Those of you who know Murphy know that he's not afraid of anything. This dog was a mauler from day one, and in fact, when I got him, he'd only recently been sprung from doggie death row after a biting incident that left someone who deserved it in the hospital. He's a lot better now, but he's still a no-nonsense dog when it comes to cats, deer in the yard, or anyone coming up "his" driveway and approaching "his" house. He's eighty-five pounds of pure mean when his trigger is tripped, so it was kind up surprising to see him cowed by Belle, who is the gentlest, sweetest German Shepherd I've ever seen. She put him in check twice right off the bat, and ever since then, it's been "yes Ma'am" every time she so much as looked at him. Belle goes in and out the door ahead of him, Belle gets first crack at the communal water bowl, and if Belle pushes him aside, he moves.
And Belle, for her part, was insanely jealous whenever I'd pet him or talk to him or devote any attention to him. She could be lying on the floor across the room and if Murphy walked up and I petted him, she'd rush in and get between us as if to say "ZOMG!! He's getting petted and I'm NOT! AAArrgh!!"
And Murphy would defer to her, even though she's a fair bit smaller and lighter than he is. It even got to the point where if he had a toy, she'd walk up and pull it out of his mouth for no real reason other than just to do it.
After a few weeks of this, I could see that Murphy was unhappy. He was making it a point to avoid Belle more and more, and I was starting to ponder what I might have to do if this didn't resolve itself.
Well the other night, the night before she went for her shots, it resolved itself. Murphy had one of the Wubba toys in his mouth and Belle walked up to take it from him, and this time, Murphy pushed back. Instead of the toy, what she got was a low growl and a look that said that he'd had enough. She backed off for a bit, then tried again and got the same growl. And Murphy kept the toy. Then he walked up to me and she tried to shove him back, but he muscled her out of his way. And as much as I try not to interfere in dog pack politics, I couldn't help but smile and pet him and tell him that he'd done good. I was proud of him for handling his business.
For the next hour or so, they jousted over space, and toys, and the order of things in the Lair. They circled each other, took toys from each other, shoved each other, and growled, barked and stared at each other. Murphy was letting Belle know that her role as Queen was being pared back, and eventually, she seemed to back down and drop it, at which point, they both lay down on the same rug together for the first time since she's been here. And now it's like they have a whole new relationship, one based on mutual respect. She still gets first drinks at the water bowl, but she leaves him alone when he's got a toy and she stays back when I'm petting him or just comes around to the other side of me for equal time. They now lay close to each other when they're relaxing and there's been no squabbling for days, even when he's got a toy or is getting special attention from me. All he had to do was start standing up to her, and as soon as he did, she stopped pushing him.
Now last night, as I sat in the gun room reading, with a glass of single malt and a dog on each side of me, Murphy started dreaming. His paws were moving in his sleep, and he was softly growling and whining, as if he was chasing something, or something was chasing him. And as I watched him, and as his whines grew a bit louder, Belle got up, walked over to him, and gently began licking at the corner of his mouth like she was trying to comfort him. It was damned touching, to say the least.
Yeah, I think they're working out just fine. Just fine indeed.