Clippings: Family had its dog days of summer

Our dog days of August — and June and July — have come to an end.
We have been caring for two extra dogs this summer, on behalf of Mark and Ericka, my wife’s brother and his bride. They have been living in Germany with the dogs, and are returning stateside for Ericka’s new job this month. Because airlines do not fly animals in the heat of the summer, their companions needed an advance flight and a summer home over here.
As of our publication date, the dogs — Brad, 3, so dubbed because he is blonde and his original owners thought he was so good-looking they named him after Brad Pitt, and Comet, 7, inappropriately named because his top speed is best timed with a sundial — are back on the way to a reunion with their real family.
Comet weighs a bit less than 70 pounds. He’s a black Lab crossed with who-knows-what and looks like a Newfoundland shrunk by being left too long in a clothes dryer.
Brad, a blend of yellow Lab and Great Pyrenees, weighs almost 90 pounds, stands about waist-high, and when in motion does not exactly blaze a trail across the cosmos, either.
Our walks have therefore lacked a certain briskness, as those who have seen Brad and Comet lumbering around Buttolph Acres and Middlebury’s rec park can attest. Let’s just say our own dog, an energetic black Lab-Weimaraner cross named Crown by her original owners, is the one leading the pack.
Even if Brad and Comet weren’t lovable in their own way, we would take care of them again just to help out Mark and Ericka.
Still, it’s been … interesting. Brad and Comet, like Crown, were rescued from high-kill shelters in the South, where attitudes toward animal care and neutering are apparently shockingly cavalier. Understandably, both came with some baggage, and I don’t mean the satchel full of toys they love so much.
To start with, they really, really don’t like being left alone. They especially love their Auntie Kristine, who leads a parade wherever she goes, has trouble turning around without tripping, and holds court wherever she sits.
Comet freaks out before people leave or if he thinks people are leaving, making a sound like a pig about to be fed.
And if there is no one to mind the store — this can mean taking a shower for 10 minutes — we learned Brad, in particular, has an ironclad digestive tract. Socks, underwear, tape, string, playing cards, paper products of all sorts — all have been successfully consumed and processed.
Each animal has his other quirks. Comet often needs to be coaxed to go for walks, but loves to ride, something that may help explain his portliness. He starts whining and oinking even if he sees vehicles that resemble Kristine’s RAV4. If he’s anxious about something, he walks in circles carrying his favorite toys, a blue stuffed dog, or a lacrosse ball.
Then there’s Brad. Brad lacks understanding of the laws of physics. For example, the dog door has posed a challenge, like when he tried to carry a three-foot-wide stick through the 15-inch opening. And he’s still not convinced two dogs can’t fit through at once.
We have also failed to reach agreement on home security issues. We have lived in our home for several years. Sure, we were cautious at first, but after the first few hundred times our neighbors gardened or hung out their laundry or the children on nearby Kidspace romped without incident, we concluded they posed no danger.
Despite our careful and repeated explanations of our conclusions, Brad and Comet refuse to share our evaluation of the area’s potential dangers: They remain on hair-trigger, DEFCON 2 alert status, ready to charge into our fenced yard and bark threats into submission.
Friendly greetings have also proven to be sources of both amusement and occasionally … well, I’ll let the reader judge. The amusement part comes from Brad and Crown, who truly enjoy each other’s company and wrestle constantly, Crown compensating for Brad’s 30-pound weight advantage with superior quickness and agility.
When they first see each other in the morning they run at each other full speed and launch themselves into a mid-air collision. They look like two NBA players celebrating a game-clinching three-pointer with a chest bump.
But Brad’s height makes his enthusiastic nose-first greetings of his people something that would spark lawsuits between many humans. We’ve learned to turn sideways when he approaches.
Now, life will be a little quieter without our long-term guests. I’m guessing it will also be a little bit duller.
We’ll probably still be safe from the neighbors, though.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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