I count on my senior dog, Otto, for many things. When I need a perfectly behaved dog for any reason, Otto is my guy. He’s an amazing model for the magazine and any other photo I need; he will back up, come forward, sit, stand, down, look at me, and best of all, stay put for as long as I might need while getting the light right or making adjustments to my camera. I can take him into any environment – save one with slippery floors, Otto’s personal Kryptonite – and count on him to be calm and friendly to anyone he meets. He would never dream of jumping up on anyone; it’s just not in his repertoire.
He’s also absolutely amazing with other dogs. He is smart and cautious around any dog that looks aggressive; he will avoid them in any way possible. With neutral-looking dogs, he will approach in a neutral fashion. I’ve used him in this capacity as bait to help catch stray dogs; often, a roaming dog that is afraid to come to a human will approach another dog. I can release Otto and indicate that he should go meet the other dog. If they start to greet or make some playful moves, I can then call Otto back, and instruct him to run into my backyard – and several times, the stray has followed him in, so I could close the gate behind both of them and then call animal control.
With rambunctious puppies or adolescent dogs, Otto lays down the law. If a little puppy jumps all over him, he will warn them with a stiff body and impressive snarls and throaty, deep growls; if they fail to notice all that, he’s likely to give them a giant WOOF! in their little faces. In this way, he’s taught all my foster puppies in recent years to approach with good manners; if they do, he’ll magnanimously sniff them all over before he disengages. Playing with puppies is beneath him, at this age.
Adolescents don’t get the benefit of his “Start at one and slowly increase the intensity” puppy-management strategy. If a rude or clueless teen dog comes in too fast and crashes into Otto, that pup will get an even louder, “GROOOOOWW UPFERDOGSAKES!” and might even get bowled over. He’s done this to dozens of adolescent pups, and has never left a mark on a single one. His bite inhibition is flawless, and he never goes too far; one such event is usually enough to teach the teen to approach him next time with a little more respect. If they do, then Otto is more than happy to receive them with more dignity next time. He makes a perfect benevolent leader.
Otto loves human contact; he loves being petted or scratched or massaged. He will shed all dignity for a belly rub, and will sway like a hula dancer if you scratch his butt above his tail. You can massage his face and gently pull his ears he will exhale and relax deeply into your hands.
But there is one thing that Otto won’t do for me: He won’t share a couch or bed for sleeping or a nap.
If Otto is on one end of a seven-foot sofa, and I (or anyone) sits on the other far end, he will give that person a sort of dirty look and leave the sofa. If I am sitting on a couch and pat the cushion next to me, and encourage Otto to come on up, he will come and stand close, and wag his tail and blink his eyes … “Nance, I love ya, but I’d really rather not,” he seems to say. He’s usually more than happy to comply with whatever crazy thing I want him to do, but not this. A cuddler on the couch he is not.
I can freely admit: I am a person who takes naps. I am a napper. I naturally wake up early, can accomplish great things all morning long, but at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, I hit the wall. A little lie-down, for 20 minutes at least but preferably an hour, restores me to full power. It enables me to stay awake past 9 pm! If I have a nap, I can stay up to midnight or even 1 am!
And this is where two-year-old Woody gets to shine. Woody’s super power, as far as I’m concerned, is that he will nap with me anywhere, any time. It doesn’t matter how small the sofa, how short the space, how hot or cold it is, Woody will curl up with me any time and will both adjust his long, lean body to fit, and allow me to drape my legs over him, use him as a pillow, or to drag him into the most comfortable spot for me. He just goes limp and says, whatever!
It’s true that he tends to kick a little in his sleep if he’s dreaming. Woody is prone to bracing his paws against me and stretching (pushing!) when something wakes him up for a minute. For the rest of the nap, he’s my warm puppy, and I just adore it.
Sorry, Otto, but Woody is better at just this one thing.
Do you sleep with your dogs on the bed? Anyone have a dog like Otto who won’t?