Traveling girl

Traveling girl

It’s been one adventure after another for Darby recently. Her heat ended, and we picked her up from the kennel on April 9. (Tucker seemed more or less happy to see her.) Two days later, Darby, Steve, and I took off for a 5-day trip to Phoenix, where Steve was attending a professional meeting, and Darby got many opportunities to practice being virtuous.

Steve and Darby at Taliesin West

She rode quietly in her kennel for the six-hour road trip there and back. She stayed (for the most part) under tables in restaurants and banquet halls. She and I did a long self-guided walk around downtown Phoenix, and she also comported herself admirably at Taliesin West (the long-time winter home of Frank Lloyd Write), Cosanti (the Scottsdale residence and workshop of the venerable artist and architect Paolo Soleri), the Musical Instrument Museum, the Heard Museum, a horse-training ranch, and other public places.

Steve and Darby at Cosanti

Her favorite place, far and away, was the dog park I discovered not far from where we were staying. She and I visited the huge field for “Active Dogs” several times, and while Darby enjoyed a certain amount of socializing, mainly she ran and ran, chasing the balls I lobbed for her.

Steve came too on our last morning there, and after she’d raced around like a maniac for 10 or 15 minutes, he insisted on taking her to the field reserved for small and “passive” dogs. She often lunges at them during street encounters. But in her calm (and tired) state, she ignored them like a true princess.
We would have reasonably high hopes for her graduating, except for one worrisome bad habit she’s developed.  I’ll write about that in my next post.

Our other dog

Our other dog
I’ve had several calls from Melissa, the vet tech up in Oceanside, reporting that after three full weeks of incarceration, Darby still is in full heat, according to the swabbed cells that they scrutinize microscopically. Melissa has been checking her daily; now we’re hoping she’ll be ready to come home by Monday.  (Happily, she appears to have fully recovered from the kennel cough that was circulating last week.) Although Steve and I miss her, Darby’s absence has allowed us to pay more attention to Tucker, our CCI release dog (now almost seven and a half). So often he’s overshadowed by the puppies. 
Tucker is the most polite and obedient dog I’ve ever owned. He’s a lover — particularly of females (human and canine) — and I don’t think he has an aggressive bone in his body. The excessive energy that disqualified him to be a service dog has evaporated. In fact, I often complain that he has become an old codger, willing to sleep away 20 hours of the day. But in Darby’s absence, I’ve been amazed on several occasions by his playfulness and energy. His somewhat melancholy face can still turn joyful in an instant. It’s made me think that, while the puppies are wearing, he still has plenty of appetite for fun.
Focusing on him has also reminded me of how idiosyncratic dogs can be.  Consider the Tucker Sit, demonstrated in the photo. He does it all the time. Surely it can’t be that uncommon, but we’d never seen a dog do this before Tucker, and we swear he’s taught a couple of the puppies to copy him.
We’ve never had a dog who does what I tried to capture in this video:

He sticks his tongue in and out. Although I only captured a few seconds here (in low light), we’ve observed him keeping it up for five or ten minutes at a time, invariably after a meal. We theorize that he’s intent upon savoring every last molecule of his last meal.

He’s lived with us since he was 8 weeks old, and Steve and I think we understand him about as well as any human can understand a member of another species. But after Darby left, it struck me that we have no idea how he feels about her absence. We joked about how happy he was to be a single dog again, basking in the spotlight of our attention. But to be honest, I can’t say that he’s really acting happier than normal. He’s not moping, as people report that one pet sometimes does upon the death of a companion. In the first few days after we took Darby to the kennel, I saw him run outside a few times and bark. I wondered if he was seeking her.

When she does come home, whenever that is, I’ll watch closely to see how he reacts. I’m sure he’ll wag his tail excitedly. But will he be happy? He’ll recognize her, but in her absence right now, does he even remember that she’s gone? He can’t talk, and the bottom line is, these questions are among so many that we can never answer.