I recently had a wonderful visit with my mom and Dexter, her 22 lb Havanese. Dexter got screwed out of opening Christmas presents last December because Mom and I weren’t able to spend the holidays together. We made up for it during this visit with a birthday gift opening instead. (I just turned 55.) Dex knows exactly what it means when a bunch of wrapped items are piled on the floor and his quivering black nose unerringly homes in on the presents that are his. With delighted, frenzied abandon he ripped into his gifts (and a few that weren’t his — snatched before we noticed.) One of my presents to him was a little bag of cashew nuts (there’s not much he wouldn’t do for a cashew) and Charlee Bear treats. Mom gave him a squeaky toy that resembles Lamb Chop.
Always his newest toy is his favorite, at least for a while. Below is Dexter next to his impressive toy collection. I wanted him to sit calmly and look straight at the camera but this proved impossible — he was too focused on the treat in Mom’s hand which was supposed to incentivize him into the proper pose. So much for that wacky idea.
His toy collection includes an octopus, frog, the fishy (who probably holds the record for the longest reigning favorite), a giraffe, pig, rabbit, dinosaur, hedgehog and assorted unknowns. Dexter is very hard on his friends. Many are severely afflicted with missing limbs, eyes or ears. When it’s time for these mutilations to be attended to, my mother sits under Dexter’s unwavering gaze as he follows her every move. He observes the sewing needle moving in and out, back and forth with watchful anxiety until the animal is restored to its rightful place (between his jaws.) Sometimes this process is accompanied by little impatient whines and whimpers as if he can barely endure the tension.
He and I always play the same game with the toys. After his dinner (kibble with chicken or beef broth and tiny morsels of meat or cheese), when his tummy is full and he’s rubbed his chops all over the white carpet to clean them and is feeling quite pleased with life, he picks up Lamb Chop (or the current favorite) and squeaks it non-stop. I grab it and we’re off to the races. He is now mad keen for Lamb Chop. He MUST have Lamb Chop. When I make it squeak under an oversized pillow, he stops, looks and listens with intense alertness, and pounces until I make Lamb Chop pop up on the other end (with a squeak) whereupon he tries to nail it with a mighty leap. (Thank goodness for the pillow to protect my organs.) Then I fling it down the hall and he gallops after it with the pounding of a stampede. Now it’s my turn to try and repossess it. He holds on with his little nippers and won’t let go for anything, not even when I pretend to grab his feet. A low rumbling growl expresses his disapproval of this underhanded maneuver which is not quite cricket.
Here are a few of his other quirks: Wherever my mother goes, Dexter goes — with one exception. When she takes a shower, he stays well away from the bathroom door just in case she takes it into her head that he needs a shower too. You can’t be too careful.
One of his favorite occupations is watching the public pedestrian path next to my mother’s garden. The elderly from the retirement community next door, parents with strollers and ambling youngsters and — most galling of all — people with dogs saunter along this path as Dex barks furiously at their impudence (Using HIS path! Trespassing on HIS territory!!) For several minutes after they’ve passed out of sight, he has a conversation with himself about the situation — tortured whines and little moans, strangled howls that end with muted whimpers — all articulate that the strangers’ transgressions can barely be tolerated by a little dog who’s only trying to do his job (and awareness that too much barking for too long may end with Dexter in the dark garage for a brief time out.)
Often when Dex is snoozing on the floor, the couch, or in his bed, I love to kiss, pet and adore him. He sees this as only his due and obligingly rolls over so I can rub his tummy. I like to sing to him: “Oh Dexter, Dexter, It’s a wild world . . . and it’s hard to get by just because you’re cute.” This song is not really accurate. Cuteness and character are Dexter’s currencies. I’m so glad and excited that I will soon be living with him. However, there is one fly in the ointment. I love him and I love Trudy (the cat who stole my heart several years ago.) Trudy is not going to enjoy learning that I love another animal and I’m going to have to tread carefully. She’s used to being the only captain of my heart and I want her to remain completely secure in my love for her. I never want to do anything to hurt her — or Dexter who is also used to getting my undivided attention. Interesting times are ahead for sure.