Thursday, September 15, 2011


September 15, 2011

I've just come to the horrifying realization that I use the word “cool” when something is so impressive/interesting that I speak without thinking.
Cool?. Really?. Sounds like something from the eighties or nineties to me :P
That's not really related to anything else in this post, but I figured I should tell everybody so they'd know why it is that I chose this particular title for my blog post.

So my sleep has been being mean to me again and so I'm sleeping during the day and staying awake all night. Sometimes I wonder if I should plan my life along those lines. Then I'd probably be waking up at 7AM instead of feeling like going to sleep :P
Yesterday it occurred to me that I now have a room that's completely safe to have Chewy in. There's a door, so the cats can't come wandering in. And said door has a lock, so nobody else can come in either.
I also realized that I could care less what Chewy smells like, and vacuuming my room is half the pain it used to be. After reasoning all this, I decided to bring Chewy in.
Even though he hasn't been in the house in probably close to a year (if not more), he actually still remembers all of his 'manners', except for keeping his nose of the dish washer.
Still, he remembers to stay out of the garbage can, stay behind me when I'm walking and not wander off. Most importantly, he remembers not to 'go' inside the house.
He actually remembers so well that sits without command for me to put his leash on to leave the room and when I'm heading towards my room, he tries to go to my old room. He knows where I'm going, and he remembers where I used to live. Cool.
Yesterday went off pretty much without a hitch, except when Granny let Cody and Ricky in and they came face-to-face with Chewy.
It worked out though, he didn't try to chase them and I put him out in the yard while the cats ate, then let them out the front door.

Around seven this morning, I decided to do what I'd done yesterday. I figure this won't work out as a regular thing, but I should let him in when I can. Especially since I probably won't be able to have him in ever this time next year :\
So first I let the cats in for their morning meal. Scout, Ricky and Cody all came in.
Cody, naturally, ate first. Frequently, he'll let the others go first. But when they haven't eaten all night, he goes first, as the 'lead' cat, it's his right.
Usually he wants right back out, but for some reason this morning it was nothin' doin'.
I thought “oh no, now that I've got Chewy out in the backyard waiting to come in, Cody will up and decide to sleep on my bed or something”.
But he stayed near the door and meowed at me whenever I passed, following me to the food dish, where he'd stop and sit down, looking pointedly at Ricky or Scout (whichever was at the bowl).
It didn't make any sense to me. There was food in the dish and he'd already eaten. What was the matter with that cat?. Finally, Ricky and Scout were done.
Scout went right outside, but Ricky went upstairs. But when he heard the front door open, Ricky came right down. Cody sat in the door until Ricky was out, then went out himself.
It was then that it hit me. Cody was protecting Ricky and Scout.
He knew I'd had Chewy in yesterday, and I probably would again today.
Cody was making sure Ricky and Scout got out before I brought Chewy in. Cool.

Yesterday when I was writing and listening to music, I noticed that Chewy's behavior changed when the mood of my story changed. He seemed to sense how I was reacting to my story (my emotions are generally swept along with the story, even if the reader would never be affected) or the music I was hearing. Paying closer attention today, I found that he was, indeed, responding.
If it is an especially sad piece of music or place in the story, he will whine and come to lie right next to my chair with his ears lowered and eyes on me.
If the music or part of the story has me feeling angry or aggressive, he will get up and pace around, turning his ears back and forth. He'll lie down somewhere, then immediately get up with kind of a grunt sound, then pace some more. Then he'll lie down again.
If it's a very intense (usually action, but sometimes not) part of the story, I'll forget about everything around me until I'm finished, whereupon I'll suddenly realize I'm being stared at. He'll be standing pressed up against my chair, staring intently at my keyboard.
Very cool indeed.

This isn't something I've recently noticed, I've actually known for some time.
If I'm in the front yard or house with Chewy on leash, the cats simply aren't as worried as when he's loose. Still, they'll run when he's a yard or so away from them (if they can).
All except Cody- if I've called Cody by name and looked him in the eye (it does have to be both).
Somehow he knows that I would never intentionally jeopardize him and I can actually come within two feet with Chewy, if I've acknowledge Cody.
If I haven't he runs just like all the rest. Somehow he knows that I haven't seen him if I haven't looked at him and talked to him. And if I haven't seen him, I don't know to keep Chewy away.
I don't know how Cody actually reasons all this or how he knows the things he does, but it's pretty darn cool if you ask me.

Last on the cool list may not mean much to most of you guys, but it's pretty interesting to me.
If my stomach (underside, if I were a dog) is somehow facing Chewy (say I'm looking under the bed for something or leaning over him to reach the counter because he's in front of me), he will instantly avert his eyes. Now, I know what some of you would think. You'd think he's being polite and not staring (unlike most cats, who will intentionally- at least it seems that way -paw all over you).
But what it actually appears to be is that he's being respectful to someone dominant in the pack.
A submissive dog shows their belly to a dominant dog. And, apparently, averts his eyes from the dominant animal's belly. I've never read about this, but it makes instant sense.
The belly and throat areas are especially vulnerable, so the submissive dog in the pack is exposing himself to the dominant one's sharp teeth and strong jaws. He's firstly showing the other that he means it no harm, everybody's heard about that.
But it's important to note that the dominant dog has a certain responsibility to the submissive one.
While he can bully the submissive dog, even decide to bite and hurt it, he also has the responsibility to take care of the submissive one. It's the dominant dog's job to defend the territory, find food and take the greatest risk in bringing down the prey.
The submissive is showing his belly not just as a sign that the other is dominant over him, but that he trusts the dominant dog not to hurt him.
You see, when dogs who don't know each other meet, they determine who is dominant over whom. This is generally done simply by sniffing, but sometimes they have to “show off” a little. They stand straight when they exchange identities by sniffing. But by the time introductions are over, one has his tail and head a little lower. This is the submissive dog.
But this dog will not roll over and show his belly to the other dog. And a fight may break out if the dominant dog tries to make him.
Obviously, he accepts that he is submissive to the other dog, but does not trust it enough to show his throat. He doesn't trust the dog not to hurt him.
When interacting with people, most dogs routinely roll over to have their belly rubbed. They seem to actually like it. But they also show their belly and lay their head back to show their throat for another reason. They're letting us know that we are dominant over them and they trust us to take care of them.
It's generally accepted that a dog who will not roll over considers himself dominant.
And a dog that rolls over at the drop of a hat has been abused and thinks that's the only way not to get beaten up or driven away.
But I have personally met dogs which obviously obey their owners, but will not roll over.
These are usually recently acquired dogs, who are trained but don't yet know their new owner.
Typically, after they've been with their new owner for a few weeks or months, they roll right over.
Evidently, rolling over is a sign of not only submission, but of trust as well.
But why do dogs roll over so easily?.
Well that's simple. With the exception of young, intact males, most dogs would much rather be submissive than dominant. That's because a lot is expected of a dominant dog.
He has the job of guarding the territory, maintaining order within the pack, finding food and deciding what sort of behavior is and is not appropriate for the members of the pack- especially puppies.
Not only that, but he must constantly fight to prove himself.
The strongest wolf does not always make the leader. If he is incompetent, the others will know and will either gang up on him and kill him- or leave entirely.
Your normal dog simply does not want that kind of responsibility.
By averting his eyes rather than staring, Chewy is letting me know he wants no part of my responsibilities as leader of his pack.
Obviously, he trusts me to make the right decisions for him, not to hurt him, to protect him and do what's best for him. So much so that he has no desire to challenge my authority- even if I am unknowingly giving him the opportunity to do so.
Of course, it's not so profound in all dogs. Like I said, most simply don't want responsibility.
Most are actually bred, raised and trained to behave like puppies.
They know they are not qualified to be leader.
But Chewy is much closer to wolf than most dogs. And he has challenged my authority time and again over the years. He's a very smart dog, a very capable dog and is very dominant towards other dogs.
Among dogs, he's either top dog or there will be a fight, no matter the size or strength of the other dog.
Since most dogs are very docile by nature and have practically forgotten their aggressive instincts, they back right off. They simply don't know how to approach a fight.
But Chewy does. And has fought several dogs over the years, always coming out on top.
Still, he's older now. And when I see him asleep, he seems so small and frail to me, compared to how he was. He used to really be something impressive to see, even when sleeping.
I'm older too. I actually outweigh him, and know something about handling dogs.
Apparently, for one reason or the other, he's made the decision for himself not to fight me anymore.
Way beyond cool.

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