This Side Up

It's a dog thing


You guys know Ollie. He’s been the subject of many columns. He’s a spotted coon hound we adopted from the East Greenwich Animal Protection League some five years ago, maybe longer as we have lost count of the years and the many times his instinct to pursue a scent has sent us on a chase.

Now, I get to introduce you to Nash, the King Cavalier Charles Spaniel that is a member of my son Ted’s family. There’s not much that Ollie and Nash share other than being dogs and a love for chicken…and a few other things.

My daughter-in-law, Erica, never imagined a dog as a member of the family. They were a cat family and it seemed it was going to stay that way despite Ted’s efforts to convince her otherwise.

That was until we were all on the Block Island ferry several summers ago. We’d spent the day riding the waves, walking the beaches and enjoying a late lunch in town. It was one of those clear summer afternoons with puffy clouds with seagulls gilding above the wake and looking for handouts. Fellow passengers, lulled by the gentle rocking and too much sun or too much bar hopping or a combination of the two kept to themselves. Some dozed on the shoulders of companions, others found shade inside and the space to stretch out.

The warm glow of the day enveloped us. There was no need to talk, least of all consider the workweek ahead.

And then there was this fuzzy ball of reddish brown and white fur with a pushed in nose and big goldfish eyes.

For someone who had no plans of owning a dog, Erica instantly identified it as a King Cavalier. It was on the list of possibly acceptable dogs even though she was adamant they wouldn’t be getting a dog. Not wanting to push his luck, Ted feigned a fleeting interest. Erica saw the opportunity for some research. She spoke to woman and soon they were engaged in a discussion ranging from the breed’s habits to its proclivities with Erica asking all the questions.

The dog made its breed proud. It wagged when petted, remaining cuddled beside its master. Erica was won over.

Erica is deliberative. She’s a planner and before we arrived in Point Judith, she had the woman’s contact information and names of kennels. Thus began a process lasting more than a year where the family visited area breeders and I believe convinced themselves, although Ted needed no persuasion, that this was the right move. When finally, it was a go, the litter from which Nash came, had not been born. When we learned Nash was on his way, I would not have been surprised if Erica had provided me with ultra sound pictures of the litter and the puppy that was going to join the family.

We got regular updates after his arrival and when Nash left for Rhode Island, Ted and Erica did the utmost to ensure it would be a smooth transition. Bedding from the litter came home with them so that Nash in those first days of separation would not feel abandoned.

They needn’t have bothered. From the beginning Nash has been a “people dog.” He loves being picked up and is one of dogs that prefers being in your lap, even while driving.

Ollie has no part for such bonding. While traveling he’s either asleep on the back seat, if you’re lucky, standing watch from between the driver and front passenger seats or whining from the backseat at the mere sight of a pedestrian.

But there’s a lot to be said for this ragamuffin. While Nash indiscriminately bestows his affections with joyous wags and kisses, he unquestionably is a one-family dog with Ted as the commander and chief. Ted takes him everywhere: to work, while paddle boarding [yes, he rides the board], mowing the lawn and sailing. [I don’t believe he’s been windsurfing yet, but it’s likely to happen.]

That’s why I was surprised when Ted showed up for a weeklong vacation in upstate New York with Alex and Sydney but no Nash. He stayed with Erica in Rhode Island for a few days before joining us.

Their arrival was a tumultuous celebration with Nash yapping excitedly and running from one of us to the next. Under such circumstances, Ollie would have likely wagged, an overwhelming display of affection on his part.

Ted picked up Nash. Nash licked his face, nibbled his beard and squirmed delightedly. Ollie watched it all quite detached. He tugged at his leash anxious to leave the scene and take up a sniff patrol of the yard.

But it was Nash, to my surprise, who found the dead fish on the lakeshore and instantly took of rolling in it. And it was Nash that sniffed out the chipmunk hole in the lawn. After a few moments of barking, as if that would convince the critter to appear, he jammed his head down the hole.

Now this was more like a dog

He emerged and went to work digging. Ted was secretly delighted although he put a stop to it. I doubt Erica even knew anything about it. I can’t imagine she would have approved. And the dead fish? Don’t even ask.

And Ollie?

Well, they had something in common other than just being dogs. The fish smell gave it away.


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