The Other Dog

I do have another dog. She’s a great Pyrenees mix named Halley.

Her name was the one she came with. The story was that whoever named her once heard Halley’s comet described as a dirty snowball. Yep, that’s what she looked like as a pup, though as she has aged her coat has became more spotted and apricot in color. Though that is her official name, we sometimes call her “devil dog/angel dog” or “Queen Sheba” or often just “Oh, Halley” or “Poor Halley.” You see, there’s guilt involved when it comes to Halley.

I know that you are not supposed to play favorites.  But it was undeniably clear to anyone outside of our family that Atlas was the favorite, and not just by a little bit.  All three of us admitted it.

There was just something special about Atlas. They say Berners are somewhat aloof with strangers, but with us he was pure love and personality.  He could be vocal in memorable ways. He had several different whimpers: The “I see a dog I want to play with” whimper; The desperate “How could you leave me at the vet all day?” whimper. And luckily I didn’t hear this one often, but the “I need help” whimper. I had always blamed Halley for all the noise in our house because she tends to bark at dogs and people who pass our windows. I never realized how much noise Atlas made until he was gone.  The silence is still painful.

But there I go again focusing on Atlas when this is supposed to be about Halley.  In the name of full disclosure, it was always “all about Atlas.” The reason we got Halley in the first place was as a playmate for him.  That was a mistake, as we soon realized Atlas would have clearly preferred life without Halley. She definitely cramped his style. She could be a real…well, bitch.

I don’t know if it was out of jealousy or just because she was a stinker, but Atlas could not have anything without Halley desperately wanting it.  I’d buy identical treats or toys.  It didn’t matter. She was more interested in making sure she got what Atlas had. Because it got tricky walking two large dogs with different needs, I decided to try giving them individual attention. I would walk her alone first, because she had to be first. But then I’d try to walk Atlas and she would be an inconsolable wreck in the house. Of course, I was gone, but she drove Wayne nuts.

As the owner, I need to take responsibility here, because truth be told, it’s rarely ever a dog’s fault. Even as a puppy I saw the signs. I would perhaps inappropriately joke that she had “Asperger for Dogs.” She just didn’t seem to get their social cues. Most dogs know to approach another dog by circling around and sniffing the backside. She always went for the face. I’d try to steer her away. I hoped she’d learn from Atlas’s excellent example, but she stubbornly insisted. Most dogs were generous enough to let her get away with it, but a few let her know they were not at all okay with her rudeness, and it was as you can imagine a nightmare. I knew the problem was getting worse by the time she was 1.5-2 years old. I needed help training-wise. Unfortunately, this was exactly when our financial situation changed making private training out of the question.

So now my outdoor life with Halley revolves around a constant threat of MUD (Meeting the Unleashed Dog). They are everywhere! And I swear, Halley must give off some kind of vibe to attract them too. My solution has been to take defensive measures: I carry pepper spray. I walk her in rain and snow storms or at odd hours. Thankfully, near our current house there is a path along the power lines where others rarely go. Except for too many ticks, and my ever present fear of a rabid beaver attack, it has been a lifesaver.

To be fair, Halley does have many redeeming qualities. She’s lovely for one. With her long eyelashes, velvety soft muzzle, full white flag of a tail, and soft brown eyes, she often looks angelic. She can also sit in such a quiet, patient way. Even though she doesn’t love dogs, she does love people and is very sweet and gentle with children. Because of this, the students at our old school loved her over Atlas. That made me feel a bit less guilty. She has also been very healthy. Something I do not take for granted. Basically, Halley is happy to be loved and go for daily walks. I’d love to enjoy those more with her, we just need to solve the dog aggression issue.

And now that Atlas is gone, it’s really about time I do right by Halley. I’m trying despite my broken heart.

2013-07-28 12.59.20

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