Her doggedly successful campaign

I knew I was being maneuvered. I felt some proverb or other might come to my aid. "Two heads are better than one" or "A trouble shared is a trouble halved." But neither was much help.

Or something Shakespearean, I thought, might work. "Double, double, toil and trouble," for instance.

What I said instead were things like: "Are you really sure that's what you want? A second dog?" And "Muff's grown so used to being the absolute center of attention, she could be really put out."

And also: "Oh, isn't life complicated enough already? Everything will take twice as much time. And we'll need two of everything! Two beds. Two towels. Two bowls. And twice as much food."

And then I thought (apologetically) of Shakespeare again: "Two dogs or not two dogs, that is the question."

But I knew my resistance was a lost battle. All I could hope for were delaying tactics. When my wife angles for something (her mother had warned me), she's 99 percent sure to catch it.

So now, naturally, we have two dogs in the house instead of one.

It happened this way.

She started, several years ago actually, by reading out pertinent personal-column ads. "Oh - there's this 8-year-old spaniel in the paper," she would remark with a studied casualness that didn't deceive me for a second. "And it says: 'I am adorable and utterly cuddly, but my mummy is having to move into a flat and no pets are allowed. Can you take me home with you? I could bring my own armchair.' A-a-a-h!"

Or: "It's so sad, oh, there are these two puppies called Spick and Span and nobody wants them.... It says here they are absolute paragons of fine canine behavior."

My tactic was to join in with the sympathy, but not to pick up on the implications. Sometimes I might add something about "Muff's enough, aren't you, you funny little dog? Enough trouble! In fact I think we should put her in the dustbin. Or cook her and eat her for dinner. Or ... oh poor Muff! She thinks I'm telling her how much I love her...."

Then one day my very determined partner clearly thought she had found the irresistible resolution to her campaign. "He's called Bugsy," she announced, "though we could change that ..."

"No, we couldn't. Not if he doesn't live here."

"... and one of the other teachers at school is going to give a home to Louise's other dog, so now she just has Bugsy to house." Pause. "Apparently Bugsy - he's a neutered male by the way - is an absolute dope...."

I should explain here that "absolute dope" is the pinnacle of praise in our house when it comes to dogs. And husbands, too, are probably subject (when they deserve it) to the same creditable characterization. Particularly, of course, when they agree to what is wanted.

Bugsy, I was further informed by the Management, was a border collie cross with a temperament as mild as watered milk. "Bugsy's already used to living with another dog. Bugsy just loves everybody. Bugsy hasn't an ounce of aggression in him. Bugsy is exactly the same age as Muffy.

"Bugsy ... well Bugsy's only, obviously minor, fault is a tendency to chase birds. Though" - this she added hastily - "Bugsy is used to meeting ducks in the park, so he will probably just ignore ours."

I did my best. I said there must be a trial run. Bugsy and Muff, it was agreed, should meet first on neutral ground. They would be taken for a walk together in Pollok Park. If that worked OK, Bugsy would stay with us over a weekend, with absolutely no guarantees attached. If the dogs scrapped, we would think again.

What can I say? Bugsy passed all the stringent tests placed upon him, and Muff (who can have moments of obstreperousness with other dogs when she fancies it, probably just to keep her hackles in shape) was completely at ease with Bugsy, and Bugsy with her.

They went in the back of the car together. They sniffed fascinating and (to humans) disgusting smells together. Ran around together. And then did their own thing for a while without interference from each other. The only bones of contention, as it were, are Muff's toys. She has quite a collection. A kind of large twisted, knotted ropey thing is a current favorite. It is used for tug-of-war training.

I had a fancy that, should we ever decide to have two dogs in the house, it would mean company for each of them. That would mean I would have to do less tug-of-war training with Muff because the dogs would obviously do it together.

I was wrong.

Muff was instantly determined to make clear, and is still, that her toys are all hers. A fracas or two in the kitchen made the point. We bought Bugsy his own new ropey thing. Muff made it perfectly clear that she now had two ropey things and that they are hers and not Bugsy's.

We have decided not to buy any more ropey things. They aren't cheap. So Bugsy now uncompetitively opts for being petted while Muffy does tug of war.

The Bugs, as he is sometimes known, turns out to be accommodating. But he is not a complete pushover. He sets the pace in field races. He is slightly taller, so his friend sometimes takes a shortcut to somewhere interesting by ducking under him - a comic admission, I feel, of his male superiority. And he is extremely pushy when it comes to having ears fondled. He simply barges in and The Muff has to be ear-fondled at a distance.

But the successful status quo that has been established by the two dogs now living with us is, by and large, based on the truism that the female of the species has a preference for, well ... having her own way.

'Twas surely ever thus.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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