Contributed photo by Colin Brown
Our foster dog, Shorty, has established his dominance. The smallest of the animals in our menagerie, a poodle, he has shown himself to be the king of the animals in spirit and spunk.
Shorty belongs to a homeless friend who asked us to look after him for her, while she reformulated a few things in her life. He has a small body, a puffball for a tail, a top-knot and a dapper face with pink smiling lips. A circus dog in fact, with his panache and ability to project his bark — and a courageous heart inhabits all of him.
He has been the object of our neighbor dog’s attention since he arrived. Oso, the Labrador next door, has seen Shorty as the ideal playmate, the Dog Robin for the Dog Batman, so to speak. Shorty is pretty adorable.
Oso, being a solo dog in his garden next door, has longed for the community of canines in our garden, Mushu the Pekingese and Samuel the Dachshund for whom, if he was in their company, along with Shorty, would give him a respectable posse.
Oso, a tall, sleek boy dog, with a good temperament and rippling muscularity, has a scale that can surely intimidate other large animals, except for the one animal who has a much enlarged sense of self, the poodle — Shorty. A different story.
Shorty has become Oso’s nemesis.
Oso had been planning a break-in to our yard for some while and had seen a plank of wood in our common fence with a looseness that could be pried apart. I looked out of the corner of my eye one evening and saw that Oso had pushed out the slat onto the grass and was snaking his massive body from his yard into ours. Like a whale giving birth, the fence calved out some more slats and the big black Labrador tumbled on the veldt of our lawn. The Pekingese and the Dachshund, having a better eye for geometry and their odds, came belting back in through our kitchen door, and the two cats — Darko, the elephantine black cat and Gracy, our elderly wisp of a gray cat — streaked in on a second wave to enter the appropriately sized cat door in the kitchen.
Shorty, however, being unfazed by intelligent calculation, rippled with invaded anger and roared. Not a poodle’s whimper, but a growling roar emanating from some atavistic cave in his belly. He fired himself from the pistol of his entire being, a canine “Wyatt Earp” in full lawman vengeance.
The poor, over-friendly Labrador examined his resources and found them to be wildly wanting. Panicking and squealing like a pup, the poor doggie hurled himself back in full retreat, back through the fence. But the fence did not flex in so convenient a way and poor Oso landed in the cleft of the fence, front paws waggling in space, with his hindquarters exposed to the savage poodle.
I was able to lunge forward and cup the poodle’s quivering body, flush with rage, and lift him away from Oso’s rear end, and took him back to the kitchen door vibrating with fury where I inserted him back into his holster and closed the dog door.
Oso hung in mid-air, and I helped him inch forward through the fence to get his paws back on his own safe grass and return to the shelter of his own house.
A lesson learned for that Labrador no doubt. But I do need to teach Shorty how to love his neighbor as our Lord has taught us, without biting his neighbor on the grass.
Colin Brown is the former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Boardman.