Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Boy and His Dogs -- by Cara

My son loves animals. All animals. Well, except for spiders. But I can’t blame him for that. He especially loves our two dogs. He bonded with our female, Lama, instantly, as she did him, from the day we brought my son home from the hospital for the very first time. And no matter the age, Lama was by his side, almost vying to take care of him. We were told by trainers that even though she is spayed, her maternal instinct could possibly kick in. And boy, did it ever! She treated him just as she would her own puppy and let him do anything...and I do mean ANYTHING to her! When we were teaching him how to brush his teeth, he had to use his own toothbrushes to brush hers (we eventually bought each of them their own!). He would ride her, roll on her, stack cups on her ears, pull her whiskers (“I’m counting them,” he would say). Still, she let him do whatever he wanted to do to her...and still does. Except that now she is close to 15. And is in as excellent health as a 15 year old dog could be! But she sleeps a lot. And she is slowing down. And what a 6 year old boy needs, is a more playful dog. Enter our male dog, Max.

Max was my “baby” 5 years before Brandon came along. Although highly trained and deciplined, Max resented all of the time I had to spend with Brandon when he was young. So poor Max would go off by himself whenever I was busy with baby Brandon. And I tried to give as much attention and affection as I could to Max. But still, it was nowhere near the attachment we had before Brandon was born.

Years went by. Max remained aloof towards Brandon as Brandon grew. But Brandon would try to interact with Max. Max just wasn’t interested. Until now.

I think Brandon realizes that although Lama is spry when she wants to be, she can’t be treated the way Brandon used to treat her. We constantly remind him that he is too big to ride her or put all of his body weight on her. We remind him that she is sleeping and to try to let her rest. You can tell, he wants his dog who had more vigor back.

Now the dynamics are changing. Max has realized that Brandon is staying for good. And although he is not a young dog himself at 11 years old, he has much more pep to him than Lama. So Brandon is again trying to befriend Max and I am happy to see that Max is reciprocating! I am teaching Brandon how to have Max give him his paw on request. I am also showing Brandon through hand signals how to have Max sit, wait or lie down. Brandon thinks he is performing magic! Max just wants to get a treat! But the most important thing is that they are bonding. Bonding in a way I really never thought would ever happen due to Max’s adoration of me. But our relationships are changing. Max goes onto Brandon’s bed to make a “nest,” which Brandon loves. Then Brandon carefully covers him and gives him a stuffed animal to sleep with. I am so proud of both my “boys!”

A rough-and-tumble boy like Brandon needs a rough-and-tumble dog! And although Max is too old to do tricks like he used to or go to agility races, he has enough “spunk” left in him to give Brandon the “boy-dog” interaction Brandon craves! And Brandon is learning not only how to play with Max, he is also learning to be more compassionate to his real “love,” Lama. He still pets her, but more gently. He wants to help feed her. He makes sure she has a blanket and a stuffed animal to sleep with, too. It is sweet to watch him take care of her the way she took care of him. And it is rewarding to know that Brandon still has a “playmate” with Max. I wish both dogs were a bit younger, but I am grateful that both dogs are in terrific health for both their ages! Especially for a boy and his dogs!

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