Dog days

There’s a new dog next door named Josie, and Josie is making life difficult for our dog Spike.

Spike is a blond cavoodle, a cavalier King Charles spaniel poodle cross. Given a choice, she’ll spend the day asleep on our bed. Old ladies adore her. They say she should be called Duchess or Princess. Josie, a charcoal schnoodle, a Schnauzer poodle cross, is permanently wired, as if she’s mainlining caffeine. Her little ears prick up independently of one another. She’ll walk for three hours, then run, then play ball, then run again.

Josie is visiting while her owners, our neighbour’s relations, are travelling. Already she’s escaped four times, twice by seizing the moment when a door was opened a crack, once by squeezing between the bars of a child gate, and the other time by tunneling under the back yard. It’s not that she’s trying to go home. Usually she runs straight over to see her new best friend Spike.

We take Josie on our walks. She sniffs at Spike, bumps into her, jumps, runs around, sniffs what Spike sniffs, jumps, runs around, sniffs at Spike etc. Spike doesn’t respond. She feels betrayed. “You got a dog,” she seems to be saying whenever she sees the psychologist neighbour who’s her therapist (early trauma, retrievers retrieving, we don’t talk about it). “I didn’t want a dog.”

And this is the rub. Spike doesn’t think she’s a dog. She had a short period as a cat, albeit a tad creepy, stalking the white cat across the street. And the ceiling possum occasionally secretes something that brings out her possum nature. But her most enduring self is human. She wants to eat human food. She wants to sleep on human beds, with her little head on a human pillow. She wants to go where the humans go, including into shops, and if you leave her outside she screams to make sure you know you’ve abandoned her. People give you looks.

Josie not only knows she’s a dog; she knows Spike’s a dog too and I think this is a source of tension between them. Spike can’t understand why this mad little thing won’t leave her alone. Josie can’t understand why Spike won’t PLAY! At the dog park, Spike sits with the humans. If a dog approaches, she tries to merge into the seat. Josie chases all the other dogs, Harry the kelpie, Max the highland terrier, even the unnamed large black dog. Josie seems to be saying, “Be my best friend,” over and over again really fast. She brings her new best friend over and together they jump on Spike to see if Spike wants to PLAY! She doesn’t.

I feel for Spike, I feel for Josie, and it’s got me wondering if there are normal dogs in the world, dogs that know they’re dogs but don’t need to prove it, dogs happy with their fundamental dogness. Are there, or are they all just as neurotic as we are?