The Small Black Dog is a canine of simple but specific interests.
Thrice daily, from our sunny, south-facing balcony, the SBD intently surveys the arid savanna of our backyard, monitoring the intrusion of trespassers: cheeky squirrels, audacious cats, and dogs that have the temerity to walk down the alley behind our house.
It’s a bit disconcerting that the SBD ignores real intruders, such as the alarmingly mature-looking coyote that occasionally wanders into the backyard--hopefully in search of the moles that gleefully decimate our feeble attempts at landscaping. The Small Black Dog acts like he’s three times his 25 pounds but in his heart of fluffy, black hearts, he knows that he’s merely a morsel in the Mount Washington food chain.
The Small Black Dog also loves chewy things: gristle and bone and skin that look disgusting and smell even worse. He’ll gnaw and gnaw at the big-as-his-head pig’s knees recommended by his trainer Lezle Stein, of dog training, and then collapse, satiated and exhausted, on his Dodger blanket in his crate. There, he’ll snort and snore for hours. He’s surprisingly loud for such a small dog; once I woke up in the middle of the night and mistook his weird snurfling for an extraterrestrial's attempt to communicate with paltry Earthlings. (Note to self: investigate sleep apnea chin straps for dogs. Immediately.)
The Small Black likes to take walks and, as my friend Marianne calls it, check his “pee-mail." Thanks to drill sergeant Lezle’s guidance, we’ve curbed the SBD’s attempts to dash pell-mell down the hill in pursuit of exquisite odors. And while there’s still plenty of room for improvement, the Small Black Dog has also gotten better -- thanks to Lezle’s “Watch-me”-for-treats technique -- about not barking at bicyclists, gardeners, other dogs, house-coat-clad neighbors and birds during our perambulations. He still, however, goes ballistic at the preteen who clatters loudly down the sidewalk sitting on his skateboard.
It’s hard to blame the SBD for that one.
The thing that the Small Black Dog loves most, though, is his bed. It’s fluffy and brown, has a silly looking paw print appliqué and is covered in what he considers a delicious miasma of pork-knee stains and dog drool.
He guards the thing like it’s Fort Knox.
Thanks to Lezle, the SBD’s behavior has definitely improved, if only incrementally. He’s gotten better at greeting guests. He hardly ever races down the hall barking hysterically after people leave.
But the bed is the Small Black Dog’s Last Stand. When he doesn’t want to do something, he sits on it, staring at us challengingly with a chewy toy clamped between his chompers, looking like a mustachioed bandit with a knife clutched in his teeth.
Per Lezle, we’ve set up another bed, a comfy gray blanket alluringly accessorized with liver treats and a pig knuckle. The theory is that he can’t guard two beds as ferociously as he does one. The Small Black Dog isn’t completely convinced. If we sit on the bed amidst the medley of meaty treats, he’ll amble over as if to say, “Not so fast, pardner. Yer a stranger around these parts, ain’t ya?”
Our next move is to investigate a Lezle-suggested series of auditory tapes designed to calm nervous canines. I don’t know if the series includes the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – the one with the rattlesnake rattle -- but that would certainly be an appropriate soundtrack to the stand-offs with the SBD. Or maybe there’s a snake charmer melody that would hypnotize him into obedience once and for all.
At least it might work on the snoring.