Pack Matters: How Our Two Packs Came to Be (#1 in a series)

John the Husband, otherwise known as “Mighty Fang”, and I, and Chiwee the Wonder Chihuahua, used to belong to the Cozy Pack. The other two pack members were Frankie the perfect and sweet Daisy. I think John named us as we spent yet another night all cozy in the winter living room. We would ask the dogs, splayed in front of the fire, cooking themselves, “Are you cozy?” They always were.

As I write, we have two new pack members, but we are still a pack of five. In keeping with their comfort loving souls, both Frankie and Daisy died good deaths at a ripe old age after several years meandering around gently as senior dogs. Frank was always the best dog in the world-I do not care what you say about your dog-he really, really was!-but Daisy improved markedly in her dotage. She forgot about savaging every miniature Schnauzer and Westie that crossed her path; grew deaf, which eliminated her terror of thunder and fireworks; and her bizarre camera phobia was solved when I bought an iPad. She wandered vaguely around during her last couple of years, arthritic, slightly senile and leash free, smiling at everyone. As for Frank, an acquaintance once said, “I do not like dogs, but Frankie is welcome in my living room anytime.” Indeed, he was perfect. Chiwee, now a nine-year-old, thus middle-aged, purebred Chihuahua, is as good as his breed gets. He has never bitten or snapped, not even once, he is obedience trained, barks no more than the other two, and is as calm as a Chi can be. He is only jittery-he screams-about his body and personal space, which is understandable given that his two present pack-mates weigh 93 and 97 pounds. It is as if a couple of heedless, one ton toddlers were sharing their space with you, about to inadvertently trip over you at any moment. (This is an actual calculation, were you to weigh about 170. Chiwee is a svelte 7.5 pounds) Lest you think I am prejudiced, at the groomers, where they are usually less than thrilled by his breed, they in fact call him the Wonder Chihuahua, and threaten to take him home.

To maintain our status quo as a pack of five, we have replaced each dear departed after an interval. My selection criteria used to be strict. When Frankie died first, he was thirteen or fourteen, a great old age for his breed(s). He had been a rescue, just 4 or 5 months old, with his baby teeth still, when we adopted him. I was, at first, looking for his replacement. That is, an even tempered, obedient, fastidious, perfectly mannered, calm, kind, slightly submissive, male* Lab/Chow Chow cross, biggish, and black. We went to the dog rescue place to look, with a short list of four dogs, all big, all black, one female on the list for good measure. There were detailed descriptions plus a video of each dog on the rescue’s website. We felt confident! When we called the name of each dog, of the four, only Maggie came. She hastened right over, leaned into our legs and sighed happily. The rescue guy said, “She doesn’t ever do that…” She was home. It did occur to me, much later, that the other three had been named by the rescue and thus probably did not even KNOW their names. Only Maggie, who had been sadly surrendered back to the rescue by her previous owners, as too much dog in every way, and had kept her adoptive name, did. We were goners, in any case.

So our Mags, who had used up two whole homes before us, that we know of, became our new pack member, aged about two. She is a huge, brindled/black, mercurial tempered, intense, mastiff cross (with some Great Dane or possibly Lab genes), a funny, exasperating, crazy-smart, disobedient, terribly behaved female who really needs immortalizing in a movie like Marley despite the ongoing twice daily obedience training that she gets, seven days week like all our dogs, from her adored husband. Sorry, I mean from my husband, although Maggie is not convinced, since Mighty Fang is utterly besotted with her, and calls her “My Beauty”, whereas my nickname is “The Alpha Bitch”. Oh yes and she drools. Very copiously, as if she were rabid, foaming at the mouth. We have stopped noticing, really, but visitors are a touch put off.
Pack wise, Maggie is not really ‘cozy’ material.

Two years after Maggie arrived, after nearly seven years with us, Daisy died aged somewhere between, say, twelve and seventeen, in mid October, 2012. We considered reverting to a pack of four then, since Maggie is the equivalent of several normal dogs, and we lasted from then till the rescue’s annual fundraising hike the following May. I signed up John and Maggie to hike with one of the rescue dogs available at that time, which seemed the right thing to do. We assured each other solemnly that we would NOT be tempted to adopt again! Maggie was too much! We were getting older! We would be strong!

Usually, I am the finder of new dogs. I scour the net. I force John to look at hundreds of sad cases. To adopt Daisy we drove four hours, over the border from Canada to the Detroit Humane Society. It turned out that Daisy, listed as a dog friendly (not sure about kids or cats) Lab/Chow Chow cross, ready and eager to play ball with us, was a beautiful but highly neurotic, triple coated, prick eared, northern breed blonde, with no discernible Lab at all. Maybe she had Chow-Chow, since her tongue was blue-ish, but never in all her life did she chase, or even even look at a ball. If we tried throwing one, for Frankie, who was only mildly interested himself, it would actually bounce off Daisy’s head, while she looked confused and vaguely hurt. She never played. She was very territorial with most other dogs and her territory extended way, way beyond our property as time went on. She was her own very unique self, as all dogs are, and greatly deepened John’s continuing journey with dog obedience training, which was lucky, given his future wife, I mean Maggie, who as you can see, keeps inserting herself into every situation.

Anyway, at that May hike, John and Maggie walked with a four year old white (with big brown brindle splotches) Boxer cross named Billy. Chiwee and I socialized on lawnchairs with a few other non hiking types, and then we went home. I had not even really met Billy properly and he emphatically was not my (Frankie clone) type. I did not give him another thought. John went off to read the newspaper on the deck. I took a nap. As I slept, in John’s mind, while he (did not) read the paper, a dialogue ran something like this:

Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Well, it is really too bad, but we cannot have three dogs.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Three dogs is too many to handle.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Three dogs are too expensive.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Since Daisy died, we have been happy with a pack of two. There is no need to mess with it.
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.
John: Reason says, don’t do it!
Voice: That is too good a dog not to have a home.

I got up and came outside. Then I emailed the rescue.
He said later, “I just could not shake the idea that this nice, nice dog would go back to the rescue unadopted, no matter how well the dogs are treated. In his three months there, not one person has come to look at him, or has even enquired about him. A voice just kept telling me, “You cannot just leave Billy to languish there. That is too good a dog not to have a home”.”

And here is that same dog, this sunny afternoon, lying on “his” couch, sighing a big happy sigh, my dear, dear Frankie clone in a Boxer/St Bernard costume. Billy is an *even tempered, obedient, fastidious, perfectly mannered, calm, kind, slightly submissive, male…the perfect dog. But he is also Billy. He loves to howl recreationally. He has taught Chiwee to howl and they lift those two snouts in unison, the tiny one and the huge blocky one, setting one another off for minutes on end. They enjoy:
1) sirens on TV
2) sirens in real life, and
3) YouTube videos of dogs howling. Also fake howls from me, but not always.
Billy also mouth wrestles endlessly with Maggie, who finally has someone to play with! They flash their teeth, and chew on each other’s back legs, Billy mock growling, Maggie groaning in harmony. They race madly around the yard like puppies. Attached at the hip, they are seldom more than three feet apart. Maggie has, in turn, taught Billy lots of new things: to bark for the heck of it, to provocatively steal socks, sometimes right off a foot, and that couches are the best place for a nap, stretched out full length. Life is good.
But we never, ever refer to ourselves as the Cozy Pack these days. Finally we have decided on a new name: Meet the Never A Dull Moment Pack. Here they are:



3 thoughts on “Pack Matters: How Our Two Packs Came to Be (#1 in a series)

  1. i take exception to being refered to a rescue where dogs ‘languish’ here. They have a swimming pool, sand pit, ppl to throw balls. I want to ‘langish’ here too

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