Thor and I, after a long day’s drive (well, it was really only about 6 hours, with several stops), turn onto the driveway where we are to stay. A youngish looking (<2 years?) German Shepard shows up to check us out. I sometimes think that Thor, who is usually quite affable, may be either French or Jewish, because he's often short-tempered with the German shepherds. When we arrive at the locked gate, the shepherd is still around and has been joined by some other dog. I can't quite place the breed, but it too looks like one bred for herding. I crack the door of the car. I decide that the shepherd is young and friendly and get out to check on the gate that I hope isn't really locked. The shepherd jumps up on me in a playful, puppy way. The trainer in me takes charge and I tell her "No jumping!" and push her down. She doesn't respond aggressively. When she jumps subsequently, I say "No" in a loud voice, grab the side of his face and push it to the ground. She appears OK with me being the Alpha. I am somewhat relieved, as I'd really rather not take this dog on, especially when she has a friend with her. After I decided to stay there outside the gate, I let Thor out to play with the dogs, who both seem quite friendly. The venerable Old Man goes off romping, but periodically I hear a bark in a tone that I know is intended to say "Listen here, you, I am the Alpha here. Stand Down,” but I can also hear that it’s not delivered with its intended fervor and instead of stopping the foolish puppy’s aggressive play it just goes on. It’s a little pitiful.
“Thor, you’re not as young as you used to be. Maybe you should just chill. Come on back here and get up on your seat and chill out.”
He didn’t seem interested. “Poodle, why don’t you just come on back here? Load up!” He still seemed more interested in romping with the young’uns. I moved the camper around a couple of times in search of flat ground. I coerced Thor back into his seat and closed the door, telling the dogs that they should “Go Home!” but apparently “go home” wasn’t in their vocabulary.
After I managed to get the gate opened I went on down to the house. The dogs followed. I finally found the spot where we’d stay the night. The dogs came over. And stayed. Thor wanted out, so I let him out to visit some more. The dogs romped about. I knew that Thor’s back end was not as strong as it once was (a serious understatement) and remained concerned that the other dogs would hurt his aging hips. Thor had no such concerns. Perhaps a dozen times I heard Thor try to give the “Listen here, you need to stop that. NOW!” bark, but it just didn’t have the power behind it that it once did. Thor is getting old. Though someone less familiar with dogs might have been uncomfortable, it never got ugly. Every so often I’d tell Thor that if he wanted, he could just get in the camper and not deal with those pesky mutts, but he would hear nothing of it.
Eventually it was time for dinner and I insisted that he return. He got back in the camper, though it took him a couple of tries because his hips were so tired that he could barely muster the jump up into the camper. The puppies continued to hang out near us. I had dinner, wrote a blog post and most of this one when I heard them outside and one of them (I think the shepherd) jump up on the car. I opened the door and told them to stop. The shepherd ran off. The other dog cowered submissively on his/her/hir back (perhaps hir is a bit much; I’m not aware of any transgender dogs; it seems highly unlikely that any dogs are going to read this).
The dogs were still there in the morning. I finally got to witness what was happening. The male of the breed I can’t remember the name of was coming up behind Thor and mounting him, (not because the dog is homosexual or would to change its gender–this is just a way that dogs have to show who is the alpha). Thor, though generally good natured and averse to fights put up with it for a bit, but I suspect that it hurt is aging haunches and he didn’t have the kick he used to to turn around and give the dog a good nip to remind him that Thor was in charge. It must be really hard to have to learn that other smaller, younger dogs are now in charge. I don’t think Thor quite gets it.
This went on and on this morning. I finally took to intervening, standing between the dog and Thor so that Thor could walk around and sniff things.
When we finally left, the dogs followed us a long way down the road. The shepherd ran almost 25mph. I remember when Thor could effortlessly run 25mph. Now he sometimes has a hard time jumping up into the camper. I often think about what I’ll do when he goes. What do you do, just drive up to animal control and say, “Here, my dog died. Can you dispose of him properly?”