I returned last evening from London to find Sammy racing up and down the basement steps beside Rosie, eager to greet his returning master. ‘Racing’ in this context begs some qualifiers. Perhaps ‘moving briskly’ is more to the point.
No longer plagued by the fear of falling down stairs, he moves up and down them with resolution rather than fear.
But this is only the beginning. Even as I write these words, Rosie and the Samsters are tussling in the Fall air out on the deck. Both tails now wave at coordinated moments. The legacy of one behaving with snappy territorialism when the other wanted innocently to cross the room are mostly gone. Our two Ridgebacks are in synch. That marvel of mutual accomodation that makes cities, four-way stops, conjugal visits, and multiple-pet households has run its course.
Alongside of these more pedestrian adjustments, Sammy continues to display a creative flare. The most recent of these—my entertainment this very morning—is the artful medley of two prior behaviors: his marine crawl and his shark-mouth maneuver. Both are in different degrees playful activities. In combination they are hilarious.
The marine crawl occurs when he drags his long, taut body along the carpet in Rosie’s general direction, pulling himself along with his strong front legs, his back legs splayed out behind him in arguably aerodynamic pose. The crawl is intended for close-order play-fighting, the kind that might happen, say, in my den and is reaches its tactical potential when a desk or a bicycle can be suspected of thrusting out its sharp corners in Sammy’s direction.
The shark-mouth maneuver is less dependent on any one environment. Sammy opens his enormous mouth at its extra-terrestrial-proportioned hinge and waves the vast space between his upper and lower teeth in Rosie’s general direction. The hope is that, like fish into a net, she’ll aimlessly wander it and be trapped in a colossal Rhodesian gumming (it being unimaginable that he should clamp down hard with his teeth and actually hurt someone).
This morning, after both dogs had had their morning snuggles from me and I had sunk back into my easy chair for a spot of reading and writing, the normal drill is for both to settle into their places on the carpet and enter that state of dog bliss that occurs when the master is near and there is nothing else to do. Instead, Rosie poked at Sammy with her jaw as though to say, ‘Let’s play a little more before we chill.’
Sammy responded with his new, composite move, which shall ever hence be discussed under the moniker of the marine crawl shark-head maneuver. With formidable multiple-muscle control, the boy both dragged himself in what he perceived (Sammy’s perceptions are always a bit loose at such moments) to have been Rosie’s direction, open shark-jaw flailing at the air in hopes of encountering her head. Both she and I looked on amused.
Sammy, now fast asleep by my side, was no doubt quite impressed with himself. Blind dogs, it seems, define athleticism their way, then bask smugly in its private glory.