It’s all starting to come back to us. The age-appropriate food, the toys and treats, the doctor visits, the “accidents” during the night, the training books and videos. There are the additional walks throughout the day and snuggling and kisses behind ears and under chins. And the biting, always the biting and chewing from needle-like little baby teeth.
Yes, Kel and I recently welcomed a young one into our lives. A ginger-haired, furry little ball of energy who initially was very shy and fearful, but whose outgoing, mischievous, playful and loving personality quickly revealed itself. I gave her the name Willa after the author Willa Cather.
We don’t know anything about Willa’s first months of life or how she came to our ranch. I suspect it was in much the way Ike did: as an unwanted, lost or abandoned puppy that was fortunate to walk into a safe haven. What we do know is that a few weeks ago we saw her scurrying into our barn. Dirty, scrawny and limping. We started putting bowls of food and water out for her and we dusted off Ike’s old puppy crate and padded it with soft towels. She immediately moved into it, but kept her distance from us. Occasionally she would catch herself coming towards us, only to stop, yipping in frustration at her own paralyzing fear. It was Ike – unwittingly – who played ambassador. Willa was fascinated by him and let her guard down one afternoon long enough to approach him and consequently us.
Ike hasn’t forgiven himself for his role in bringing her into our lives. He’s been Top Dog for six years now. But slowly, painfully slowly, Ike is getting accustomed to her and while they play together, right now there is no affection (From Ike, anyway. She adores him). Perhaps time will soon make them the best of friends.
Like any parent does, it’s difficult not to make comparisons between the personalities of one’s offspring, er, animal companions. Both Ike and Willa are diggers. Give them a whiff of gopher or mole and they’re off, noses and paws deep in the dirt. Both have solid, infuriating stubborn streaks. They must take after me.
But there the similarities end. Ike cares for no one but his human pack members. Everyone else is to be regarded with suspicion. He is not affectionate except in quiet moments in the morning and evening and has no interest in snuggling. Willa wants nothing more than to drape herself in a human lap and be loved on.
Willa moves and runs as if she has greyhound in her; graceful, easy, and fast. Poor Ike. I think in his mind Ike believes he is speeding across the meadow, this close to nabbing a deer. But in truth, he runs like a Greyhound bus that is behind schedule.
Finally, the last big difference between them. People who don’t have pets, and especially those who have never bonded with a dog will think this is pure nuttiness, but nevertheless, I stand by what I’m about to write. Ike has an intuitive and uncanny sense of what we are thinking and feeling. He reads facial expressions as expertly as any experienced detective whittling away at a perp’s story. Time will tell if Willa develops a similar sense of us, but for now, she seems to live in the moment with regard only for her needs: food, play, sleep, walk, affection.
Kel and I happily welcome sweet Willa to our pack. Ike is reserving judgment…
And of course, IKE: