Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The dynamic duo

I haven't really talked much about my dogs, but I didn't want to create another journal just to opine on them. And I have many opinions about my dogs, one of whom is a pit bull, so I figured I could squeeze some of that in here.

In case you don't peruse the Mina and Celeste Chronicles, Mina is a 10 year old pit bull who has taken over the last 8 years of my life. Two years ago, on a spay camp in Mexico, I ruined the perfect Mina-Me dynamic and brought home a bedraggled 8-wk-old puppy of dubious lineage. Mina was not amused. To be frank, *I* was not amused. Celeste was very amused. She still is, really.

Mina and Celeste are night and day. Physically, they weigh the same, yet Mina can easily walk under Celeste's tall frame. Mina is elegantly proportioned (or so I tell myself) and muscular. She has a pink nose of doom which she uses to her advantage. She always looks serious or woeful. Celeste is tall and lanky with vivid, crazed blue eyes. Her ears have yet to decide whether they want to be erect or pointed left or right or something else. People always tell me Mina is pretty and, every now and then, gorgeous. Celeste? "Why, she has very long legs." or "Wow! Look at those eyes." Celeste always looks happy and at ease. Mina is always concerned.

Mina obsesses over other dogs - she likes them but is a total dunce when it comes to interacting with multiple dogs. One-on-one, she's brilliant. And little dogs? Mina firmly believes they are Divine Ones who need to be adored. She's frustrated by leashes, so acts like an idiot when restrained by one (yes, she has had training; no, it has not improved her irascible nature on leash). Mina is always on a mission during walks and generally that does not involve paying much attention to me.

Celeste is afraid of other dogs and will be enduring training to hopefully rectify her disastrous behavior. She is incredibly people-focused and a doll-pie to walk. Her recall is the stuff of dreams and she has a knack at learning new behaviors quickly. Celeste is the quintessential first-time dog-owner/guardian kind of dog.

Mina is very serious about giving affection to people. I don't mean that she is overly enthusiastic about meeting people, she isn't, but the second you are in her good graces, she knows you and only you. There is something disconcerting about being the Center of the Universe to a dog, a big responsibility. I've found many pit bulls like making eye contact and Mina is no exception. There is nothing domineering about her quests for a visual connection, it's just who she is and how she reaches out. I love staring into her eyes and love that she stares right back. This makes her, in my opinion, a Very Good Dog. I'm not sure what it makes me to her; most likely, I'm missing a very important request in these gazes, something along the lines of "Treat now, you idiot human."

Celeste hates eye contact. Sometimes this makes me want to label her a Not So Very Good Dog. I forget that most dogs don't perceive staring deeply into their eyes as a fun task, but rather rude. I didn't have to teach Mina a "watch me", I just had to attach those words to a behavior she exhibits so naturally. But Celeste? I worked hard convincing her eye contact brought good things. Still, she refuses to make eye contact for more than a couple seconds. Her eyes will shift every so slightly to the right - it's just too much for her. A 30-minute sit-stay? A breeze. A 15-minute down-stay? No problem. Ignoring that tasty goose shit for praise instead? Voila, done! But a four-second "watch me"? Egad, that is asking her too much.

I feel guilty that my love for Celeste isn't the same as my love for Mina. Celeste is that fun friend you hang out with for a laugh, a temporary high. Mina is that best friend who you feel an irreversible bond with. Both are wonderful and necessary.

I will be able to do fun things with Celeste that I cannot do with Mina. She can go off leash because of her super awesome recall. She can go places with a lot of people, because she is a people whore. Celeste will probably like agility or rally or lure coursing. I'm excited about that, as I've always wanted a dog I could run safely off-leash, who could do some kind of dog sport and be out there in the world. Mina can't be off leash. Mina is unimpressed by the energy of a crowd (me too). Mina thinks agility is for sissies and rally for losers and who the hell wastes their time chasing a plastic bag for fun? And yet.

Mina and Celeste do have a few things in common. They love kids. I'm talking crazy love, here. Celeste is an effervescent and incredibly gentle puppy around kids, trailing them everywhere, giving them kisses, letting them know she cares. Mina is the calm one, stoically enduring tail tugs and ear pulls and politely disengaging herself when they get too grabby. Mina and Celeste love bitey-face like it's going out of style. They love butt scratches and both tolerate nail clipping with moderate levels of grace. They like to try new foods and are especially fond of tofu and carrots. Both look at you like you matter, that you have some worth in this big world.

They are both special, awesome dogs. I love them differently, and I never regret having added either of them to my life.

That is all. For now. :)

1 comment:

susan said...

They really seem to compliment one another and you illustrated it beautifully. I love the "8 week old puppy of dubious lineage" I have one I could say the same thing about :-)