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Becoming Sisters

When Butterfly first arrived last year as an eight year old rescue dog, she saw Cricket as the all knowing mentor about things like poop, and stairs, and dinner time. But Cricket looked at her with suspicion and made it clear that everything in the house belonged to Cricket first: the food, the toys, and most especially the people. Cricket had been an only dog for six years and did not see any reason to change that. But I did. I wanted her to learn social skills, to calm down her protective instincts and to widen her emotional repertoire. She preferred to sit on her grandma’s lap and give the usurper her best death stare.

"Hello, Cricket!"

“Hello, Cricket!”

"What are you looking at?!"

“What are you looking at?!”

My job was to make sure that Cricket had no good reason to feel usurped. That doesn’t mean she never felt jealous or resentful, just that she had no good reason to feel that way. I had to make sure that Cricket didn’t run low on scratchies or treats or have her walks curtailed.

When Butterfly pooped in the house or looked at the stairs with terror, Cricket rolled her eyes. She lived like there was no other dog in the house, just a distant, annoying, buzz of noise that had no interest for her. But Butterfly ran a campaign of attrition. She was unremittingly loyal, and upbeat, and ignored every sign of Cricket’s disdain. Butterfly was the kind of friend anyone would want, but no one could quite believe they deserved.

"Are you down there, Cricket?"

“Are you down there, Cricket?”

Butterfly started to show her usefulness to Cricket by being the one who woke me up at the break of dawn to go outside. Cricket just had to yawn and stretch and meet us at the door. Butterfly also made chicken treats more available, by needing and responding well to training, so that if I was giving Butterfly treats, Cricket had to have some too, and again, without much effort, Cricket’s treat intake at least doubled.

But the biggest benefit of having Butterfly around is the unconditional love. Cricket can be snotty and grumpy and indifferent, and Butterfly will still look at her with devotion, follow her around, and pee where she pees. It has to be a nice ego boost.

I’ve caught Cricket, recently, snuggling up to Butterfly, purposely resting her head next to Butterfly’s tushy, for comfort and wonderful aromas. Cricket doesn’t find it quite as annoying anymore that Butterfly worships the ground that she walks on, especially because the worship has been tempered over time. If food or scratchies are being offered, Butterfly will shove Cricket out of the way to get first dibs.

Tushy to tushy.

Tushy to tushy.

I wanted Cricket to have a sister so that she would have someone to talk to, someone who could speak her language. No matter how much I love my dogs and try to understand them, there is a language barrier that stops important messages from coming through. Butterfly and Cricket know that language. A lot of it seems to be transmitted by the smell of pee. They sniff-in with each other multiple times a day, to see what’s going on, as if they are reading each other’s diaries.

The girls, intentionally, do things together now. They cozy up for warmth. They sit on either side of grandma’s rolling chair at the computer. They take turns eating at the bowls. They especially try to walk down the stairs at the same time, in the same place, so that they are piled on top of each other and jockeying for position. They do the same thing when they notice a strange pee in the backyard. They pull me forward like two horses pulling a cart, and then they both have to examine the pee at the same time, pushing each other out of the way, eventually smushing their heads together so they can both smell at once.

The facsination of pee.

The fascination of pee.

Cricket has attempted a play bow, though she still doesn’t know what to do after that, so Butterfly is trying to figure out how to grab a tug toy with her few teeth so she can play in the way Cricket likes best.

There was an incident one night recently when Butterfly managed to get in Cricket’s way, unintentionally, and Cricket was so angry that she made a screeching sound, like a car suddenly breaking on the highway. There was no dog fight, just the sound of Cricket’s outrage and then the scuffling sound of Cricket rushing under the bed to sulk. Cricket has a big mouth, but when push comes to shove she doesn’t really want to do damage.

But that incident made me realize that in more than a year, we’ve never had a dog fight. A few grumps here and there, but mostly smooth sailing. Maybe it has taken this long for Cricket to finally believe that there is room for two dogs here, and we are not going to get rid of her. I don’t know what she’s been thinking. She’s inscrutable when she wants to be.

Cozy time.

Cozy time.

I think Cricket would even protect her sister now. She won’t admit it, but she cares about Butterfly and would never let anyone hurt her. She still doesn’t think Butterfly should ever get more than she gets – of food or attention or outings or freedom – but she’s learned to tolerate a fair and equal distribution of goods, with Cricket being ever so slightly more equal.

The sherriff and her deputy.

The sheriff and her deputy.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

86 responses »

  1. Loved this post, Rachel. We just adopted a brother for Ocean and we’re slowly trying to introduce him to her. I have hopes that one day they’ll love each other like Butterfly and Cricket do. What a lovely story. Loved it!

    Reply
    • I believed in Butterfly from the beginning, but I had to be very, very patient with Cricket as she came to accept that Butterfly wasn’t going to be leaving.

      Reply
      • We’re finding that exact scenario. Ocean gets jealous and we have to be very careful to make sure we love them both and give treats to both…and reassure her that we still love her. She growls at him to keep him away at times, yet they play together beautifully. It’s awesome to see them rolling around in the snow. They’re so happy playing.

      • I wish my girls could play together like that! They both do love the snow, though, and squirrels, and chicken treats. It’s all about finding things in common, like with people.

  2. Great post and some adorable photos 🙂 bringing in a newbie will almost always cause some problems but I’m glad everything is good now, and cricket has someone that’s speaks her language. I always wonder just how much of human language can understand. I always say ‘I love you’ to my dog, max, before bed each night just in case he does understand 🙂

    Reply
  3. Nicely written and very perceptive.

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  4. Love your post thanks for sharing their journey. 🙂

    Reply
  5. What a wonderful post. Kind of makes me think of my human sister 🙂

    Reply
  6. Awe…loved reading this. Its sweet to document how an older dog reacts to a newer dog. I have five now, but up until 3 years ago, it had always been four. I remember how some of the others reacted to Penny, who to them, was a stranger. But now they are all friends.

    Reply
  7. Second babywren’s sentiment, Rachel.

    It is quite an experience to introduce a new dog into the “family pack.”

    But it sounds to me like you’ve done a great job. Certainly, it is always a bit difficult for the older ones to give up (or divide) attention.

    But in time, it seems that most are happy to have the doggie companionship.

    I’m a firm believer that the wonderful longevity that all of our dogs have enjoyed, including an English Springer who lived to age 17-1/2, was “because” they all had a doggie companion during the hours that we were at work.

    Thanks for the diary. It brings back many happy memories!

    HNPS

    Reply
    • I spent a long time going back and forth on the question of getting a second dog, but my biggest pull was to find a sister for Cricket. She would never have admitted to being lonely, but she is so much less lonely now.

      Reply
  8. they look like they could even be litter mates!!!

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  9. We just added a third rescue. It’s an adjustment. I have to show everyone that I’m the boss.

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    • I’m pretty sure everyone knows you’re the boss, as soon as they walk in the door.

      Reply
    • And you probably do it “in style.”

      What a handsome and distinguished looking lass (or fellow?) you are!

      😉

      Reply
      • Lass-Kyla is an auld Scottish name for a female that loosely means “hot-like a suppermodel”.

      • Thanks for the clarification!

        BTW, the pics of Cricket and Butterfly are very nice. They add so much to your diaries.

        Shortly, I’m getting ready to attempt to insert small photos in a dog diary. Unfortunately, my WP blog template is so “minimalist,” it may not have the sophistication to allow this (we’ll see). What I’d really like to accomplish is “word wrapping”–to date, that has always eluded me.

        BTW, I really like your blog template–it is very “easy on the eyes,” and so versatile.

        HNPS

      • Thank you! I don’t think I know what word wrapping is, but adding photos to the blog has been pretty easy. I hope it’s easy for you too!

  10. Great post Rachel, thank you. One of my reasons for wanting another dog was as a companion for Millie. For 6 years of her life she had had other dogs around her, then when we moved here there was just her. I wouldn’t have chosen a puppy to be honest but circumstances were such that is what happened. Millie was possessive at first always wanting to be the one that was closest to me, taking everythinb Pipkin had and putting it on her basket but in three months things have changed dramatically. Like you say when she realised he was here to stay and the benefits that meant for her she got used to it.
    Now you’ve inspired me to write.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad! Cricket still thinks that anything Butterfly finds really belongs to Cricket. So, sticks, treats, toys, all have to be checked by Cricket first before they can belong to Butterfly permanently. The crazy thing is that Butterfly is perfectly okay with that.

      Reply
  11. I remember having to con my bitch into thinking she’d had a puppy by wrapping it up in her blanket (luckily her season had just finished, so it was extra whiffy). It was comical to see her face trying to work it out…… smells herself, smells pup, smells herself. I had no trouble as she accepted him, yet she never tolerated other dogs. Sadly when she died, he stood sentry at her grave. Broke my heart.

    Reply
  12. Love Cricket and Butterfly’s story. I have two old Cavaliers who are brothers yet are like chalk and cheese. They remind me of ‘The Odd Couple’. Best wishes Moke.

    Reply
  13. Adorable little dogs! :o) I recently lost my dog Princeton (old age) and my little dog Bria seems to really be missing him almost as much as I do. They had been together all of her 12 years of life. But I do think she is getting use to and liking getting all the attention and treats.

    Reply
    • Cricket will probably outlive Butterfly by a significant amount, but I don’t think she’s going to be an only dog for very long. I just don’t know how I’m going to find her another sister as loving and accepting as Butterfly.

      Reply
  14. oh my gosh! This is so darn funny, and your captions are a riot. I have never had much luck with my dogs or cats accepting one another. I think the word I am searching for is tolerate. They all tolerate each other. **heavy sigh**

    Reply
  15. It’s sometimes hard to make sure each one gets enough love, but I wholeheartedly agree with you that little canine siblings speak a language that we can’t possibly hope to understand. I love watching Lola Pug and her cousin and sister “trade secrets” or follow each other on sniffy adventures. Thank you for writing about this!

    Reply
  16. Funny you should write this now. This morning as I sat with Marcel, Marceau, & Marble,on my lap, about 35 lbs of cat) I marveled at what a wonderful community they’ve formed is here in The House of Mars. Marcel & Marceau accepted marble from the start last September when I got him from a rescue group. I think they were thinking – at least she didn’t bring home a dog this time.

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  17. When we brought Georgie into the house, Memphis was friendly with her but after about 3 weeks, she had had it with all that puppiness and started a campaign of not even looking at George. This went on for about a week, after which they went back to play wrestling and generally getting on just fine.

    Reply
    • I was thinking of getting Cricket a diary, so she could get the complaints out of her system. She preferred to sit on her Grandma’s lap and mumble to herself, but it worked. She just needed an outlet.

      Reply
  18. This is not a democratic house – here Chienne Rules. She had been here for two years when I brought the Man home. She was not a happy lady to begin with and she bossed him around and 11 years later, she still does. I have to feed them apart because if I don’t she will steal his food. She is adorable but she’s a bully sometimes :o)

    Reply
  19. Cricket and Butterfly are such sweet sisters. I love the tushy to tushy picture!

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  20. I love your posts. I look forward to hearing how Butterfly and Crickett are doing….(sorry Crickett, that I put Butterfly’s name first!!). I have two boy dogs, Banjo and Darby. Banjo was here first, and Darby came in and just took over, being the bigger dog. Thankfully, Banjo has grown to love Darby, though there is a fight once in a while. Darby acts toward Banjo the way Crickett acts toward Butterfly.

    Reply
    • I hope Banjo’s as okay with his status as Butterfly seems to be. She only pushes Cricket out of the way when scratchies are being offered, and then she is surprisingly strong.

      Reply
      • For the most part, Banjo is ok. Just once in awhile, he let’s Darby know he can be #1; that’s when a fight can break our. But it doesn’t happen very often.

  21. I loved this post! I love that they have developed a sisterhood/friendship. I see that with my Angel and Larry, too. They love each other. Oh it is so amazing!

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  22. This is such a great illustration of what I try to tell foster dog-adopters who are adding another rescue to the house- “Be patient- it takes time”. Thank you so much for making this post 🙂
    LizLily

    Reply
  23. Lovely dogs. Love the idea that Cricket might potentially treat a puppy as a squeaky toy! We got our second dog Kainaat to be a friend for Daisy Dog. I was initially worried about how Daisy Dog would take to an interloper – she is not the most tolerant of other dogs, but she adores him and they are now inseparable.

    Reply
    • That’s wonderful! I’m still waiting for the inseparable thing to happen here. It’s lucky that Butterfly is solidly built, or else, you never know what Cricket would have made of her. A chihuahua would have been in danger.

      Reply
  24. It’s awesome that they get on so well! You must be doing something right!:)

    Reply
  25. Pingback: Posts I loved this week | Taylor Grace

  26. Hmm, every so often I hear talk that I might get a wee brother to join the family, but I’m not sure I want one! I like being the centre of attention. But then…I also like playing with other dogs, and then I would always have someone to play with… Hmm. I’m going to have to think about this some more!

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  27. Very nice post and enjoyable read. Those two sweeties are right where they are meant to be. No better loving home could they have. They are both just adorable! Hugs and nose kisses

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  28. Great post! Jack and Jilly are our two rescue dogs. Totally different personalities and breeding mix, but definitely brother and sister now! Love them to bits!

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    • I met a pair of brothers at the vet, one was an enormous pit bull and the other was a Jack Russell sized mix. neither one wanted to go anywhere without the other. Love is love.

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  29. Very funny and inspiring. Long live Cricket and Butterfly.

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  30. After a 2 year doggie break, we’ve just recently adopted a rescue. We plan to get her a sister one day, too. First, though, we’re getting used to each other and doing some training. We had 2 dogs a few years ago and they were best friends/sisters. It was perfect! I can only hope whatever dog we get next gets along with Callie as well as those 2 did!
    Your girls are adorable and remind me of my first baby -a black cock-a-poo.

    Reply
    • I had all of Cricket’s particularities in mind when I went looking for Butterfly, but I had to wait about six years before I felt ready to deal with more than one dog at a time. Now I feel like five or six dogs would be a good number. I love watching these two interacting.

      Reply
  31. We puppy-sit for my parent’s dog quite often. Bell does not like it at all. We considered getting her a sister, but after how she reacted to Mandy, I think she would be heartbroken. She tolerates Mandy, protects her from neighboring dogs, and will keep her company when they go in the yard, but she is so happy when she leaves it’s almost scary. She does not like it when I pet any neighbor dogs and will actually bite them — teeth and all. All of our close neighboring dogs are much bigger than her, but that doesn’t stop her. They quickly leave me alone and make their way home. I’m sort of glad she’s content with just us because there’s no way my husband would have agreed to two dogs — puppy sitting Mandy on occasion is enough for him.

    Reply
    • I always had only one dog at a time, until Butterfly. Two dogs is a lot of work, but I love it, and Cricket has adapted. As long as there are places she can go do be alone, or at least be without her sister, she’s okay.

      Reply
  32. I love how your writing and photos are so friendly to each other 🙂

    Reply
  33. I cannot tell you how closely I can relate to your post! My Lily was an only child now for a year and a half and was very pampered and very high maintainence. She hated being left alone for any amount of time. So we got her a little sister in April,this year, Poppy.
    lily was not impressed with this development. She seemed to hate Poppy from the outset. I was so stressed because Lily is my love and I felt I had made a terrible mistake bringing Poppy into the house. They were snipping and fighting all the time.
    As with you, I made it a priority to ensure Lily knew she was still my number one girl. She is allowed privileges denied to Poppy so far. As the older sister I think it’s fair she has slightly more freedom.
    Anyway, of late I have also found the two of them lying side by side, peacefully napping. They seem to be playing together rather than fighting also. The relief and joy this sight brought to me was incredible!
    It just takes time for the two dogs to adjust to each other I guess.
    Phew!

    Reply
  34. I Love your stories and pictures. Cricket and Butterfly are adorable. I am totally hooked.

    Reply
  35. Hi, Rachel 🙂 I just tweeted three of your wonderful posts. Hope this brings even more visitors. 🙂

    Reply

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