Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Seeing double

We took the leap. Now there is not only Diesel, but Marvin as well. Two entirely different, yet in many ways the same, personalities living under our roof. We are now a family of four.

Today is two days short of two weeks that Marvin came to live with us. As much as Mark and I looked at petfinder.com and brewbeagles.org, despite the fact that we passed our phone interview and homecheck with BREW with flying colors, and even though we were well-equipped for our new arrival with a collar and a crate and bowls, the evening he arrived had me feeling nearly panicked with a knot in my stomach. In all honesty, it probably wasn't the best week in my work schedule to bring a new dog home. Thankfully Mark was available to ease Marvin into his new routine. Not until this last Saturday, however, did I truly have a chance to enjoy his company.

Two dogs is an adjustment. Everything about life with Diesel, just Diesel, was perfect. Well-mannered, content napping at home or in his crate in the car (on temperature appropriate days) while we ran an errand or two, we found the perfect blend of companionship and independence in him. We traveled with him and it was great fun – Door County and even South Dakota last summer, making me forever addicted to dog vacations.

Maybe it was the fact that things were so perfect that it seemed we needed more of a challenge. Maybe it's because Diesel is our focus – we, as a couple, not planning to have children – it seemed a waste that we weren't offering our abundance of resources, enthusiasm, and time to another rescue beagle. Maybe it's because Marvin had the reputation of being BREW co-director's most challenging foster – who better than us with our dedication to clicker-training and beagle experience to provide him with a home? Or, for me, maybe it was to protect myself a bit from the emotion I feel towards Diesel. Despite the fact that I am his benevolent leader without a doubt, I have that boy on a pedestal. The smallest thought of life without him brings tears to my eyes, even though, God-willing, we have many years yet to enjoy each other's company. It seemed that if we brought another beagle into our home that perhaps I would realize that, as special as Diesel is, they are all special in their own way and they all have something unique to share. My life can't begin and end with Diesel. The cruel fact is the dogs we love aren't with us on earth as long we'd like.


So nearly two weeks have passed and we're all settling in. Diesel and Marvin have warmed to one another after that first week and now break into crazed bouts of wrestling with one play-initiating nip to an ankle. Morning walks jolt me out of sleep with two dogs much faster than with just Diesel. In the first mornings I felt frustration and even tears of "what have we done?!". Each morning following however has found me more accustomed to juggling two leashes, snapping two snouts out of a sniffing frenzy, and keeping my own footing as a beagle dashes into my path. I've even laughed at the insanity of it. That's progress.

The first weekend brought a constant parade of fellow dog neighbors stopping by to greet the new arrival. Marvin, oh how well the name suits him, is a lover and melts into people's arms with an Eeyore-like quality. He's made many fans.

Marvin is also making huge strides around the house. He respects the fact that the living room chairs and sofa are not for him. He has picked his battles on walks and rather than pulling and "chirping" at the sight of birds, squirrels, and rabbits, he's whittled it down to rabbits and the occasional squirrel. He does a lovely food bowl sit/wait. He and Diesel lay out sunning themselves in the front yard on their tie-outs quietly for the most part. He performs many good sits when he greets us because he knows good sits get the attention, not jumping. This last Saturday Marvin and I went to our first Manners class together at the WI Humane Society. He not only impressed me by sitting quietly in the passenger's seat in the Ghia, but he was a star in class. After the first few moments he focused on me and we practiced eye-contact, "sit", "go to your mat", and the entirely new behavior of "down", which he picked up quickly. A fast and willing student!

We have our challenges to overcome though, the biggest will be separation anxiety. Marvin's not a huge fan of being left in a crate (nor was Diesel), yet we aren't close to being able to trust him around the house uncrated yet. Our solution so far has been for one of us to be home non-stop. We have work to do because that's not realistic forever, nor is it in Marvin's best interest. There is also the jumping up on the kitchen table if given the time alone ... but hey, he's a clever and curious boy.

Yes, everyday I wig out at least once at the thought of two. But everyday the adjustment becomes less and the joy becomes greater. They just want to be loved, understood, and accepted. One look at those beagle eyes and we're up to the task.

Diesel wonders if this arrangement is long-term.