Listen up, all of you scientists out there who took 150 years to begrudgingly admit that dogs have distinct personalities and are capable of feeling and expressing emotions the way humans do. (https://thedoctorweighsin.com/dog-personality/) Let me tell you about the quirky personalities and loving natures of the dogs who have blessed me with their presence in my life.
Since neither my husband nor I were allowed to have a dog growing up, because both of our mothers had chanted the same mantra –“ If we get a dog, I’ll be the one who has to take care of it”, we welcomed a dog into our home as soon as we moved into an apartment complex that allowed them.
a beautiful, soft, cuddly Dutch Keeshond was our first. Honey, who was jealous of our sex life. I guess. What else would account for her throwing herself against the closed bedroom door when she heard sounds that she apparently interpreted as rambunctious play in which she was missing out? Or when she was in the bedroom with us, jumped up and down at the foot of the bed, pulling the blankets onto the floor.
Her protective nature always on display by lying on the floor next to our baby’s crib while he slept. She never left his side.
Pepper, a German Shepherd/ Labrador Retriever/ a lot of other stuff mix
entered our lives when Honey was 2 years old. Honey lovingly accepted Pepper, acting as a surrogate mother, allowing 4 week old Pepper to sleep snuggled into her soft fur. From the moment Pepper came into our home, the two were inseparable. Except when Pepper’s most prominent personality trait was on display – Wandering.
Nothing, not even a 6-foot stockade fence surrounding our ¼ acre yard could contain that dog. She dug under it, jumped over it, climbed up snowbanks to scale over it. If we opened the front door a crack, this 120 lb. dog managed to squeeze through the opening and take off. She was too fast for us to catch, but we learned soon enough that after her adventures, she would always return home.
She never wandered when she felt she was needed. She stood guard over the baby carriage when a friend of mine came to visit and barked to alert us when the baby cried. She lay next to me on the bed when I was sick.
These two dogs taught me that dogs feel and freely express emotional hurt. When my sister’s first child was born, I spent a week at her home in Chicago, helping her with the new baby. I assumed that my dogs would be thrilled to see me when I returned. After all, they got excited when I came back from a 5-minute trip to the mailbox. After a week away, I opened the front door to my two dogs standing still, side by side, staring at me. No jumping. No tail wagging. Just staring. Then, in tandem, they turned around, walked away from me, and settled into a corner of the room. Glaring at me. They wanted to let me know that they were quite angry that I had left them for a week. Message received. Still possessing the loving nature of dogs, they got over it within 10 minutes and greeted me with the wags and kisses I had expected, but that incident taught me just how deep a dog’s emotions can be.
Brandy, our first Golden Retriever,
joined our household after Honey, at age 12, and Pepper, 4 years later at age 14 ½, were called to cross the Rainbow Bridge. (The grief of losing a beloved dog is not something I will address in this blog. Suffice to say, it is heart-wrenching.)
Brandy’s personality was the complete opposite of Pepper’s. Whereas Pepper’s wanderlust was never satisfied, Brandy could not bear to be away from home. One time a section of our fence blew down in a storm. I had let Brandy out for a “potty break”, and only turned my head for a minute. When I looked again, she was gone. Having experienced Pepper’s nomadic ways, I panicked. I ran back into the house to get my car keys, preparing to drive around the neighborhood looking for her. When I opened the front door, there was Brandy, staring at the door, waiting for someone to let her in!
Her emotional perceptiveness was demonstrated to me the day I found out a good friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I sat on the couch and cried. Brandy came over to me, put her paws on my lap, and licked the tears from my face.
From Brandy, I also learned that dogs’ facial expressions are no different than those of humans. On this day, my friend and I were treating her to little scraps of our lunch. A piece of turkey here; a bit of hamburger there. She was happily chowing down whatever we gave her until………………the carrot. As soon as that carrot piece entered her mouth, she stopped chewing and looked at us with saucer wide eyes. The expression on her face and the message it conveyed was as clear as if she had spoken. “What the Hell is this???” She stared at us with the unchewed carrot in her mouth for a good 10 seconds and then spit it out onto the floor. Jenn and I laughed until the tears ran down our face.
We adopted our final dog, Casey,
at age 6, when his family no longer had time for him. (I will not comment on what I think about THAT, but you can imagine.) Casey, although a Golden Retriever, could not have been more different than Brandy. There is a hierarchy in the dog world. Some dogs are Alpha, the head of the pack. The rest of the dogs in the pack are expected to follow Alpha’s lead. We had never had an Alpha dog before Casey joined our family. We were used to Brandy, who was so far down the alphabet, she could have been labeled a “Z” dog. She would do anything to please us. Alpha Casey stood tall and proud, refusing to give eye contact. He asserted his dominance by escaping, Houdini style, from his locked cage.
He thought he could furtively engage in his favorite activity – pulling tissues out of the trash – and get away with it. He would saunter out of the bathroom as if nothing had happened. When we asked, “What did you do?”, he would give us a “Who me?” look. It never occurred to him that the tissue stuck to his nose gave him away.
Four dogs. Four different personalities. Four dogs capable of human emotions and facial expressions. Four dogs who filled our family with cherished love, laughter, and loyalty.
I would love to hear about the dogs in your life. Tell me about them in the comment section.