Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Lion and the Lamb - our nicknames for our canine team.

Bad Baxter who keeps us busy cleaning up.
Boo, the lion, or the king of the house

The Lion and the Lamb

We call him Bad Bax.

That’s our Baxter, a bearded collie/poodle mix, white with black ears, loving, needy – and playful. Day and night playful.

At only a year old, he’s eaten several pairs of my shoes, gnawed our brand new dining chairs, chomped down mosquito screens hanging from our doors, torn up the walls with his mighty teeth, chewed through our blinds, destroyed our couch  – and to top it off -- barks with a high-pitched chirp that echoes through the house, keeping the rest of us on pins and needles.

We made this choice to add Baxter to our brood to keep our 9-year-old dog company, a daytime companion, we decided, when we are all not around, Jim working, Ryan in school and myself – volunteering. Despite all these unforseen woes, this tiny, adorable puppy, eyes ringed in pink, made us all fall in love when we met him at the Hearts for Hounds rescue group in Long Beach. He came to our home to live with Boo, our golden-red shepherd mix, and a black-and-white cat, Buddy, whom I call our biker cat.

Ryan, who’s 17, chose Baxter among a crop of adorable, yipping, happy, bouncing puppies. We, the parents, leaned toward Baxter’s sister, a copper-colored quiet, docile and timid baby. Definitely a sweetie.

 That was our style. But not our son’s.

So the tiny canine came home with us on his small leash and that’s when we discovered one of Baxter’s immediate ailments; he gets scary carsick – unbearably carsick. This already was one major drawback as we like to hop Boo in the car to Napa to visit with my mom. Now, it was clear that the little one couldn’t go.

And our idea of a pleasurable partnership between our dogs didn’t happen quite the way we imagined. It took time because, Baxter, being Baxter has no sense – and still does not to this day – what might irritate others to the extreme, whether its human or animal.

Boo, for some odd reason, didn’t immedaitely like Baxter, who at the time was smaller than our cat and was gladly cuddled by the whole family. Boo was a bit jealous, but it also might have had a lot to do with the smaller canine’s tendency to charge by Boo’s food dish, grab a biteful of Boo’s nuggets, and snigger away like Sylvester, the cartoon cat who thought he got another biteful of the lemon-colored bird Tweetie.

Finally – an unamused Boo (but it still didn’t change Baxter’s stealing habits) nipped him on the rump.

Boo still doesn’t appreciate the food stealing or the little dog -- silver white beard dripping down from his chin -- when he gets on his 15 plus minute barking rampages to get Boo to play, when in fact, the older guy just wants to curl up on the porch and drink in the sun. The barking escapades leads Boo to shout back and the chorus in the household sparks inharmonious misery among the human half.

We started to wonder about the error of our ways. Were we wrong to add Baxter to our clan? After all, he chases the cat like he’s a toy. Finally Buddy learned to get to high ground and box Baxter in the face.

But there were times we knew we made the right choice. We do absolutely love him. He’s pretty near impossible not to love when he plants his round, furry paws first on your legs and then on your face. It’s impossible not to love him when he keeps Boo company.

The two will curl up tightly together on their plethora of blankets (the only thing Baxter hasn’t chewed) and Baxter rolls over sleeping on his back, paws in the air – looking like Snoopy in flight.

Often, they pal around in the day. But since we’ve had Boo, we always knew one thing. His shepherd heritage presents an inherent trait – he wants to herd. From the moment we had him, he could leap as high as our door – and skitter, hop, leap and charge all around our backyard. Our son claimed – even though Boo was a copper-red – that he was most likely a border collie.

Just like a border collie, that was part of the reason that most of the time Boo was bored. He’s a working dog, and probably needed to live on some ranch – which we didn’t have and we’re not going to have any time soon.

When Baxter arrived, he didn’t know he would become a lamb when he got a few months older and neither did we. And that’s what we learned one day, when we went out to look at the dusky sky in our backyard.

It was 5 in the late afternoon, and the sun and wind were still hovering.  Boo was showing off his aggravation that we were playing ball with Baxter – a game Boo now showed only disdain for since he was now the older, alpha. Suddenly, Boo charged Baxter, herding him around the yard.

We had never seen anything like it! Boo chased, charged, herded, skipped, dashed, corralled and boxed Baxter in behind our giant fern. We were laughing  uproariously as this was like watching a movie. Watching Boo treat Baxter like a lamb was a treat beyond realization. Always, we’d wanted to take Boo to a ranch to herd – and now – here we were watching him do what he was meant to do in our backyard.

Baxter liked the game and did everything in his power to skitter away, but time and time again, the two wound up playing peak-a-boo, as Boo and Baxter circled each other around the fern, then the tree. Then Baxter would make a run for it flaring by us at top speed and making it benath the patio table while Boo charged him from behind.

This had been a mysterious life that had been going on in our backyard – and we didn’t even know it. The only thing we’d ever spotted was Baxter charging inside the house, skittering like a speed demon across our tile floors, with Boo close behind – with howling going on the whole way.

After that glorious day – and we’ve since had more --  we have new names for our dogs. Now we call them, teasingly, the lion and the lamb.