Friday, October 12, 2012

The State Of The Pack

The first night Lucas spent in the house he wanted to sleep on the bed with me. Not just on the bed, but he wanted to sleep right beside me. Long ways, like a child would sleep beside his father that was what Lucas wanted. It was August and it was hot so I wasn’t thrilled with the idea and I knew if Lucas got up on the bed then Bert and Sam would follow, and they did. I had to cut the AC down to sixty to get it cold enough to sleep that night. But Lucas slept beside me, even if he did have to push is way into it. He wasn’t interested in hierarchy. He wasn’t interested in seniority. I had picked him up off the road and saved him. I was his dad. Lucas was going to sleep beside his dad.

Until Bert died Lucas slept on my left at night and Bert on my right. Sam, ever the second dog, slept, and still sleeps, on the right and to the foot of the bed. When Bert was alive this arrangement was a bit of a bitch. At one point in time I had close to three hundred pounds of dog on the bed. When Bert died Lucas took over his spot on the bed and Sam stayed put. Lucas wasn’t the dog Bert was, and maybe he won’t ever be, but he’s sure got a focus about him as far as who he wants to be and where he wants to be.

Lillith hasn’t quite figured it all out. She is demur and isn’t interested in jockeying for position at all. She has her bowl, she has a blanket, and she’s just fine, thank you for asking. Last night when I turned the light out she was on the floor and asleep. Lucas and Sam were on the bed where they usually are. Something happened at about two because Lillith woke up and decided my face needed emergency cleaning. She’s a small dog compared to her brothers and she doesn’t take up very much room at all. She slipped in beside me on my left and neither of the older dogs so much as raised a head. Lillith doesn’t have that need to be right beside me at all so she shifted down towards the foot of the bed and was instantly asleep.
There are a lot of things I worry about but someone breaking into the house at night isn’t chief among those worries. Lucas isn’t just a big dog but since Lillith arrived he’s a big dog getting a workout every day of his life. He’s getting leaner and faster. Lillith wears his big ole butt out playing with him and he keeps going back in for more. She’s a lot lighter than he is and she quicker than he is. Out in the open, Lucas is faster than Lillith at a dead run and dog knows he’s got every sort of mass and muscle more than she does by twice again and then some. Bert was a little on the devilish side and tormented Sam on occasion, because there for a while Sam was a lot smaller than Bert. Lucas has more of a sense of compassion about that sort of thing. He doesn’t push Sam around at all and he lets Lillith run all over him. Lucas is more than just one hundred and seven pounds of dog. Lucas has intelligence about him now that I never really noticed as much before.

Lucas and Lillith will lay together on a blanket and bite at one another’s face. “Bitey face” I call it, and this can, and usually does escalate into Lillith attacking Lucas and trying to push him over. Lucas seems to know how long to let her try before he rolls over, and then Lillith gets on top of him and tries to pin him down. Lucas puts up with this for a while then will roll over and spill Lillith on the floor. At this point, Lillith will make good her escape and zoom out of the room, knowing as fast as Lucas is, the house is full of corners and furniture, so lithe Lillith can stay in front of him no matter what he does. She usually will go to the blanket in my office and ambush him, and as always, he’s taken totally by surprise she was lying in wait for him.
But Lillith has discovered if she run around the counter in the kitchen she can come out on the other side several dog lengths ahead of her less agile brother. This is where the intelligence part kicks in; Lucas figured out what she was doing one day and as she rounded the corner of the counter he turned sharply and went to head her off at her exit point. He did this two or three times and it always worked and Lillith still hasn’t an answer to it. Yet.

Sam sits all of this out. He’ll chase after those two if they get too rowdy and he’ll growl at them, but he isn’t serious about it. A couple of months ago Sam got snarky with Lillith and Lucas walked up to him and just stood there looking at him. Lucas didn’t growl or horripilate at him or so much as push, but he stood in Sam’s way of Lillith. Sam is an old man dog and Lucas has over thirty more pounds of mass than Sam does. There ten days after Lucas got here Sam took a shot at killing Lucas but he hasn’t really pushed the issue since then and no one, no Sam, not Lucas, and not even me believes Sam is going to start a fight with Lucas now. And after that not really a confrontation I don’t think Sam is going to go after Lillith. I think Lucas would kill him. I think Sam thinks that too. And I am not totally sure Lillith couldn’t hold her own against Sam if she were pressed for it. There are precious beings, my puppies are, but I do not forget they are armed.

But Sam is aging. His attack on Lucas well over three years ago was the last expression of the damage that had been done to him before he came to live with us. I chose Lucas, but Sam chose Bert and myself. Sam has never truly recovered from the abuse heaped upon him a decade or so ago. He never truly will. But now, at the twilight of his life, Sam has discovered more peace. When Bert died Sam’s constant companion of nearly eleven years died with him. His friend, his brother, his hunting partner, the Yin to his Yang, his howling duet, his packmate, died too. Sam has mellowed now and he is slowing down considerably.

One day I will report to you that Sam has died. Some time after that I will report to you another puppy has found his way, or her way, into our pack, and into my heart. There will be disaster and loss. There will be play and love. The state of the pack is good and changing, but always it is good.

Take Care,


  1. As always, your words blow me away.
    The image i got of a part of Sam laying down one last time when Bert was laid to rest made me cry

    Sam did find you and Bert and I am so happy that he did :)

    Give Sam an extra pet today and tell him its from me please :)

    1. Thank you. Consider it done. Sam will appreciate it, even if it doesn't quite understand it.

  2. You’ve got the whole dynamic figured out, or at least what the show you. Of course you don’t see the script meetings, and rehearsals they hold while you’re at work, just to keep the great hunter entertained.

    1. I think I've got it figured out at least well enough to keep them happy, and to keep them from hurting one another, and to keep them from throwing a coup!

      Thanks, Bruce.

    2. Just keep being an appreciative audience (plus bringing home chow), and they’ll perform with joyous abandon. ;o)