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March 23, 2012: Dogs Being Dogs

Yesterday I was hanging out in the horse pen, taking photos of Signy in her near-advanced stage of pregnancy. (The official due date is not as previously thought, April 20, but April 11.) I heard Rainbow and Jenna barking, and turned around. Both were standing on the berm next to the fence. I did some quick calculations and then took the attached photo. I didn’t pay it much mind at the time because I was so intent on getting a photo of Signy’s round belly.

The two dogs were standing beside one another, but not interacting. This is in

character. We acquired Rainbow (a husky border collie mix) in 2002, and Jenna (an Australian Shepherd border collie mix) in 2010. Rainbow’s three-quarter ruff faces to the right, and Jenna’s three quarter ruff faces to the left. Both are ten years old, and in excellent physical shape.

From day one, Rainbow and Jenna’s routines in relation to one another have been the same. I doubt that it will ever be any different. Both eat from separate food bowls, on separate sides of the kitchen. Both drink from the same water bowl, which is next to Rainbow’s dish. Both come in and go outside at the same time. Both elect to sleep in separate places. Rainbow sleeps downstairs on the couch, and Jenna sleeps upstairs, beside our bed. Pete and I love them both equally.

Pete and I call Rainbow “Doggie Hotel” and Jenna “Separation Anxiety.” Open the kitchen door, and Rainbow trots into the living room and climbs up on the couch. And Jenna trots over to Pete’s side and sits by his feet.

Both have the differing aspects of herd dog breeding. Left-brained Rainbow is more analytical. Right-brained Jenna is more emotional. However, I have seen signs of right brain activity in Rainbow, and left brain activity in Jenna. Rainbow lets it be known to us when she’s in need of a pet. And Jenna often becomes fixated on the moths that flitter around the bedroom.

The photo and what I’ve written bring to mind the subject of canine communication. We as humans often project our sensibilities onto animals. Rainbow and Jenna’s interactions are indicative of this. Some would say that because they don’t appear to be focused on one another’s actions, they’re not interacting at all. I don’t agree. They are interacting, but in ways too subtle for me, a human being, to totally comprehend.

Animal Behaviorist Temple Grandin would assert that my having a well-developed frontal lobe is a communicative barrier. I, like most of my species primarily communicate verbally. Words should clarify, but alas, they often obscure what is most evident.

However, I can speculate, and so speculate I will. If Rainbow or Jenna didn’t have the companionship of either, they might take their personality traits to extremes. Rainbow would become even more aloof, and Jenna would become even more cloying. The presence of both enables them to mediate between their extremes.

Moments after this photo was taken Rainbow and Jenna followed me back up to the main cabin, where I drew water for the horses. The pair then followed me back down to the horse shelter, where I poured the water into the now-empty buckets. When done, I again sought them out. Both were again perched on the berm. It was as if nothing had happened. However, in that space of time, the above thoughts had come to mind. They are what bring me closer to, and distance me from the two dogs.

Next: 106. 3/24/12: Tinni et al.