This morning I woke up later than usual, and when I asked where Lady Brown was, as her food bowl was still full, M said, “She’s taken French leave, I’m afraid.” Oh dear. But how? The gate was closed last night. It must have taken an enormous effort on Lady Brown’s part to force it open.
Ah well. My heart sank. I thought we’d tried our best to make her feel at home. M had pointed out her sleeping posture in the garden yesterday, with her legs up in the air. That denoted, he said, that she felt very relaxed and comfortable. I gathered that it would take some more days for her to feel totally at home, enough to sleep on the veranda. But now it had taken only one day for her to decide that this was not where she wanted to be. Our best wasn’t enough to overcome her conditioning over years of rough but independent living. We had to accept that she preferred to be in the wild and free. Time to get real then. I turned back to the house, resolving to look up the webpage of a local pet rescue charity.
Just then the neighbourhood dogs began a commotion, barking furiously. And as I scanned the neighbour’s fence and our gate, who should go ambling past but Hunter? Ah, I thought, if Lady Brown won’t stay with us, perhaps Hunter might? I walked to the gate, which M had closed after discovering earlier that Lady Brown had left it wide open. And well… who should turn up a few seconds later? Lady Brown! I reckoned she was following Hunter, and that they were headed up the mountains beyond the house, as they had often done in the past.
But as it turned out, I was mistaken. She turned and headed for our gate. And when she saw me, her tail started to wag enthusiastically. Oh my! From rock bottom despondency to wild elation! I opened the gate, which required a good amount of effort, as it keeps sticking to the gate post.
And as she walked in with great alacrity, continuing to wag her tail, and gazing up at me, she turned to look in Hunter’s direction — he was already several paces up the road. Then he turned back to look for her, and saw she was already through the gate, so he came loping back. Just a brief hesitation before going through the gate, but it didn’t last. And he, in his confident ambling gait, went on ahead of Lady Brown. He remembered where they’d been fed some days before, and that’s where he headed. But the food bowls were no longer there, as we’d moved them to the top of the steps of the veranda.
I called out excitedly to M, doing some work in the garden. “Oh wow! You won’t believe this. They’re both here! Lady Brown is back, M, and look who she’s brought back with her!” “Oooh what a clever girl, you are!” M said, patting Lady Brown. She’s been very clever and resourceful indeed. What a heroine! And I marvelled again at Lady Brown’s strength and determination to force that sticky gate open.
No wonder then, after all that effort, that she was ravenous this morning. After finishing her share, she went and stuck her nose into Hunter’s bowl, an unusual action on her part. She’d never behaved like this in previous times. When both she and Hunter were given food in separate bowls, it was Hunter who was still hungry and went after her bowl. This time though, she kept edging him out of his bowl. “Well,” said M. “Now we know who’s the boss.”
Hmm… I guess she’s making him know she’s top dog now. This is her family and he ought to know to be grateful to her for bringing him here. Good for her! She’s not going to be bullied. Hurrah for women’s lib!
At the same time, I wondered how she’d managed to let him know. It must have taken a good two hours, if not more, to find him, especially if she’d left at night. And then how to communicate in Canine — “Hey, Hunter (or whatever her name for him is), do you remember those two who’ve been feeding us? Well, they’ve now given me a home. I’m sure they’d be happy to see you as well. Would you like to come?” How did she do this? What kind of sounds or body language did she make? Intriguing, indeed, non-verbal communication among animals.
And the other astonishing thing is that I had not realized how much of an attachment she’d felt toward Hunter. We had reckoned that it was Hunter who’d shown us how attached he was to her. In previous times, he’d always checked to make sure she was following when we lured them home with tidbits of dog food. Though before she finally stayed the night, we’d seen her twice, and each time Hunter was not there. And I came to the conclusion that she was no longer in heat, and Hunter had lost interest. How wrong was I?
They’re now both napping in the crocus meadow. Fortunately not on the crocuses themselves. Just in front of them. And earlier they were sitting companionably side by side, facing the same direction, close to the hedge in the shade of an overhanging carob tree. I approached to photograph them thus, but I must have stumbled upon an intimate moment, because Hunter barked at me, then realized as I got nearer who it was, and he stopped. Now that was interesting. What were they thinking about, or communicating about? Fascinating.
Well, this has indeed been another day of surprises!