Be more doggy

The Cheeses went away last weekend, and so I ended up dog-sitting Bailey. I did it with trepidation. My place is quite small, and though the dogs know each other and get on well on our weekly walks, there’s been tension before. And, in a way, it’s like being asked to look after someone’s child. You don’t want to fuck it up.

Bailey was a bit discombobulated initially, which was understandable. His folks had abandoned him, and though he knew Rigby and me, he was the interloper.

For the most part, Rigby seemed unfussed, though a couple of times he got a bit possessive and territorial. Always an affectionate dog, he became more so. When Bailey engaged with me at the start, Rigby would push himself forward, and he didn’t want Bailey getting up on the bed – that was his spot.

Over the weekend, Rigby became more relaxed with it. In fact, Rigby appeared to make an effort with Bailey more often, gently engaging with him, as if to say, how you going, mate? Bailey, who is a bit more snarky generally, wasn’t always responsive.

I had to watch out at mealtimes as they’re very different. As a Lab, Rigby will gobble up everything. Bailey is much less focused on food. Rigby always prompts me at mealtimes and gulps down his food in a matter of seconds, whereas Bailey was happy to let his food sit in the bowl until he was ready for it.

That represented a huge temptation for Rigby. He knew, instinctively I think, that it wasn’t his to eat, and so while he’d keep a keen eye on it, wouldn’t attempt to snaffle it. It might have been different if I wasn’t in the room, but it made me fret more than I wanted to. Come on, Bailey, I’d tell, eat up! When he did finally, Rigby would always inspect the empty bowl and give it a few licks, just for good luck.

Then it was our walks. These are two dogs with very different walking styles. Rigby might be getting older, but he’s quite muscular and always striving to get ahead. Bailey, by comparison, is happy to amble along and occasionally behind. Rigby likes to stop and sniff, which he regularly does, whereas Bailey generally was happy to maintain a steady pace. Rigby generally will go to the left but will suddenly swerve and zig-zag. Bailey would go to the right and would often go around the back of me to get there.

All of this meant that leads were frequently tangled, and dogs, and occasionally me. I’d have to pirouette often, or step around or over, or tug the dogs into line, or switch hands. It was a real challenge.

I had Bailey for two nights, and he was well behaved, though a little confused, I think. Outside of our walks, we had a quiet weekend. At the end of it, I felt especially loving towards Rigby.

I’ve long thought that dogs are the best people and Rigby one of the very best of all – devoted and loving, sensitive and gentle, entertaining and fun. Early in the weekend, I had the opportunity to see the difference in behaviour towards another dog. There was a definite rivalry. It seemed to me that to each other, dogs are probably more like what we are – and they save their best behaviour for us.

But then I observed how Rigby mellowed. He was reassured perhaps, realising that Bailey was no threat, and began to see Bailey in more brotherly terms. He would go up to Bailey to check in on him, like a good neighbour – or host. He would lay his head close or, gently snuffling, extend his snout to Bailey, undeterred by rejection. There was kindness in this. It affirmed to me the innate decency of dogs, which he epitomises. He’s a lovely, gentle, affectionate boy, and I couldn’t adore him more. And I was proud of him.

And now he’s barking! Someone at the door? Must go!

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