Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Loving, Gentle Boy

While Wolfie, of the previous post, may have been my heart dog, the dog that came a week after Wolf died has proven to be the sweetest, best behaved, calmest of dogs that we have ever owned. Little Gus was found wandering the streets of Ottawa, Kansas and though he was tagged, his owners never answered the repeated calls to come collect him. This wasn't the first time he had wandered away and been turned over to animal control, so the Bea Martin Peck Pound took him and advertised for a family. Though my heart was never up for his adoption, Fritzy (who had also come from Bea Martin Peck) and Hubby were definitely in the market for a second dog. Hubby completed the adoption; I merely rode along to pick up the dog.

Gustav is small and sturdy. His eyes are huge and amber colored. His fur is almost white. He is, and has always been, serene but as he ages he becomes more contemplative and introspective. He does not dance with joy just for the sport of it. He will dance, of course, to see his pack return from a trip or when offering him a ride in the car, but he never dances just because he's alive and the world is good. He needs a reason to dance. He does not sing as some Schnauzers do. He is a fairly quiet little boy.
Gus does not hump his housemate. Ever. He does not care about being alpha dog. Fritzy humped him weekly -- and now Luie has taken Fritzy's place. Gus does not care. He simply stands, serenely quiet, as if to say, "let me know when you think you're through you silly goose for both you and I know you haven't the balls to carry through with this stupid activity." And when Luie loses interest in riding Gus's backside, Gus moves on as though nothing untoward had happened.
Gus does not care if he is fed first. We make it a point to do so -- giving Luie who is dancing for all he's worth the first bowl would just increase his demands to be alpha of everything he surveys. Gus simply wants to be sure that he has a bowl of food. He doesn't care what is in Luie's bowl and he does not wander over to nudge Luie out of the way to see if Luie has something better. The humans, though, have to stand guard to make sure that Luie does not nudge Gus out of the way, because Gus will NOT go over to Luie's bowl and dig in. He just wanders off looking sad.

The only alpha activity that Gus has commanded is pride of place in the car. Fritzy had moved into Wolf's position on my lap in the front seat of the car after Wolf died and there he rode for the next four years, Gus was always relegated to the back seat. The moment Fritzy died, Gus claimed the front seat -- and most specifically my lap. Fritzy was an agile, bendable dog and he rode comfortably on my right thigh, leaning up against the window. Gus is not agile. He has short, stiff legs. He frequently has back and hip problems. We've had him X-rayed twice and nothing shows up to explain why he suddenly goes lame, but this happens maybe every other month or so. Gus does not jump well. He cannot get on our bed by himself but must be lifted up. On my lap, he perches precariously, neither of us exactly comfortable. On long trips, I prop a pillow under him so he can lie down more easily, but even then, neither of us are particularly settled in our positions. Since this is the only alpha position Gus has ever demanded in our house, I am happy to give my lap up to him (except on those mornings when he has paraded himself through the mud and I'm wearing white pants to school -- then we argue back and forth, with me telling him to get in the backseat -- a command all our dogs have learned -- and Gus jockeying to clamber by hook or crook to have some portion of him, even if it's just a paw, laying on my body -- the kids now expect me to have paw prints on my clothes on rainy days).

Luie is frustrated by this alpha need of Gus to be in the front seat. He tries to worm his way onto my lap, squeezing out Gussie. Gus never growls, never moves a muscle. He may turn his head and look deeply into my eyes to be assured that I'm not going to displace him, but he never turns on Luie. But Luie is our attention deficit dog and even he manages to move Gussie, he never wants to be in one place very long. All Hubby has to do is open a back window and Luie is off to smell the outside world or chew on the seat belt or find the empty water bottle and try to kill it. Gus will then settle down uncomfortably on my lap, and lift a paw in hopes that a friendly hand might offer up a chest rub.

Last summer when Fritzy was dying slowly of kidney failure, I got quite sick -- first with a drug interaction and then with the flu. I spend nearly three weeks in bed and during that time, Fritzy laid listlessly on the bed with me, sleeping lightly, and demanding nothing -- not even food. Gus, still a young dog, laid between both of us, watching over us. He only asked to go out when absolutely necessary. In our house we must walk the dogs -- there is no opening the door and letting them out on their own. Gus would lay, quietly, on the bed with Fritzy and me, asking only that we keep the water bowl full and not leave home without him.

Gus does not pee in the house. Fritzy would sneak a little leak here and there. Wolfie, at age 17 (or 19 or however old he actually was) had lost the will to care about where he peed. If he needed to go, Wolfie went - and we quietly, and without comment, cleaned it up. Gus came into a house that still had Wolf's scent -- and never once peed on it. He has, once in a while, gotten sick, and had an accident -- but he has never, once, willfully peed in the house. That would be messy is what he seems to think.

The only time Gus has ever been unhappy with his family was the day he woke up from the teeth cleaning to find that nearly all his grabbing teeth were missing. Poor boy, he's both lame and born with rotten teeth. He kept his fangs, but all his front teeth, top and bottom, are gone -- and he was so disgusted with us because now he could no longer occupy himself with large chew bones. How in the world he was gnawing on them with those horribly rotten, wobbling teeth, no one ever figured out.

Gus is a gentleman. He does not growl or bite or nip. He does not paw on visitors for attention. He can bark to protect the front door, but that makes him pure Schnauzer. He is accepting in sharing his home with housemates. He is a good guest when we travel. He comes when he is called. He is never demanding. He will ask before he tries to jump in a lap. He walks perfectly on the leash (while Luie pulls and charges and refused to pay attention). He loves to cuddle next to me in bed but when the time for actual sleeping comes, he is happy to settle on the foot of the bed because I can never stay in one position very long (and if I could only convince him to sleep vertically instead of horizontally there would be room for both Gus AND my feet).
The truly sad thing is that Luie is the dog destined for the temperament of the humans in this family. We are the "take charge, barge ahead" people. We, like Luie, want to advance on life and bite it in the butt. We don't really understand what this sweet, gentle temperament is all about. We don't really "get" Gussie and we don't actually appreciate all his finer points. He's just so . . . passive. Maybe it's because he came right on Wolf's death and he innately go the message that he could never measure up to the "perfect heart dog." Maybe it was because we were so intense on making Fritzy alpha dog when Wolf was gone. Maybe we forced him into this submissive role. However, sad it is, we have to remind ourselves that Gussie is the perfect house dog. He is everything a dog owner would want.
Gus is so loving and accepting and innately good, that sometimes I think we don't deserve him. He has to compete with a dog he never knew to get love from a heart that is forever cracked. But he has managed, with his big amber eyes and his sweet, giving disposition, to heal over many of the seams in my broken heart. He is probably the very best dog we have ever owned, even compared to the incomparable Wolfie -- and he has given us a generosity of spirit that we simply have not earned. We love you dearly, sweet Gus, and we thank you from the bottom of our broken hearts. We will try, from here on, to do better by your sweet self.


MoxieMamaKC said...

Aww...what sweet puppies. You're very lucky. I have 2 cats that I adore. Good pets are always so special!

Margaret said...

YOu seem to know him very, very well and to know him is to love him! He sounds like a very sweet boy.

snugpug said...

Whatta boy. We are honoured to call him friend.