Foxy Lady comes to VisitOur neighbour had planned to go away for the weekend and she had asked if we would keep an eye on her dogs. A couple of the dogs presented no problem as they had become used to the routine but one young bitch is a fox terrier of working stock. Foxy is a dog with an incredible lust for life. She is very intelligent; she learns quickly and is an energetic little dog whose tail never stops wagging. She gets bored easily and when she is bored she wanders off, as and when she can escape from the line to which she is invariably tethered. When loose, catching her can be a nightmare. However we agreed to watch over her. Over the three days which the neighbour was to be absent, my wife went up at least a couple of times a day to check all was well with the dogs. On the Saturday, she decided to bring Foxy home as a trial. It would be criminal to deny this creature companionship for so long.
Our two dogs, a Rottweiler dog - Rocky and a terrier bitch - Jenna, knew Foxy but she had never been invited inside our house before. We brought her indoors and left her in the utility room adjoining the kitchen, where she could see us all but she could not mingle with us because of the dog gate. As long as we humans stayed within sight all was well. Whenever we went round the corner and out of sight, Foxy started to bark. From time to time our dogs would go up to the dog barrier and sniff through the bars. Foxy stood her ground but was polite to our dogs. Seemingly she knew her visitor status or so it seemed at the time. Inevitably we let Foxy into the kitchen. Our dogs were having their breakfast, so it was appropriate to give Foxy something as well. Any feeding time for dogs calls for discretion, so on this special occasion, we were careful to keep the dogs apart. After the meal Foxy started to look around. What is this? What. is that? Where does that way lead? What’s in here? What’s over there? One could sense the questioning. Foxy had never been allowed such freedom to run around her own home indeed, her night time quarters is a cloakroom. Shut away, she is warm, dry and safe but there is no stimulation for her. In effect she is confined in a large cell for a significant portion of the day. That will represent quite a mental trial for this active and intelligent little dog.
I watched Foxy sniffing around. The curiosity of the little dog was unbounded. Suddenly she decided to say ‘hello’ to our dogs. She approached each in turn quite sensitively, and when she was within touching distance, she made all the expected signs of servility. She even went down on her back and bared her throat. She would attempt to lick the mouth of both our dogs. Jenna, our terrier was a bit disdainful and told her to “Go back to where she came from.” Whenever Foxy got near whatever Jenna perceived to be hers, Foxy was told to back off. And back off she did. Rocky was fine with her at first. He showed a bit more tolerance but immediately after Jenna made a ‘sqwark‘, he came rushing over and for the moment I thought I had a dogfight on my hands. Thankfully, a couple of loud “OIs” from me calmed down things between the dogs. That incident was in itself very interesting, I had never ever seen Rocky aggressive towards another dog before. On this occasion his hackles were up and he meant what he was saying ie: “ Leave my Jenna alone” The little Foxy made obeisance noises, adopted a humble posture and backed away. Then, panic over, she went off quite cheerfully into the lounge to see what was going in the rooms she had not yet visited.
The day wore on. Slowly but surely Foxy became more and more inquisitive and more and more relaxed in what is another dog’s domain. Eventually she took to sitting on my lap whilst I worked on the laptop. Unsurprisingly her paws did not help with the typing. Neither was Jenna pleased about this upstart getting so close to the Master - me.
By the early evening, we had slowly gotten used to this bundle of energetic fur with the long nose. Foxy is a fox terrier - ie she and her band of brothers are bred to chase and, make no mistake, kill foxes. She, from her breeding alone, is no soft pushover. Eventually dinner time came round and it was time to feed the dogs again. By now Foxy was more sure of herself. All went well with the feeding but it was the empty bowls which probably caused the problem. Suddenly there was an almighty row and Rocky was getting ready to steam in to settle matters. He never uses his teeth but he often uses his bulk. Foxy probably did not know that as yet. However she does have her own mouthful of razor sharp teeth. By no means was she defenceless. I watched her, she had changed. No longer was she subservient. She was now ready to defend herself and to attack if necessary. This was not a puppy; this was a teenager finding her feet. Now, Rocky is big heavy dog but he has recently experienced serious health issues with both hind legs and his spine. He is simply no longer the powerful dog he once was. Suddenly I realised for myself that he was vulnerable. Jenna was already keeping her distance. She may have contributed to the explosive atmosphere but she was not going to mix it with Foxy. When she found herself anywhere near Foxy, her tail was held down between her hind legs. She was quick to warn off Foxy by giving a low snarl and baring all of her tartar covered teeth and if Jenna were to use those teeth, then she would bite and bite hard, that was for sure. No doubt Foxy would bite back. Within just a few seconds the scene in the kitchen had changed dramatically. There could now well be a big bundle.
Suddenly I saw that my two ageing and invalid dogs were at bay. Neither was as self confident as I had taken them to be. Both were vulnerable. Here was this canine visitor - a mere whipper snapper - on her own and now calling the shots. If I stood back and allowed it, then for sure little Foxy would take charge. However within a moment or two, with me standing in the middle of the hiatus, everything calmed down. I had used my masterly tone of voice. Foxy had reverted to being alert, polite and bubbly. Rocky and Jenna took up their regular spots and lay down. Peace had been restored.. But it had been a close run thing.
I looked over at Foxy: she would have to go back home. I like her, I feel sorry for her. She craves the company of humans. She would make someone a superb companion. She is worthy of human attention but she needs managing at this crucial stage in her life. Left too long to her own devices she will become uncontrollable. But I can‘t allow her back into my house. She is not my dog. She, herself, is vulnerable because she must not come to like the warmth of our home. Perhaps more importantly our own dogs are vulnerable to Foxy. This intelligent self confident little bitch must not be allowed to take over in my household and if I were to let her, then undoubtedly she would.
My wife took her back to the neighbour’s house and shut her away in the lobby. Foxy Lady is not being maltreated nor is she at risk - physically. But mentally she lacks stimulation and if these bright dogs don‘t get that stimulation from humans then they will seek it out for themselves. Then inevitably they become a problem to control. It is her owner who should take charge and not me. Sadly her owner has not the slightest understanding of what I have just written. Some folks can live amongst dogs all their lives but they never come to understand what makes a dog tick. This little bundle of white fur is going to become the leader of the pack and her owner is completely unaware of the metamorphis which is going on.
My ageing Jenna knows only too well what is going on, for she once was a foxy lady herself.
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