I haven’t really said much of anything about Selkie here yet. Let me introduce her:
This is Selkie. She is what some might call a “high maintenance personality” and others might call “neurotic” and new age moms might call “a spirited child”.
She is very smart. Very, very smart. I’ll go ahead and say it: I like having dumb dogs. Pixie doesn’t really know HOW to be naughty, because she doesn’t have the capacity for cleverness or deceit. (Side note: Don’t read that “I don’t love Selkie.” I adore Selkie, and she’s as much a part of the family as anyone, and I’d be devastated if she were hurt. But she’s a challenge to me. Side note side note: Spriggan is also uncannily smart in a similar vein — though without the, shall we say, “issues” — and I adore her too.)
Selkie uncannily understands things as if she’s fluent in adult American English. I talk to my dogs all the time. Sometimes, I’m talking to myself, but I have this paranoid fantasy that there could be someone listening in at any time, so I phrase things as if I’m talking to my dogs, lest I appear crazy.
Or singing to them.
This is a facebook post from 10/4/12:
Sometimes I suddenly realize that I’ve been making up and singing a song to myself about completely inane/mundane tasks. Tonight’s was titled, “I Wish I Had Some Pickles.” An excerpt from a verse:
“And iiiiiif I had you piiiickle,
I tellll you howwwww I’d knowwwwww.
For iiiiiif you were my piiiiickle,
You’d beeeee the best in showwwwww.”
So, can you see how that would totally convince this fictional eavesdropper of my sanity? I thought so.
So, anyway, sometimes I’ll talk directly to the dogs, but I don’t expect them to understand me or listen to me… but one time, a LONG time ago, I said to Selkie, “Why don’t you go say goodnight to your daddy, and then I’ll put you to bed?” She ran immediately over to Mike and sat down for some head scritchin’. When he’d patted her a few times, she stood up and ran into her crate. … … … WHUH?!
Or it’ll be thundering and Selkie’s inside with me and Pixie’s in the backyard whining piteously, and I’ll say, “Selkie, honey… why don’t you play the big, brave older sister and go to bed so that Pixie can hang out with me and not be scared?” And she runs straight to bed.
“Okay,” I hear you say, “so she knows what the word ‘bed’ means. So what?” Well, first of all, how dare you?! Secondly, you smartypants…
What about when I say “Could you go around the coffee table instead of through the kitchen please?” and she does that? Or when she obeys, “Come in here with me and sit, honey; Daddy’s trying to sleep”? Or when she’s sitting outside the bathroom door, waiting, while Mike brushes his teeth, and she will. not. move. under any circumstances until I promise I’ll make Daddy wish her good night and then she trots right to bed?
Did I mention she’s a Daddy’s Girl? You could note the bit of jean fabric in the above picture and realize she’s sitting on Mike’s foot. She was my birthday present, but, as is often the way (I understand), he picked her out, so she’s HIS.
If Pixie disobeys me, it’s almost always because she doesn’t know what I want. If Selkie disobeys me, she knows and chooses not to do it. (Spriggan is like her in this regard, to my annoyance.)
If you’re still skeptical about her brains, you have no sense of wonder and I feel sorry for you.
So, she’s smart. But she’s also a pain in the ass. She’s quite… feral. When we first got her, she barked at her reflection in the glass of the entertainment center every time she walked past it for weeks. She barked at the TV for weeks. She barked at our friend’s jacket when he left it on our sofa… for two weeks. After he picked it up, she barked at the spot in which it had BEEN, for a few days.
She doesn’t get along with strangers or other dogs, and while I’m not sure she’d bite someone who entered the yard… I’m not sure she wouldn’t, either. She and Pixie have to be kept separate, because while Pixie won’t pick fights, she won’t back down from them either, and Selkie has always wanted to be higher in the pecking order.
You can imagine why I might’ve been quite apprehensive about introducing her to Spriggan.
In fact, when they met, Selkie seemed to care little about her. Spriggan nearly broke herself to pieces trying to leap/wriggle/bend/struggle out of my arms to kiss Selkie’s face, which wore an expression of non-plussure (totally a word). I almost saw her thinking, “Well, I clearly can’t EAT it… but it’s not really another dog… I don’t think it’s particularly threatening… maybe I can offer it as tribute to the Foodbringers?”
We’ve tried about every other night to get them close to each other in a very controlled embrace. Finally, last night, we took the next big step.
I carefully — no, wait… I slapdashedly squished Spriggan into her harness as she was trying desperately to become airborne and rid herself of this human hindrance, clipped a leash on her, and walked her toward Selkie. Selkie was getting sweet, sweet pettin’s at the hands of her Favorite Parent at the time. Mike consoled her while Spriggan turned into a blur of excitement, leaping at Selkie’s face, nipping at her tail [which I insisted was A Patently Terrible Idea], and generally being the most obnoxious obnoxious little sister ever created.
Finally, Selkie started looking rather uncomfortable, which is usually my cue that the session should end, but Mike the Wise, Knower of All Things Selkie, asked her, “Are you feeling a little trapped?” See, this introduction was occurring at the couch, which is a sectional and has only two routes of egress, both only about a foot or a foot-and-a-half wide, and one occupied by a quantum field of puppy exuberance.
I let her come around into the more spacious portion of the living room, and what to my wondering eyes did appear? Selkie did a little play bow and ran a few steps, glancing back at Spriggan, as if to say, “Well, come on then, take chase!”
Spriggan tears off after her (and, dachshund legs being dwarfish as they are, this is always a heart-achingly adorable sight), and I, at the other end of the leash, must do the same. We make 7 or 8 laps around the wall separating the kitchen from the living room before I decide that A) I can’t breathe and B) Spriggan is probably safe to continue on her own for a few laps.
I drop the leash and let her drag it as she rips through the house after THE BEST DOG FRIEND IN THE WORLD SO GREAT I CAN’T WAIT TO BITE YOUR FACE OH MY GOD IS THAT YOUR TAIL IT’S SO CUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRLLLLLLYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!
They continue this game of chase for quite a while until Selkie starts getting winded and, visibly and audibly, frustrated. Once she stops barking in that, “Whee! Chase me!” way and starts in that, “Stop chasing me, you little jerk!” way, I grab up the leash and give Selkie a break. They did the rounds a couple more times after little breaks, but it was becoming clear that Selkie was pretty much done. Daddy put her to bed, and Spriggan slept 7.5 hours without stopping last night.
Tonight, I tried again, but as Favorite Parent had gone to bed, Selkie was a little more wary. I tried it without a leash on Spriggan, and they made about 6 rounds of chase before Selkie started getting nippy. It’s a tough position for me, ’cause with Pixie, I empower her to be in control of setting boundaries for the puppy. She’ll bark or growl or nip the air at an appropriate distance when Spriggan’s got her fangs in Pixie’s tail. With Selkie, I’m not yet sure whether she’s capable of that type of restraint or whether Spriggan’s going to suddenly be missing an ear or something, so I take even a tiny growl pretty seriously.
I scooped up the little one and gave them a little time to kiss and rub faces while I had a firm hand on her, but they never really got to that exuberant play-state of yesternight. (Why yes, I AM from Victorian England; thank you for noticing!)
However, Mission: Exhausting the Puppy in Preparation for Dreamland? Success.
And I think Selkie’s coming along. Maybe one day she won’t be relegated to the backyard all day every day, as she pretty much has been since Spriggan came to town.
None of this changes the fact that Selkie is a genius.