I heard Bill Cosby joke once that parents of only children aren’t experiencing the full joy of parenting. After all, he said, if you come across a broken lamp in the house, you immediately know who did it.
Similarly, the same might be said for having multiple pets. Being a three-dog family, we’ve witnessed some moving traits that animals demonstrate toward one another. Our three dogs, Belle, Georgie, and Rosie are a mini family unit within our family.
We adopted Rosie the Boggle about two years ago. Boggles are a mix of Boston Terrier and Beagle, what some would refer to as a designer dog. I suppose if you can think of a name for what were once called mutts, you can sell them instead of give them away.
Rosie has become the pup Belle and Georgie never had. She follows them here and there, imitating their actions right down to the Belle-like way she sticks her hind legs straight back when she lies down. She often basks in the sunshine with Georgie, nuzzling up against his soft black lab fur.
Georgie and our petite Great Dane, Belle, are both nine years old. They’ve both been a part of our family for the past eight years. No two dogs were ever more compatible. I don’t think a cross word between the two has ever been barked. But there’s been times when they’ve shown a companionship that left us smiling in wonderment.
Vocationally, my wife and I had to live separately in the early months of 2005. Georgie moved with my wife to our new house in Kansas, while Belle kept me company and sane, while I waited for my transfer from Louisiana. In April of that year, my transfer came through and we joined the rest of the family. As we pulled into our new driveway, my wife came racing out to meet us and I eagerly jumped out of the truck.
Belle’s attention was on something else. In the backyard, from behind a chain link fence, she’d spotted her old friend, Georgie. You see, it had been four months of separation for them as well. Belle sprinted to the fence and both dogs put their front paws atop the railing, nose-to-nose in an excited reunion. The rest of their day was spent in joyful play and joint napping.
From the day we took her in, Belle has claimed a spot in our bed, at our feet. Georgie’s custom made bed lays on the floor at the foot of our bed. This has been their sleeping arrangement every night we’ve had them...except for a two week period in the winter of 2010. Georgie had underwent a serious surgery to repair a torn ligament in his leg. He was unable to climb the stairs to our bedroom, so I’d made him a pallet to sleep on in the downstairs den while he recovered.
The first night home from his surgery, we went through our usual routine before retiring. I headed up the stairs to go to bed, looking back to see Georgie resting comfortably on his pallet. Oddly, Belle was lying on the floor, next to her injured companion, instead of her usual practice of following me upstairs.
“C’mon, girl, let’s go to bed.”
In a rare moment, Belle deliberately disobeyed me, lowering her head on the floor next to Georgie’s bedding. She seemed determined to stand watch over her buddy. I thought that was touching, but never thought it would last the night. Belle has always been a true creature of comfort. But when I woke up the next morning, her spot in our bed was still empty.
Belle’s vigil over Georgie lasted two weeks. Then one night, she once again followed me upstairs to go to bed, but stopped at the top of the stairway. Turning back with her head tilted slightly, Belle peered downward into the darkness while conveying the softest of whimpers. Switching on the stairwell light, I saw her companion contemplating his first post-surgery climb of the steps. With Belle’s urging, Georgie made a slow, careful ascent up the dozen or so steps leading to his awaiting friend. Together, they headed down the hall and got into their familiar spots.
Our three dogs have always demonstrated loyalty and love toward us that cannot be mistaken. But the quiet bond they possess with one another is an example from which we humans could learn much. I know I have.
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