Puppy Camp

By , March 14, 2016

Last week our friend, Suki, came to visit the homestead.

Suki is a friend’s dog. She’s a gentle, somewhat elderly lady, medium sized with short hair and small, floppy ears. She’s the sweetest thing ever. She has visited us before, both with her owner and with other friends. She spent a two-night sleepover with us to see if we could all get along well together in our small space. If so, we could join the ranks of families willing to keep her when her mistress travels. Michelle calls it “Puppy Camp.”

While both Michelle and I had dogs growing up, neither of us could be considered “dog people.” We prefer cats, partly because we can leave them alone for a few days at a time. If we leave them adequate food and water, cats hardly know we are gone. Besides, they habitually bury their poop!

Suki, hanging out in the kitchen (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Suki, hanging out in the kitchen (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Still, we like dogs a lot. We’ve had dogs visit several times, either owned by family and friends, or casually (see A Good Dog Looking for a Good Home). Some canines that visit aren’t even tamed (see Coyote in the Compound)! We often fantasize about owning a dog of our own. We likely never will, because the cabin’s so small, and the issue of leaving them alone. And the poop.

Luckily, we live in Haines.

There’s something about Haines that raises a superior breed of dog (if you will). Perhaps it’s the rural setting, in which dogs have more latitude to ramble and explore. It might be the relaxed, comfortable attitude of the owners. It could even be the level of education among residents, which is said to be higher than average. Whatever the cause, dogs in Haines tend to be very well behaved.(At least in public—if we comment on this to dog owners, we often get wry smiles, knowing glances, even guffaws.) But we routinely see dogs at large gatherings, quietly participating in the camaraderie without causing trouble, barking, or fighting. They pal around together on the periphery of the group, or ignore each other. It’s rather amazing.

Suki epitomizes the Haines good dog. Michelle tells of her attending meetings in town, where she will sit on a chair at the table with everyone else, devoting her full attention to whomever is speaking at the moment. We have heard her bark, but only very rarely, almost always in greeting. The first time I met her, she welcomed me like an old friend.

Spice, our cat, views all of this quite differently, of course.

The first time Suki visited the cabin, she made a circuit of the downstairs about four times before she discovered Spice’s favorite daytime haunt, her cat carrier. Spice, asleep inside, had no clue that a dog was present until Suki shoved her muzzle into the carrier to inspect.

I wasn’t there at that moment, but all hell broke loose. Spice basically had a mental meltdown. We had to clean up after her!

We don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. Spice’s bad early life left her more or less mentally ill. Her whole life with us has been a long series of minor hassles (see Meet the Rest of the Family: The Cats and Cat-Less Naps). After her encounter with Suki, she stayed remarkably quiet and docile for days. That pattern repeats every time Suki visits.

Spice happened to be in the arctic entryway the evening Michelle arrived home from work, bringing Suki. I knew they would arrive soon, so I left the front door ajar. When they came up to the screen door, Spice melted away like smoke, and spent most of the rest of the visit upstairs. We stuck a spare piece of Lexan across the stairs, and kept an eye on Suki to make sure she didn’t get too curious about the upper floor.

Spice crept down to our bedroom each night to visit briefly before returning to her hideout. Michelle and I slept deeply and well through the visit!

I hold out hope that Spice will eventually grow curious enough to investigate. Suki is reported to be a hunter, but she’s so gentle I doubt she’d cause harm to a cat that didn’t surprise her. They could develop a peace of sorts. Spice and Lissa, our late cat, got along well enough with Dave and Anke’s dog, Scuppers, although that was in our former home in Juneau, a much larger space.

Time will tell. Suki’s stay went well for Michelle and me, so the cat will likely need to get used to the idea of a dog around the house now and then.

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