The seventh member of our family is a toy Australian Shepherd named Pearl. She is a tiny bundle of nerves that looks a bit like a cotton ball between haircuts…with black spots, of course. She is very loving and protective of our family, barking and growling at anyone who enters our yard (or drives by in a manner not to her liking). She once even tried to bite the mailman, but that may have been from the influence of television and violent video games.
Fastest tongue in the West
Whether seeking approval, or just from a mineral deficiency, Pearl is constantly licking everyone’s ankles. Now that I think about it, she also frequently licks the carpet and furniture. If she gets excited, she jumps around; her tongue flashing at your exposed knees. If your face strays too close to hers, a little flicking water-lapper probes your eyeball and slips between your lips. Yuck…she doesn’t brush very often. Then she’ll bolt out of the room like her fur is on fire to bark at a passing vehicle.
She loves to snuggle and lay with just about any member of the family. She will curl up with her snout next to some exposed portion of flesh. Then, with unrelenting determination, her rough little tongue steals out for a little taste every 17 seconds, or so. I’m not sure if it is a security measure for her, an expression of love for us, or she just likes how we taste. It’s best to allow her an arm or leg, otherwise you’ll wake up with her tiny lollipop-licker up one nostril. Waking up is also the signal for her to begin faster, more frantic licking.
In conjunction with licking, when she’s excited, Pearl has a compulsion to put one foot on you. She will prance around wiggling her butt, then back up to you and stand with one hind leg on your foot. She will then twist around and lick your shin, wiggle her butt the opposite direction, and place her other leg on your foot. It’s kind of a fun game. I usually do it with her in the kitchen. My wife walked in on us once, both wiggling our butts and trying to step on the other. She wasn’t super impressed.
The other thing she does when excited, is sneeze. My wife can really get her going. Pearl will get to sneezing and wiggling her butt so energetically, she can barely get her licks in; and it takes several shots to step on your foot. Then she will suddenly realize she was supposed to be outside barking at a suspicious vehicle right at that moment. she will tear off toward her doggie door like a black and white streak.
Anything for a treat
I often like to give Pearl dog biscuits and little treats. She can hardly contain herself when I ask if she wants a “cookie”. She will prance into the pantry, where the snacks are, run back out to see if I am coming; when I finally arrive she will be staring intently at the box of Milk Bones, willing it to fall off the shelf. Her and I will then do the “cookie” dance, which involves butt wiggling and spinning and…basically just butt wiggling and spinning.
I will then hear a disembodied voice yell, “Make her do a trick for her treat.” My wife has intuited our actions using mother-vision from another part of the house. “And stop wiggling your butt and spinning, it looks ridiculous.”
“I thought it was a pretty good trick.” I said to Pearl. She flicked her ear which meant: yeah, yeah get on with it. Pearl can lie down, sit, fetch, stand on her hind legs, and even roll over. She just doesn’t like to do it on command. When I say “sit”, she thinks I said “do whatever you have to do to get the biscuit”. She will then kind of crouch down and look at me expectantly. If that doesn’t work she will jump up to try and reach the treat. My 4 year old daughter, Deleya, will often complicate the whole ordeal. She wants to give Pearl the treat, but can’t tell when the “trick” has been completed. This confuses Pearl even more. Deleya won’t sit or lie down on command either.
Since getting a treat is such hard work, Pearl will often lurk near the kitchen whenever anyone is there. If something is dropped she rushes in saying, “let me just get that for you”. It doesn’t matter if it is an ice cube or a sponge. She will then rush out her doggie door to enjoy it in peace. I once tossed a pea pod at the trash can and missed; Pearl was there for the rebound and raced down the court chewing happily.
She’s looking at you
My wife does not allow Pearl on the furniture. Everyone else does, and it probably undermines my wife’s authority a little. Pearl is also not allowed in the kitchen or under the table at meal times. She has learned, however, that anything is fair game if my wife is absent.
If my wife enters a room and sees Pearl next to me on the couch, Pearl will look the other direction. I believe she thinks that if she can’t see my wife, my wife can’t see her (or she may be trying to will herself invisible). My wife usually says, “I can’t believe you. Why is she on the couch?” I will then look away so that she can no longer see me.
At mealtimes, Pearl will usually be close but out of sight of my wife. She will often be under the bar stools if kids are eating in the kitchen. This is the richest source of dropped edibles and provides lots of concealment. She will also watch from a nearby doorway keeping the fridge between her and my wife; ready to dart in to snatch any succulent morsels that reach the floor. If they happen to meet eyes, and Pearl is within the “no dog zone”, she will freeze (the idea is that some predators have poor eyesight and only track movement). To be helpful, I will tell Pearl “She’s looking at you.” Pearl will then slink away casting a sour glance my direction.
Independent or just poorly behaved
My wife would argue that Pearl is poorly behaved and in need of basic obedience training (she has also said the same about me). My impression is that Pearl is an independent female who just wants to dictate her own existence. As I encourage independence and individuality in our children, how could I do less with Pearl? She is simply saying, “I will cast off this human imposed, nylon fetter about my neck and be my own master. I will come, not because you called, but because I choose to. I will take my repose upon your couch, licking myself where I will, without need of your approval.”
“Either that…or she is a neurotic canine with zero social skills, horrendous dog breath, and a taste for carpet and childrens socks.” my wife replied. Pearl and I both looked the other direction indignantly; choosing to disappear, rather than engage. She put her foot on mine and began to wiggle her butt and sneeze. I wiggled my butt in reply thinking, “Neurotic…indeed!” I sneezed when Pearls tongue tickled my left nostril. She grinned happily.
Dog hair on the couch…and the carpet, and the drapes, and in your soup bowl…may suck, but Idaho doesn’t.