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.

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