Monday, August 4, 2008
My folks and their curly blond haired cockapoo, Harley, are visiting Hartford for their first time since the wife, Watson, and I have become Connecticutians. One thing that has always been clear to the wife and me and my folks is the striking personality differences between our canines.
Toward those who have gained his trust, Watson is boisterous and playful, eager to deliver doggy kisses when permitted. Harley is guarded and fashionably smug-- he is reluctant to give his heart to anyone other than his dad or mom. While Watson shows affection with jumps and licks, Harley is far more demure and would would prefer to be admired from afar with polite compliments. When he feels particularly moved, he may shake your hand or tip his hat to you and ask, "How do you do?"
Watson loves the dog park. He jumps and runs and sloshes in the mud with the other dogs. Harley paces in the corner and can be heard muttering to himself about the modern decline of canine decorum ("Pups these days...")
Watson fantasizes about playing fetch or kissing his grandfather; Harley rehearses math facts in his head.
Watson passed obedience school--and promptly ate his diploma. Harley is currently weighing the pros and cons of a handful of graduate programs in international politics.
Watson is obsessed with the ant crawling across the carpet, pouncing at it, baring his teeth at it, picking it up gingerly in him mouth and spitting it across the room, begging for it to play with him (and crying when he accidentally brings the ant to its untimely demise, depressed that the bug refuses to play any longer). Harley is halfway through The Grapes of Wrath.
Watson has a memory like a sieve: he does not even know my wife's or my name (despite our gratuitous repetitions). Harley's memory is a steel trap: he knows the names and birthdays of everybody in his extended family. In his spare time, he is constructing a family tree that extends several generations into the past. "It's far from complete," he'll tell you. "Just a hobby, really."
Watson sits like a champ. Sometimes he seems to understand "come" (especially sans squirrels in sight). Harley, on the other hand, understands such subtle terms as "almost" and "focus" and "please, Harley, give me the packet of parmesan cheese, and I promise that I will help you review your spelling words" (Harley just loves the English language).
Watson begs for treats; Harley devises elaborate multi-step plans for coaxing his people into giving him treats.
The following is a true story about Harley that requires two pieces of background information:
Background fact #1: My parents (Harley's people) have hired a plowing service to clear their driveways following heavy winter snows. If it snows in the middle of the night, the plow will come in the wee dark hours of the morning to clean their driveway. Whenever the plow arrives, Harley, sensing an intruder on the premises, runs to the living room window and barks to alert his people of the uninvited guests. His people have to come to the living room and reassure him that the snowplowmuhn is a welcomed visitor.
Background fact #2: Whenever Harley's people witness him running through his doggy door to his personal lawn space to "be a good boy" (i.e. produce a numero uno or dos), he is rewarded with a treat.
One non-snowy winter evening, my folks (Harley's people) heard Harley barking maniacally as he is wont to do in the presence of the ominous snowplow. My dad looked outside and saw that there was neither snow nor plow, and found Harley in the living room. Pops attempted to reason with Harley, but before he could explain that there was nothing about which to be alarmed, Harley had bolted from the spot at the living room window through his doggy door and to the spot that he normally "is a good boy". As soon as he reached that spot (and saw that my dad saw him there), he sprinted back inside past my dad and stopped just in front of the cabinet door, behind which he knew was the mother load of doggy treats for "good boys". Harley had formulated a two-step plan to wake my dad up (by barking as if there were a snowplow when none was to be seen) and trick my dad into thinking that he was a "good boy" (by running to the spot where he normally is one and back) in order to get a midnight snack.
And now, a true story about Watson:
One time (before he had graduated Obedience School, mind you), when the wife and I were away for less than thirty minutes, Watson found an unopened bag of Beggin' Strips (a value bag with 20% extra free). He ripped the bag open and consumed the entire supply of Beggin'. Then he threw up (a giant ball of congealed Beggin'). Then he located and destroyed a scarecrow we had attempted to secure in our storage area. Then he found our latest Newsweek and ripped it to shreds. When we arrived home, Watson was totally unaware that he had behaved inappropriately, and he jumped for joy and attempted to lick us all over.
Harley is the gifted, borderline antisocial dog. Watson is the special needs canine with a nearly unflappable heart of gold. Harley is George to Watson's Lenny; he is Moe to Watson's Curley.
In truth, it takes all kinds (in case you always wondered what it took).