Those of us who can’t get enough of the love of dogs, know that there’s nothing quite like that perfect rhythm and harmony you experience with your elderly “seasoned” dogs after living together for years, learning about each other and facing life’s varied challenges together. “Seasoned” family dogs who “get it,” “get you” and can understand and interpret complicated situations effortlessly, are irreplaceable and precious. The sad and humbling thing about this stage of life is that by the time you get there, your days together are numbered. Oh, how I wish that wasn’t true.
We recently decided to add a third dog to our family pack, and knew that a young 2-year-old would be quite a handful for us compared to our two seasoned 9-year-olds. Our two nine-year-olds are a male (Manx) and a female (Corsa). Corsa is the queen of the universe and Manx is the laid-back sensitive one, who rarely shows overt emotion about anything – except for the new guy! It was evident from the very beginning that this was something special. Both of our elderly hounds seemed surprised and delighted when they first met Niki the newbie. Since then Corsa has taught Niki the consequences for rude behavior, where the boundaries lie and just exactly who is the alpha bitch of this particular household, (and I thought it was ME!) We support her wholeheartedly. Manx has shown amazing patience and tolerance for the young squid Niki, while still maintaining the lead role. Manx epitomizes true leadership, calm and confident, like the captain of a ship, and Niki follows him around like a duckling.
Recently I was teaching Niki how to work the doggie door so he could go in and out at will, using treats and positive reinforcement as usual. Then along came the Wise, Old, Sage…Manx, the big dog with the big heart and the bandwidth of a Saint. Manx read the situation quickly and jumped right in. He slipped through the doggie door, waited on the other side tail wagging, then back inside. In and out, in and out as if he was showing off for Niki about how it worked and how to use it. It was the cutest thing I have seen in a long time and Niki was much less tentative about the lesson with Manx around. Hello Youtube! Where is a video camera when you need one?! Thanks to Manx, Niki finally leapt through it on his own like he was performing in Cirque du Solei, followed by a proud confident trot around the yard, long black tail held high in celebration. That’s just one example of my seasoned dogs training the new dog for me, “Paying it forward” in a canine way as if to say, “…Life is good once you understand the rules around here.”
Since then Manx and Corsa have both been instrumental in teaching Niki lots of things, like where the “potty spot” is outside, leash manners, feeding rules, weathering home-alone time calmly, how to play, respect and enjoy the ride. Honestly, we’ve barely had to do a thing.
Old dogs are the best dogs, and there’s always one in the making. God Bless You Manx and Corsa we couldn’t have done it (as easily) without you. We will love you forever and when the seasons change and it’s Niki who is the Wise Old Sage, we pray he will channel the two of you, pay it forward and pass the torch with keen, quiet confidence. But let’s not rush things.