New Dog, New Tricks; Old Dog, Old and New Tricks

Transitioning a new family member is always an adventure, and when the addition is a rather sudden, unexpected one, you really just fly by the seat of your pants. Such is the case in the Lucker household this past week, as we added a second dog to our merry band.

Actually, it’s less a band, more of a tuning-our-off-key-instruments-jam-session – that whole ‘different drum’ thing.

New addition Sadie fits in perfectly.

A little backstory: our household has, for the past 8.75 years or so, consisted of me, my wife, our two sons, and Lucy the rambunctious rat terrier. Lucy came to us rather serendipitously (free, including all doggie accoutrements) on Thanksgiving weekend 2002, while we were living in Minnesota. Fast-forward to 2011, and the five us were doing just fine in our little domicile in New Orleans, where we moved three years ago.

Culture and climate wise, it has been an adjustment for all – for Lucy, especially, who as an always been energetic and enthusiastic (understatement, yes) 16 pound terrier, finds the sub-tropics to be a bit of a challenge at times. On the plus side, there are always lizards to chase around the yard.

Life was fine with just the five of us.

A few weeks back, my wife was talking with some friends of ours from church, who were concerned about what to do with their dog. Though about our age, they both have chronic health issues, and were finding it more and more difficult to take care of three (or so) year old Sadie, their blue heeler-spaniel mix. They didn’t want to put an ad on Craigslist and just have some stranger take her, and they didn’t want her to go to a pound, as that’s where they had gotten her from after a fairly lengthy shelter stay.

“Hmmm” thinks my wife, who followed the “Hmmm” with an offer to discuss with me (I was at work that Saturday) taking Sadie in.

She approached me with the idea, I was surprised (that my wife came up with this plan is priceless, and worthy of its own post someday) and said I would think about it. In the meantime, our friends were very excited at the prospect, knowing both of our boys and feeling that it would be a great environment for Sadie.

Slightly skeptical, I agreed to a plan where we would give it a trial run, provided the two dogs got along at first meeting.

Last Sunday morning, we met Sadie and her family at City Park, and the dogs got on fine from the get go; lots of canine-butt sniffing, but no hissing, growling or bearing of teeth. We then sent the dogs on a walk with the boys, fifteen year old Will taking the bigger, trickier to handle Sadie and twelve year old Sam took Lucy, while we adults just hung out and chatted.

When the four of them returned from their walk, Sadie was running, with Will doing his best to keep up. That was kind of the deciding moment for all concerned.

Boys and dogs all looked like a natural fit.  

Sadie’s family was very pleased to see how quickly she bonded with the boys, whom they know and like anyway, so they are happy; they can come over and visit, or we can all meet at the park or something, but at least they’ll get regular updates Saturday nights at church. In addition, Sadie’s original family members are both teachers who moved here from a northern clime much as we did, so there is some added symmetry there.

That is how Sadie came to us, rather serendipitously, free including all doggie accoutrements.

So far, so goofy good.

The size difference has presented some challenges. Lucy (top picture) checks in at rather frenetic sixteen pounds, Sadie is a lumbering fifty-one; when she plunks down, she plunks with a clump. Sadie just good naturedly poking her snout into a situation tends to leave little room for Lucy, or at least it did the first day or two. Now Lucy has learned to hold her own, and will either go around you to where she can find another opening to show her enthusiasm when one returns home from work or school.

Or whenever the mood strikes.

Lucy has also learned to use her muscular haunches to leverage her snout in between Sadie and I when she deems herself being ignored. Sadie usually just looks at her, wags her tail and lets it go at that.

Domicile alpha dog honors to date? Advantage, Lucy.

Amy has always referred to Lucy as something of a ‘diva’ and the past week has only reinforced that. Lucy’s spot on the shorter living room couch (the side with the blanket) is hers and hers alone Sadie has not tried to sit there that I have seen. Lucy has also always loved sitting in our old brown recliner, especially when either Amy or I is sitting there watching T.V. or using the laptop, and she has quickly realized that she is the only dog here that fits there, so her recliner-sharing incidences have definitely increased.

Sadie has her own tricks.

Getting your attention is accomplished in much the same way a human toddler would do it; by pawing at you. And she has big paws. If you are lying in bed, she comes up next to the bed, then reaches up, and with her left paw (almost always the left paw) and puts it on your side or arm, pulling toward her – effectively rolling you over like a log. Nice trick at four-thirty in the morning. Beats barking as an alarm.

She also uses the paw grab to great effect when you are sitting in a chair.

Sadie has also become Lucy’s morning-routine sidekick. Historically, I get up about fife-thirty with Lucy to let her out, start the coffee pots and grab the paper, feeding Lucy at six. Once Lucy is done eating, she has permission (and she rarely does it without being told its okay) to go wake up Sam, and then Will. She has handled this job for years in much the same way; jumping on their beds and licking their faces.

They like their terrier-alarm.

Sadie learned quickly that this is a one-dog operation, and will follow Lucy and I into the boy’s respective rooms, but she keeps a distance and just watches. For now.

Nighttime is Sadie’s domain, at least with Sam. Amy reads to Sam every night (at his request – it’s been their ‘thing’ since Sam was an infant, and they are currently working their way through another teen book series of some sort) and Sadie has taken to joining the ritual by jumping up and lying at/on Sam’s feet while they read. After reading, it is my turn to go in and say goodnight and say a bedtime prayer with Sam. Sadie joins this ritual as well, and sits on the floor next to the bed, and puts both paws up on it by Sam’s head, so it would appear that she is also praying.

She even does this when I work nights, come in late when Sam is asleep or nearly so, and follows my routine with hers.

So far, so good.

No major issues to report thus far, and the dogs seem to have reached some turf-understandings, and Lucy has stopped running way from Sadie. They do like to sit in the backyard and sunbathe together, and Sadie seems to understand the Lucy-as-alpha thing, even when out for a walk, deferring to her most of the time. Most.

BTW – there is a special trick to walking two dogs that disparate in size, and it’s not in handling the lashes as much as it is in acclimating to the different gaits and cadences of the two. They like walking together, though they interestingly sniff at different points, rarely sniffing where the other has. Same with their urinating; they mark different territories.

One thing I can’t figure as yet is if adding Sadie will have any political effect on the family. There is a legislative campaign being waged in the neighborhood, with candidate signs dotting the landscape. When out walking, both dogs approach and sniff most of the signs before passing. Lucy always goes directly around the signs to the right, while Sadie stops, contemplates the sign for a moment, then always goes around to the left. They are either letting each other know where they stand politically, or maybe Sadie is just being contrary.

Early dog days of political season.

On the plus side, both Lucy and Sadie are bipartisan in nature, and have peed on the signs of both candidates indiscriminately and repeatedly, thus summing up my take on the choices at hand quite succinctly.

This old dog is enjoying learning some new tricks. Good teachers.



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