank of a spoon in an empty bowl) send Kirby under the sofa. If it's thundering outside, we literally have to drag him out from under the furniture to go out and do his business. He'd rather burst than go where the noise is. And I certainly don't have to tell you the reaction when the local air show a couple of weeks ago brought in some fighter planes who made their big turns over our house.

Given these very different approaches to the world, Brave Baxter and Cautious Kirby have very different approaches to going for a walk. Baxter will go anywhere and will pull you there, even if he doesn't know where he's going. Kirby, on the other hand, has definite territorial boundaries. Inside the boundaries he confidently pulls, runs, jumps and frolics as much as a dog can on the end of a leash. He's taken to marking the local trees and light posts and knows all the best sniffing spots. But once you cross his invisible territorial line, he's a different dog. We practically have to drag him down the street. He won't sniff, won't do his business and every passing thing, be it a person, car or squirrel, causes him to hide behind my legs.

So now I've taken to expanding Kirby's horizons -- trying new directions. Today, as Baxter was pulling me forward and Kirby was pulling me backward, I decided to put Baxter's leash through the loop of Kirby's, so I just held Baxter and all of Kirby's backpaddling balanced Baxter's forward lunging. It actually worked for a couple of blocks, enough so that Kirby and Baxter eventually ended up walking side by side gently in front of me.
We may be onto something here...

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