Three very good dogs
Investigations and appreciations - April 26, 2021
Monday is a difficult day, the eastern superstitions tell us. It’s inadvisable on Monday, some say, to start a new undertaking or embark on a new journey. Monday is for the dogs.
So let’s look at some dogs.
A famously playful quarry, Leia impressed me with her joie de vivre before I was able to figure out her name. The video of the four-year-old Australian Shepherd’s witty and rambunctious chasing game with Duke—a determined rooster with a powerful vertical leap—was originally uploaded by Tammy Sattler late last August as an instagram tv post that has attracted a few thousand views.
This sort of instagram video doesn’t embed easily, but I sincerely encourage you to click through. Doing so will help to remedy a small online injustice, and it’s worth a minute to hear the charming play-by-play and color commentary, which is absent from all the other versions I’ve seen.
Within days, Sattler’s video was scraped from instagram and posted all over the internet, where it has racked up millions upon millions of views—typically without any credit to her or Leia. Here’s one of the more well-attributed versions:
The chase video has become a form of copypasta, inserted into our online lives without context to generate an emotional response. As such, it’s effective, but I found myself wanting the context. I reached out to Sattler to learn more about the situation.
“My family and I were outside in the pool when we heard a commotion by the chicken pen,” she answered. “We saw Leia being chased by Duke around the pallets my dad has in his yard. This went on for maybe 5-10 min. It was so cute. When they were done they just walked away.”
Sattler continued: “Leia has always been obsessed with chickens, and because she’s a herding dog, all she wants to do is chase them or be chased by them! Leia is the sweetest thing and doesn’t ever hurt Duke. But Duke is quite the pistol and I genuinely think he’s trying to get Leia!”
Video of a subsequent meeting between the two corroborates this account:
In an instagram caption last September, on the eve of Leia’s birthday, Sattler wrote to her: “You’ve made literally millions of people smile this year and you’ve become quite the superstar. I’m so glad the world gets to see you the way I’ve always seen you. You’re the goodest girl and definitely NOT a garbage dog, at least today and tomorrow you’re not 😂. We love you Leia baby.” (Some emoji omitted.)
Millie Ratner is a four-month-old golden retriever who likes to help around the house. She is growing like magic beans.
Below is Millie on her first day at home, approximately eleven weeks ago.
And here is a more contemporary photograph, posted this last weekend. I emphasize that these two photos are separated in time by approximately 77 days. (As of this writing, Joe Biden has been President for 96 days.)
She is fascinated by the dishwasher and likes to take on some of its work—what her family calls the “pre-rinse cycle.”
Eric Geller writes of Millie:
After we lost our 14-year-old golden retriever Maddie in late 2019, my family knew that we needed another dog in our lives. But between our lingering sadness and the pandemic, it wasn’t until this past February that we picked up our new eight-pound lump of fur, Millie.
Watching Millie’s personality develop has been incredibly interesting. In some ways, she’s a lot like Maddie: the counter-surfing, the pre-rinse cycle, the urge to wiggle around on her back in the grass (presumably to scratch a hard-to-reach itch), the bizarre lack of interest in playing fetch. But in other ways, she’s very much her own dog. She’s less timid than Maddie — she doesn’t freak out when we shake open a trash bag or run away when we set down a cardboard box nearby. During run-ins with neighbors, she’s more interested in the dogs than the people, whereas Maddie was the opposite. After 14 years with Maddie, some of the differences are taking some getting used to!
Of course, Millie has some wonderful quirks. Whenever my sister Lisa reaches into our freezer’s ice drawer, she’ll grab an extra ice cube, give it to Millie, and tell her to bring it to her bed. Millie will immediately trot off to the other side of the kitchen and plop down on her bed, jealously guarding her ice cube like stolen treasure.
And whenever my family sits down for dinner, Millie will curl up in a small corner space that gives her a view of the table, wedging herself into a spot that barely fits her (and is getting more cramped every week).
Sometimes she can be downright weird — we bought a “pet loo” for her pen, but instead of doing her business on its artificial grass surface, she took to sleeping on it! She’s continued to sleep there, forsaking her much softer bed, even though we removed the fake grass after she started chewing on it. What a weirdo! It’s been so long since Maddie was a puppy that we’d forgotten some of the lessons we’d learned.
For example, if you’re going to set up a gate to prevent your puppy from escaping into the rest of the house, make sure they’re not small enough to wiggle through the bars. Millie seemed quite proud of herself the first time she realized she could do this. For weeks afterward, we had to block the gaps with towels to keep her contained. She’s also figured out how to slide open doors just enough that she can stick her paws into the gap and push them open the rest of the way.
Having her around for the past few months has brought so much joy to our lives, and her adorable, comforting presence has more than made up for the hassles and messes that come with any new puppy.
“Phoebe is deeply bonky,” according to Lindsey Barrett and Ben Orlebeke, who are family to the one-year-old Bernese mountain dog. “Every step she takes involves a lot of horizontal displacement, including into walls and furniture.”
The pair report that Phoebe “adores peanut butter, food of any kind, and non-foods of any kind... She's wildly food-motivated and drools like a cartoon when we get out her kibble.”
“She pretends to hate being brushed but doesn't actually,” Barrett and Orlebeke write.
Phoebe is still learning new tricks. “I’m no stranger to long term projects with delayed gratification,” one of her two associates wrote in a caption. “None have ever invigorated or thrilled me more than Phoebe starting to connect the bell we have her ring every time we escort her to the bathroom with needing to go to the bathroom.”
Nevertheless, Phoebe is decided in her preferences. “She will only poop on concrete under an arbitrary but clearly narrow set of criteria known only to her, with the exception of crosswalks,” Barrett and Orlebeke wrote to me. Phoebe’s preferences run to grass and dirt, Orlebeke explained in a follow up email, but if she chooses a hard, manmade surface, “it's almost definitely gonna be a crosswalk.”
Barrett and Orlebeke say they’ve, “never heard as wide a range of sounds come from a dog--she has a pretty deep bark, but can make little squeaky bird sounds when she whines or yawns, and howls like a wolf when she hears particular sirens or when she's sad. She lets us scoop her up and will sleep in our arms like a baby when she's tired, which is our favorite thing in the whole world.”
This is likely going to be a regular feature for subscribers to Pawprints. If you’d like to nominate a good dog for a future edition, I encourage you to drop me a note, nycsouthpaw18 at gmail. All dogs are good, and all dogs are welcome. Please tell me about the good dogs you nominate—how old they are, how you encountered them, what they like, what they are like, how they make you feel, and any particular stories you’d like to share. I’m not sure what kind of volume of nominations I’m going to receive. In any event, I assure you—and I trust you’ll believe me when I say this—they are all good dogs, whether I get to them right away or not.
Hope everyone had a good weekend. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.