Saturday, January 05, 2013

Morning Choreography and Wishing for Another Boat

This morning we had a rare moment of peace while Remy and Kirby were in the same room, untethered. Well, it was somewhat enforced by the fact that rather than putting Remy in his crate, we tried tying him to the sofa to keep them separated until they both calmed down. At one point, when the two dogs were resting quietly, I unhooked Remy’s leash and the two managed to be within three feet of each other without wrestling for at least 10 minutes. That is a record.

Just yesterday, as I worked on this blog entry, I was thinking to myself that this obsessive wrestling thing just has to stop one of these days. I had hoped that by now that Remy and Kirby would be able to curl up next to each other and nap once in a while…or at least be able to sit next to each other for 15 seconds while I put their leashes on. Nope. Unless there is almost constant refereeing, every chance they get, they are having at it. Up the stairs. Under the sofa. Around the guests’ feet. So, most of the time, we still keep them segregated: Kirby gets full run of the house when Remy is in his crate and Kirby goes upstairs when Remy is loose. (We put a gate at the bottom of the stairs.)

This passion for wrestling is particularly annoying first thing in the morning when one spouse is trying to sleep. Due to Remy’s early morning potty call, Jamie and I have been taking turns so that we both aren’t entirely sleep-deprived. Jamie has, by far, taken the majority of morning outings, largely because I’m a more sound sleeper and he hears Remy’s rumblings first. That, and he’s just a really nice guy. But lately Jamie’s been fighting off a cold so I’ve been trying to let him sleep in.

Of course, first thing in the morning (which, for Remy, is the crack o’dark) the puppy is all recharged from a night in the crate and is ready for action. Jamie describes the choreography of getting Remy and Kirby outside and fed in the morning as being like the old puzzle of the farmer with the fox, the chicken and the corn trying to figure out how to get them all across the river when his boat is only big enough to take one at a time…

The morning scenario goes something like this:

Remy needs to go out first because he has the smallest bladder, but Kirby wants to go out too. If I take Remy out without Kirby, Kirby will whine and bark and wake up my spouse. If I take Kirby out by himself, then I have to leave Remy unattended in the house with a full bladder. If I put Remy back into his crate he will whine. If I try to put leashes on both Remy and Kirby at the same time, I have to put Remy’s on first then step on the leash before letting Kirby through the gate so I can keep Remy from jumping immediately into a wrestling match with Kirby, which makes putting on Kirby’s leash impossible. If I don’t let Kirby out of the gate, he starts whining and barking (remember, I’m trying to do all of this while making as little noise as possible). So I reach over the gate to put Kirby’s leash on, and if I take too long doing that, Remy sits by the door repeatedly ringing the bells (which is really a good thing). 

Once the leashes are on, I open the gate and let Kirby out. There is a moment of mayhem as I try to get both dogs through the door…Kirby goes first while I yard back Remy’s leash to keep him from jumping on Kirby on the way out the door. We walk with Kirby on a longer leash and hold Remy back just far enough to keep him from grabbing at Kirby’s flank hair. On rare mornings they will walk and sniff the trees together for up to 15 seconds at a time, but unless one of them is doing his business, it’s usually a constant effort to keep Remy from jumping on Kirby. 

As anyone who walks dogs knows, there are those moments when you need to get the poop bag out of your pocket, get the pesky thing open and over your hand ready for use. On a cold morning, fumbling with gloves and two leashes and a fresh bag that doesn’t want to separate at the top is always a chore. Doing this while keeping two dogs from wrestling and keeping myself from shouting at them and waking the neighbors at 5:30am takes it to a whole new level. The ballet moves involve stepping on Remy’s leash with one foot to keep him at a safe distance from both Kirby and the poo while lunging out with the other foot and reaching to pick up the aforementioned poo without letting go of either leash. Of course, this has to happen at least once for each dog without losing a glove, the poo or my mind. Sometimes Kirby just loses some hair. That’s the way it goes. If he doesn’t get out of the way, there’s only so much I can do.

Back on the home front, it’s time for breakfast. I want to feed Kirby first, because he is the elder dog. This is all but impossible if one is trying to maintain peace and quiet. If I put Remy in his pen while I’m working on the food, there will be howling. If I don’t put Remy in the pen, he will eat Kirby’s food. Kirby is afraid of the sound of the metal pen when Remy jumps up on the side of it. Kirby runs upstairs. Remy gets his food first. Remy sits quietly at my feet watching me prepare the food and pour water into the bowls. The look on his little face is so sweet and innocent I just want to hug and kiss him and it’s hard to believe he is anything but perfect. 

I take Remy’s water and food over to his pen and give him the sit and stay commands while I set the bowls down. Remy actually does this now, which is pretty great. When I give the OK he launches into the pen, I shut the door, put down Kirby’s food and call Kirby back downstairs. They both gobble down their food. As soon as Remy starts jumping on the side of the pen, Kirby runs upstairs. I close the stairway gate and let Remy out. We have a few minutes of blissful quiet as Remy pads around, plays with his toys and lets me rub his tummy. Remy stations himself at my feet while I read or write on my laptop. Pretty soon Kirby decides he wants to be downstairs with us. He knows what will happen, yet he sits behind the gate and whines. Pretty soon the whines turn into barks (after all the effort to remain quiet, this is what usually wakes up the spouse).  Now I have three choices: put Remy back into his crate and let Kirby out (which makes Remy whine and bark), keep Remy out and let Kirby whine and bark at the gate (either of which will wake up my spouse and by this point I’m too tired and frustrated to care) or just let Kirby out and play referee as the two of them duke it out in the living room. None of these sound like good options at 6am. It amazes me that Jamie manages to do this a majority of the time without waking me up. Whether that’s a testament to my deep sleeping habits or his ability to execute the morning dance more effectively we may never know, but I’m thankful for it.

We don’t know how much refereeing we should be doing during these wrestling matches between Remy and Kirby. At nearly 14 weeks, Remy is now taller than Kirby, but Kirby still has the bigger teeth and adult strength. Kirby knows exactly what it takes to get Remy off of him (a yelp and a snap usually do the trick), yet he seldom does it. He dashes under the sofa, knowing full well that Remy is still small enough to get under there with him, and the two just roll around on their backs kicking at each other with their front paws and chewing on each other’s faces. Occasionally Kirby will make a break for it and run around the living room with Remy in hot pursuit. But it almost always ends up under the sofa. When I’m sitting on top, it sounds (and feels) like there are two wild animals under there, scratching and bumping and making little growly noises. 

These wrestling matches don’t just happen in the morning. They pretty much happen any time Remy and Kirby are together. Remy is the instigator at least 80% - 90% of the time. But it’s surprising to me — for how miserable Kirby seems when he’s being mauled by the puppy — just how often Kirby instigates it. It almost seems like he wants to wrestle. Yet, after a bit, he starts looking desperate and makes a mad dash for the upstairs, hoping that one of the humans will close the gate behind him. We worry about Kirby sometimes because these wrestling matches seem to wear him out. But Kirby’s level of agitation at being separated from the family seems even harder on him at times. 

What surprises me most is that still, to this day, there has been no bloodshed, no major squealing in pain, from either of them. Remy still manages to pull out wads of Kirby’s hair. Kirby has had various parts of Remy in his teeth many times and never clamps down enough to hurt the puppy. Like a good big brother, he knows just how far he can go without making his little brother cry. But like a naughty big brother, Kirby also knows how to lord his power over the little guy. This happens whenever Remy is being restrained in any way and Kirby is free. For example, over the holidays, when Remy’s leash was tied to a chair so we could keep track of him during a family game of Trivial Pursuit, Kirby (who had free run of the entire house) stationed himself 2” from the limit of Remy’s reach and proceeded to play with his toys. When Remy is in his crate, Kirby goes out of his way to get a toy and sit right in front of the door of the crate to play with it, just out of Remy’s reach. Yeah, sometimes Kirby is asking for it.

I don’t blame Kirby for wanting to get one up on the little guy. After all, he was here first. But I can't help remembering how much grief he gave Baxter when Kirby was a pup and feeling like Kirby does have a little of that coming back at him. At least Kirby, like Baxter, seems well aware that he should not physically hurt the puppy. I’m just wondering when the gloves will come off and if, by that time, Remy will be so big that Kirby no longer has an advantage. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the meantime, if segregation is the only way to maintain some semblance of peace in the house, so be it...even if that means both Jamie and I get up at the crack o’dark (which is sort of like taking the fox, chicken and corn across in two boats...)

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