Readers who have been following the story of Albie, our half yellow-Lab, half golden retriever, know that a tipping point in our decision to adopt him came last May when we took care of Reilly for a few days, a black Lab who belongs to our friends Anne Marie and Dave. Reilly was remarkably mellow and easy to have around, and for the first time in many years, I imagined myself with a dog.
Last week, Reilly came for a return engagement when Anne Marie and Dave went to visit their daughter in Spain. Imagine a five-day sleepover with two 10-year-olds and you have some idea of life with Reilly and Albie.
Like jealous siblings, a pat on the head for one inevitably brought the other nosing in for equal treatment.
Reilly, 11, almost somnolent during his first visit, rediscovered his youthful energy while hanging around with his newfound, much younger friend. He especially enjoyed taking whichever of Albie’s toys Albie was interested in at the moment and Albie, used to being the only one, and therefore top dog in our house, seemed unsure how to respond. Mostly he just deferred to Reilly and looked up at us, plaintively, as if to ask, “Will he be staying long?”
Since Albie has gradually wormed his way into our bed at night, this posed a dilemma for Reilly. Albie clearly had the most coveted sleeping spot in the house and Reilly was reduced to sleeping on the floor next to our bed.
Score one for Albie.
But invariably, at some point in the wee hours of the morning, Reilly would be up pacing around and Albie would join him, two dogs looking for something to do as Judy and I looked at each other plaintively, wondering, “Will they be staying up long?”
Walking both of them together proved challenging because they move at very different paces. Albie, driven by his keen sense of smell and puppy-like energy, takes the Obama campaign motto, "Forward," as his own – preferably at a brisk pace. He’s the canine equivalent of a wide receiver.
Reilly, whose stocky body and broad head are reminiscent of an offensive lineman’s, lumbers down the street in six-inch increments, stopping to smell every leaf, twig, and branch along the way.
The obvious solution was to take them separately, but that proved heartrending. When I had Albie out, Reilly sat by the door whimpering and crying, and when I had Reilly out, Albie did the same.
Reilly was with us the week after our first dog-training class, the one I described in last week’s column. We have been practicing by having Albie sit and lie down on voice commands and rewarding him with treats.
Since Reilly had to be wherever Albie was, he also got in on the action, but he already knew the commands. As both of them looked up eagerly at us, we’d say, “Down.” While Albie, head slightly cocked to one side, was trying to remember what he was supposed to do, Reilly was dropping to the floor and reaping the rewards. Albie looked confused. And Reilly doesn’t lie down gradually and gently as most dogs do – he just drops suddenly onto his belly with his legs splayed out in all directions like he’s been shot.
Nor does he take treats gently from your hand as Albie does: If you offer Reilly a treat, watch your fingers.
They really were very cute together, an odd couple of sorts. Except for a little mutual jealousy, they got along just fine. But next time Reilly is coming for a visit, we’re going to suggest Albie put away his favorite toys.
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