Relaxing

Our dog Bear relaxes by the swimming pool on August 27, 2022. Original: _Z724694.NEF

Bear relaxes by the pool after a late summer swim. Ellie had her classic spread eagle pose but Bear’s signature sit is to tuck a paw underneath. The other night I went out on the back porch to watch an approaching monsoon, Bear indicated he wanted to join me but I was a little hesitant as I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about the storm. However I also didn’t want to have to put up with the most serious side-eye from the other side of the sliding glass door so I brought him out and had him sit beside me. We watched in silence as lighting constantly lit the mountains until he rolled over and asked for a belly rub. Not much later he fell asleep in the occasional darkness, when the storm finally passed I woke him and we went inside and I had my answer as to how the pup feels about thunder and lightning.

Trixie of course was buried under several layers of blankets in our bed.

The Classroom

Our dog Bear swims in our swimming pool in front of a cactus and other plants on April 10, 2022. Original: _Z721275.NEF

Though most of the same plants are blooming now, this picture is from early April as I haven’t taken many pictures of Bear in the pool since then. It’s not that he hasn’t been in the pool as the pup loves to swim, rather that as soon as the water got warm enough for my delicate sensibilities, I started swimming with him. And that’s when I discovered he seemed uneasy with me in the pool.

As long as I stayed by his side he was OK, if often giving me some side eye, but if I swam out on my own he’d immediately come after me and start tugging on the sleeve of my shirt or gently tugging on my wrist. I got a lesson in just how much it freaked him out when I wanted to get a little exercise so I looped his leash around a deck chair so I could get swim some laps. He dragged the chair across the porch and to the pool’s edge until I got out and assured him I was alright. My wife took him inside but he just stood at the window and barked until she took him out of sight.

So in addition to using our pool time on the weekends to work on his understanding of the Come and Stay commands, and then Drop It and Leave It, I added some exercises to convince him I was a good swimmer and he could just relax and play. By mid-summer he was doing much better, but then there were a few weeks with no swimming when I got sick and then my wife got sick and then a monsoon washed a lot of dirt into the pool.

When the swimming resumed I was fearful of a relapse but the opposite happened, he was now completely at ease with me being in the pool and since then we’ve spent long sessions just goofing around, with me hoping the exercise will tire him out but discovering which one of us has the most energy. Our pool time has become as treasured to me as my long walks with Ellie were, time to forget the stress of the world for a while and revel in the joy of the two of us.

The Desert Bear

Our dog Bear sits near desert plants at the end of the street in Scottsdale, Arizona on August 27, 2022. Original: _Z724553.NEF

I haven’t been up for a sunrise hike lately but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been up, just a bit too knackered for a short drive to the trails. I have kept up my usual wanderings around the yard at night, yielding sightings of Sonoran Desert toads each of the past two nights, and two tarantulas in the previous weeks. Our sprawling cactus out front has gone nuts this year with a dazzling display of flowers, but since they only bloom at night I have to try and grab a few shots in the morning if the bees aren’t too active, which is why I’ve been getting up early.

That’s meant I’ve been up a few times when my wife took Bear on his sunrise walk and I was able to join them for the first time in months. While he still needs improvement with people and dogs he feels like a different dog compared to when we adopted him, the training has helped tremendously. I had him pose at the end of the cul-de-sac as the sun rose with Troon Mountain in the background.

Ordinary Days

Our dog Bear sleeps on his dog bed while our cats Boo and Trixie sit on the futon on April 10, 2022. Original: _Z721143.NEF

If this seems like a picture of an ordinary living room, it is, and it’s why I love it. When we first adopted Bear we kept him in our large bedroom as he would sometimes chase the cats. I wasn’t too worried he was going to physically hurt them but he needed to be calm around his furry masters so they wouldn’t live in terror of him. He had lived with cats before but I didn’t see much indication of it and felt if he didn’t get better quickly we wouldn’t be able to keep him.

I took the picture in April on a day off when I brought him into the living room and had him stay on his bed and let the cats come as close as they wanted. The cats grew up with Ellie so were willing to give him a chance but not if he was going to chase them. The first day I had to keep him on a pretty short leash but on this the second day he was much more relaxed. When he fell asleep I got up and sat on the couch and Trixie came in and sat behind me, eventually even Boo worked up the courage to sit beside me. When they were both a little more relaxed I got up to take a picture of the three of them, and while I did Boo stole my spot. Some traditions must be upheld even in the presence of a scary dog.

I’m thankful to say Bear’s cat manners did improve as he got used to the little ones and he eventually earned his freedom to roam the house. With Boo I would feed both he and Bear some of Boo’s favorite treats and Boo would come right up next to Bear for those, which helped them get used to each other. I had to laugh when one day I came home from work and both Boo and Bear came to meet me at the door, with Boo standing underneath Bear, a sign of how far we had come. Trixie was less afraid of him from the get go but I knew she was getting used to him when she was sleeping on my legs and Bear came in and gave her a good sniff and then licked her in the face and she took the indignity in stride.

Say Hello to Bear

Our dog Bear relaxes on the back porch on the day we adopted him on April 3, 2022. Original: _CAM4276.ARW

Say hello to Bear, we adopted him this afternoon and are keeping him in our bedroom at the moment so the cats can come and go as they please but have the rest of the house to themselves while we all get acquainted. Which is good because at one point Bear chased Boo, I think more playfully than aggressively but understandably Boo was terrified and so I spent a while with him getting him to relax. He’s sleeping in his usual place wedged in between me and the edge of the couch but he still jumps at every unfamiliar sound.

Hopefully as the excitement of the first day wears off and Bear comes to understand his furry masters are to be obeyed and protected this won’t be an issue but we’ll keep an eye on it as obviously we won’t put the cats at risk. He did great with Sam later in the day, and lived with cats previously, so there’s reason to believe we can keep him on the straight and narrow.

He needs to learn some commands and get better at his on-leash behavior but the same was true of Ellie when we adopted her. The difference is that at 100 pounds (!!!) he’s much larger than she was, and she was big for a lab! Those things don’t worry me as he seems to want to please us so it’s just a matter of teaching him what we want.

He’s a very sweet fellow, we had a lot of nice moments already even in our short time together. We had kept a couple of Ellie’s hedgehogs and as Bear I played with them I had to hold back the tears watching him run around, squeaking them with joyful abandon. When my wife went to bed I went in to kiss him goodnight and his tail started wagging as he woke and saw me approach.

He was sleeping on my side though!