Teddy arrived two weeks ago, on Friday the 20th at three o’clock, freshly groomed and trotting like a tiny horse. Without his fluff, he looks like a black-haired miniature greyhound, or a tall spider, or a stuffed animal made out of black pipe cleaners. But when he was a puppy he was just a ball of black cotton with eyes.
His mom told me that he wouldn’t need to pee outside, would never eat Cricket’s kibble, and he wouldn’t need a pet bed, because he would be on my lap or on my bed constantly. She gave me his duffle bag full of food and wee wee pads and toys, and specific instructions on when and how to feed him, but she forgot to tell me when she was coming home. Oops!
Teddy was anxious and pacing around the apartment after his Mom left and I decided to take both dogs outside, to help Teddy work off some of his anxiety and to get him used to the particular smells of our neighborhood. On our way back, he raced up the walkway, and found our door on the first try, just like Butterfly did when we first moved here. Then he raced up the stairs and sat down next to me on the couch to get his petting. Within five minutes, though, he’d returned to pacing, and crying at the front door of the apartment. Cricket sniffed his butt a few times and watched his pacing from afar, but mostly she kept her thoughts to herself. Eventually, between bouts of pacing, Teddy chose to sit on the second couch, where I’d spread out Butterfly’s pink blanket and all of his toys. He especially liked putting his head up next to the fan and sniffing the air.
At dinner time, I put out Teddy’s special food, in his special silver bowl, but he was still too anxious to eat. He sniffed his food, went to the door to cry, came back and ate a little bit, and then went back to the door to cry.
When we went outside for the final trip of the day, Teddy followed Cricket carefully, watched where she peed, and studiously aimed his pee stream onto the same spot. It had taken him six hours to be ready to pee in this strange new place.
He cried extra hard at bed time, scratching at the front door for almost fifteen minutes, but then he came to my room, jumped up on my bed, did his nesting ritual (eerily similar to Cricket’s), and smooshed himself down as close to me as possible.
In the quiet, my fears got louder: that Teddy wouldn’t get used to being at my house, and would continue to cry at the door for the whole visit; that Teddy and Cricket wouldn’t get along, and Cricket’s feelings would be hurt; that I would disappointment Teddy, and his Mom, in some fundamental way; that Teddy would have some unexpected health crisis, caused by something I did wrong, or have a health crisis that I didn’t notice until too late (though I was at least reassured by the fact that he goes to the same vet as Cricket, so I’d know where to go if there was trouble); I worried especially that I’d be so busy with my school work that I wouldn’t be entertaining enough, and Teddy would be bored.
I finally fell asleep, but woke up a few hours later when Cricket came to visit during the night, and Teddy growled at her. I had to talk them both through it, convincing Cricket that she still belongs with me, even with Teddy nearby. It took what felt like hours of dual scratching to calm them down, and I fell asleep still scratching them and trying to convince myself that everything would be okay.
By the next morning, things were calmer. I started to notice that my normally athletic, tall Cricket looked like a little matzo ball next to skinny black-haired Teddy. His long legs make him an incredible athlete, taking the stairs like a speed demon, and doing all kinds of ballet poses when he stops to pee or to scratch his head.
My original hope, that Teddy would help Cricket, by teaching her better manners, and calming her anxiety, and easing her loneliness, were pretty much smashed. If anything, it was Cricket who was teaching Teddy: when to bark, and where to pee, why doggy beds are so comfy. And she was trying, admirably, to tolerate his quirks.
Food times were one of my anxiety zones, because Cricket eats kibble and Teddy eats homemade food (frozen in Ziploc bags by his mom and kept in the freezer). Cricket eats whenever she’s hungry, because the food bowl is kept full all day. Teddy has definite meal times, and when he’s done eating the leftovers are picked up and put away in the fridge. (His mom told me he doesn’t even know what kibble is, but within a week he was sneaking over to crickets bowl for kibble. Shh.) Even Teddy’s treats are home cooked (chicken livers), while Cricket’s treats come from a bag (two bags, actually, one for dental chews and one for chicken jerky).
But already by that Sunday morning, we had meal time down to a science. I put a little bit of Teddy’s fresh food into Cricket’s kibble, and then I sat between them while they ate, and I used the chicken livers as an additive to Teddy’s meal, mixing it in carefully, so that Teddy wouldn’t be able to pick it out (which he’d done on previous attempts). He would eat chicken livers all day long if he could. Cricket, on the other hand, thinks everything in his meals is gourmet, and even likes the wet food from a can that I had to add in.
Teddy had taken to following me everywhere by then. He would even bark when I went into the bathroom, and stand at the door to wait for me. There was something about Teddy’s need to follow me everywhere, and be as close to me as possible, that puffed up my ego to almost normal size.
He even started to play! He’d brought his own squeaky throw toy, but he also took an interest in Moose, a gift from my brother’s family, for Butterfly, that she’d never had a chance to use. It was nice to see Moose getting some attention.
But then Teddy started to sit in Cricket’s doggy bed. He even tried to sit in it when Cricket was already there, and Cricket demurred and escaped under my computer chair to give him the evil eye from a distance. I haven’t been able to figure out how much of Cricket’s submissive grumpiness over the past two weeks has been caused by Teddy’s presence, and how much is from her back injury. A few days before Teddy arrived, she hurt her back and had to go to the vet. She’s been on steroids ever since, and can’t jump up on the beds or the couches without an assist. Watching Teddy spring up and down like a bouncing ball could not have helped her mood.
Teddy continued to carefully watch where Cricket peed and aimed for the same pee spot. I could see the angles forming and reforming in his head as he did the math. He loved running up the stairs, and jumping on the bed, and climbing up onto the couch. He, like Cricket, thought that tug was supposed to be about taunting humans and never letting go of his toy. He and Cricket both scratched their heads on the rug, contorting themselves into pretzels to find the itchy spots.
He’s still going to be here for another day or two, and I’ll be interested to see how Cricket reacts when he goes home. Will she miss him? Will she get back to being more like herself? She’s only played with her toys once or twice in the past two weeks, preferring instead to hide under my computer chair while he runs around and plays tug and scratches his head on the rug. She still thinks he’s in charge of her bed, and mine, no matter what I say to her. We may have to make her some more chicken livers, and chopped meat with rice, to help smooth the transition back to her only dog life.
But I know that I will miss Teddy. He’s been my guardian and constant companion for two weeks. He reminds me of Butterfly, the way he takes a piece of food over to the rug, to savor it. And he reminds me of Cricket, with his crazy pretzel shapes as he scratches his face and back on the rug. The only problem with Teddy is that he is so unrelentingly black that I can’t see him in the dark, and I worry that I’m going to smoosh him. But he’s a resilient fellow, and he wears a shiny collar, just in case.
I don’t know how I’m going to tell his Mom that, in two short weeks, her baby has discovered that he likes kibble, doggy beds, and, even though he still prefers wee wee pads for bathroom purposes, he loves to follow Cricket around in the great outdoors and pee on all of her pee spots. Maybe I’ll leave all of that unsaid, and let Teddy do the talking.