Becoming sisters

Recently someone asked me what the major differences were between Maisie and Annie. It took me a minute to gather my thoughts and figure out where to begin.

When we brought Annie home, the contrast between the two dogs was shocking. We’ve had Maisie from the time that she was a puppy. She has always been treated with love and affection. In her mind, everyone is her friend. She loves meeting people and other dogs. She loves to play. She has baskets of toys, and plays with her toys on her own and when she needs to burn some energy. She is a bundle of joy and fun. She is always excited about every new adventure and has nothing to fear.

Annie was the complete opposite. Prior to her rescue she didn’t know that people weren’t to fear. She was trying to figure out if she was safe in our house. She wouldn’t even take treats from our hands. Protecting herself was her top priority and it took her a while to learn to trust our kind overtures. She showed no interest in toys and she did not want to play with Maisie.   Maisie is very good about reading human cues, but not so good at understanding dog cues. I was not surprised when I heard a scuffle on Annie’s third day with us. Annie came skittering around the corner and went straight into her crate. She was hanging her head and when I approached her to let her know she wasn’t in trouble, she had a big tuft of brown fur sticking out of her mouth. I chuckled to myself, Maisie was fine, they were just setting boundaries with each other, and it might take a couple hints for Maisie to understand the boundaries. I gave Annie a few pats, took the fur out of her mouth and watched her expressionless eyes as she pulled herself into her protective barrier and settled into her bed. It broke my heart that she was so guarded, but I just knew that I could get her to relax by giving her time and patience.

It took several days, but Annie started to understand that this was her house as well as Maisie’s. Annie tried to keep her distance with Maisie, and Maisie continued to try to get close and get her to play. Even though Annie seemed annoyed by this, she never gave Maisie another “correction.” Over time she started to warm up to Maisie and she would come out of her crate and lay on the floor when Maisie was doing the same thing. In the beginning, she would lie far from Maisie, but slowly they started lying more close together. It’s taken a while, but now they are always in the same room with each other and they lie very close together when they sleep. They also follow each other around the house, and Annie takes great comfort in having Maisie with her when we leave the house so I know they have bonded.

Annie is now so comfortable in the house that she spends very little time in her crate. She prefers to be on the cool tile or spread out on the floor. She is always close by and very often is a tripping hazard. I love that she wants to be close to us and that she will come searching for me if I’ve left the room.

Their body types are as different as their personalities. Maisie is slightly undersized and is very light-footed. I call her Tiptoe because of the way she walks. She holds her head high and puffs her chest out when she prances around, looking more like a pony than a dog. Annie is very stocky and long. She’s shorter than Maisie but she has very broad shoulders and hips which give her a bigger appearance. Her head is a little small for her body and she holds it low, between her shoulders. She has huge flat feet and they point inward when she walks which causes her shoulders to roll along with her hips. She truly has the look of a black bear when she’s walking around the yard.

Maisie likes to push on Annie to get her to play and she’ll wrap her neck over Annie’s. Annie will usually try to change directions to get away from Maisie but recently, she’s learned she can give a good shoulder check to get her to move. Annie will also use her strength to push Maisie away when she is getting attention from me. Annie now wants as much attention as possible and she just shoves her way in so she can be closest. Every now and then she’ll give Maisie a check out of the blue, which Maisie interprets as an invitation to play. I can’t tell if Annie is trying to play, or is being a pushy big sister but it’s fun to see them engage more frequently with each other, and Maisie not being the only one to initiate an interaction.

Annie still doesn’t show any interest in toys but she did do a funny thing one day. Around 8:00 every night, Maisie has her crazy time. She will grab one of her favorite, noisiest toys and start running circles in the house while squeaking the toy as much as possible. She usually does this when we’ve settled in to watch TV, so the volume gets turned up, Maisie races around, skidding out, changing direction and being very distracting for 5-10 minutes. Annie usually is starting her after-dinner snooze so when this starts she typically gets up and goes to her crate to get out of the way. One morning, green dragon was lying by Annie’s crate after it had been discarded the night before. Annie stood over it, then pounced and grabbed it and took it to the back of her crate. It’s the only time she has pounced much less grabbed a toy and it made me smile because she was showing a hint of mischief by stealing Maisie’s favorite toy. Maybe she was trying to hide it in order to have a more peaceful evening that night, but I really think she was trying to show Maisie who’s the boss.

 

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