FROM ANTAGONIST TO TRUSTED FRIEND

Astro, a 10 month old German Shepherd Dog, moved into our complex with his family a couple a weekends ago.  As mentioned in the previous blog, Magic has been schooling Astro in the fine art of canine-to-canine respectful behavior.  Astro had been persistent in his desire to approach Magic from the rear and grab Magic on the back of his neck.  Magic would not tolerate these approaches and Magic has been just as persistent in enlightening Astro that certain behaviors are simply UNACCEPTABLE.  Magic’s mentoring has progressed from very strong messages of correction – showing teeth, growling, open mouth charges, cheek grabbing, fur pulling – to the point of detente that both canines reached this past Thursday evening;  Magic rolling on his back next to Astro and exposing his speckled tummy after a spirited session of “chase-me  chase-you” pursuit games.  The message at that point was genuine and elegant:  “You have learned your lessons and we are friends, I trust you.”

This morning, some fifteen minutes ago, Magic was sleeping at the patio slider, just the screen separating him from our large back yard area.  And who suddenly appears, with leash on, softly whimpering?  Yes, the GSD, Astro, looking for his friend and mentor, Magic.  I opened the slider and Magic shot off towards the “squirrel tree” with Astro bounding behind him, leash dragging through the wet grass.  No approaches from the rear, no attempts at grabbing Magic’s neck.  However, Astro quickly found a well-used Frisbee and kept pushing it at Magic’s face – ‘C’mon, let’s play…”

And Astro’s owner, Craig?  Craig appeared about a minute later amazed that Astro had spirited himself out of the car – and proceeded on his own – right to Magic’s place!

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ASTRO pleading with MAGIC:  “C’mon, let’s play.”  From mentor and pupil to good friends…

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When ASTRO is with MAGIC, his focus is on engaging MAGIC in play and pursuit games.

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THE EMPATHIC CANINE

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MAGIC with tri-pawed, BEAR.  Good friends from their first meeting.  MAGIC is extremely patient with BEAR who is “Mr. ME-FIRST!!!”

I believe that the majority of dog owners would agree that their canine companions have canine friends – dogs they look forward to interacting with, playing with, sparring with.  With Magic, I am familiar with the sounds of whimpering, high-pitched growls, high-pitched yips, when he recognizes one of his dog friends from our patio slider.  Their initial meet and greet includes facial licks, touching of noses, faces rubbed against each other, perhaps some pre-sparring moves like a paw on the back or neck.  Some chase-me, chase-you pursuit games followed by some bitey-face sparring or wrestling, all with good intentions.  No pain inflicted, rapid apologies if there is a yelp or an action that is upsetting.  I often describe Magic as a “subtle” Alpha-male, in spite of being neutered.  During the first meeting with any dog that is comparable in size, Magic stands perfectly still and allows the new dog to check him out, sort of like saying, “I am cool and polite and I expect the same from you.”  For us humans who understand canine behavior and their need for play, sparring, and wrestling, also agree that this activity is important for a dogs physical, mental, and emotional health.  One of Magic’s new neighbors, a 10 month old German Shepherd dog, Astro, is taken to school by Magic each time they play these games.  Astro makes numerous attempts at dominating Magic with moves from the back or from the back of the neck, and Magic is just not tolerating it.  A show of teeth, a quick growl, says,

“Be polite, remember that I am the Alpha, mind your manners!”

And within a few seconds, order has been restored and the pursuit games continue.  Astro licks Magic’s mouth, they drink from the same water bowl, and all is right in the canine world.

One of Magic’s long-time friends had been a talkative Golden Retriever, Hershey.  Recently, Hershey had developed cancer in his front left leg which greatly limited his mobility, although not his talkative personality.  Several weeks ago, Magic and I were out for a walk and saw Hershey laying outside on a blanket.  With Hershey on the blanket were his owner and another woman I did not recognize.  The context of this setting told me that Hershey was probably going to “The Bridge” within a short time.  This was confirmed several seconds later by another neighbor who game out with her dog, and Magic’s very good dog-friend, Kaya.  I unhooked Magic’s leash, and he slowly strolled directly to the reclined Hershey.  On his own, Magic gave Hershey a lick on his face, examined him with his nose, and then, very deliberately, slowly, and respectfully, approached Hershey’s owner and the other woman and gave them each a careful lick on their cheek.  I’m watching this “wow” moment asking myself, “How does this Border collie know what to do?”  He read the situation perfectly and his behavior was better than most humans.

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MAGIC with his very good friend and playmate, CASH, an ACD mix.  Bitey-face games are respectful and caring.  Sometimes you hear teeth clicking against each other, but no pain inflicted.  True respect and caring for each other.