January 12, 2019
Our two dogs are named Meryl Streep and Lord Byron. They are 26 and 30 pounds, respectively, long-haired, black and tan, with spots of white on their breasts. Although they were not litter-mates, they had the same dad and mom, a King Charles Cavalier and an American Cocker Spaniel. This combination called “Cockalier” is an intriguing mix of personalities and physical traits.
Byron has the more Cocker Spaniel personality, very athletic, earnest, obedient, eager to please. However, he has the Cavalier’s soft and shiny coat and luscious Cavalier ears. During the winter, we groom him as a Cocker show dog, and he looks beautiful. As our vet said, “Whatever he is, he is a handsome little guy.”
Turn on the TV, how about it?
Meryl is more like a Cavalier princess, with an adorable pugged nose and wide eyes. She’s a lap dog with cat-like behaviors, like perching in a window, pestering you with her paws, or demanding to sit between your legs to watch TV at night. In fact, Meryl also requests TV during the day. So we DVR cable veterinarian shows, like “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” or “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER” and turn them on to entertain Meryl. Trouble is, she wants us to sit and watch with her but, for gosh sake, nothing would get done.
Each time an interesting animal comes on, Meryl rushes the TV screen, where she jumps and barks, trying to “get at it,” until Byron the Alpha male bounds over and tackles Meryl. He doesn’t much care for the animals on TV, but he doesn’t want his sister to get any prey.
Oddly enough, Meryl has a coarse Cocker coat, much thicker than Byron’s, and she is the better hunter. Byron the Cocker tries his best to catch backyard squirrels but always misses by a hair, while the supposed lapdog Meryl snags a few too many birds. We have to keep an eye out for fear she’ll obliterate all backyard chirpers.
Like having two two-year-olds
Each month, I give both dogs a heartworm pill. In the past, I've used peanut butter to coat each pill, but was weary of the mess. So I bought two packs of handy pill pockets. Byron comes and sits, then dutifully gobbles his pill pocket right down, while Meryl delicately devours the pocket then spits out the pill. Reluctantly, I get out the peanut butter, coat Meryl’s pill, and give it to her again. Of course, Byron then wants peanut butter, so I give him a dab, which means I might as well forget the pill pockets.
In my office, two windows face the street. Meryl alights the left windowsill like a cat and awaits passing people, dogs, and cars. To prevent paint scratches, I’ve folded a beige towel as a pad under her. Problem is, Meryl doesn’t like when her towel is the least bit wrinkled, so each time we go into the office, Meryl sits below the sill and gives me a DOG STARE to say that her towel is not up to her standards. So I straighten her towel and she jumps to her perch.
Byron is not dainty enough to perch on a narrow windowsill. Instead, he bounds onto a rolling desk chair I’ve placed near the right window with a blue towel for Byron’s landing pad. Ever the earnest Cocker, he could care less if his towel is wrinkled. He eventually bores of staring outside and takes a nap behind the curtains, his man cave to escape his pesky sister.
Press the child lock
When we go for car rides, Byron gleefully flies into the back seat, while his smaller sister sits on the garage floor and gives me her DOG STARE to say that she would prefer I lift her into place. As we head out in our neighborhood, I keep the car windows down so the dogs can hang out and smell deer, skunks, and squirrels. Then, when we turn onto the highway, I roll up the windows for safety.
But one of dogs—I’ve never seen which but suspect Byron—has learned to jump on the electric window button to lower the window again. At first, I thought this was an accident, but it happened repeatedly, so now I have to put on the window child lock.
The older, the wiser
In dog years, Meryl and Byron are now about my age. This period is when I enjoy dogs the most. They’ve calmed from their frenetic puppy years, they’ve learned a lot about our daily routines, and they now understand quite a few human words.
I could not pick a favorite between them. Both remain a joy and remind me how much I have always loved dogs, from my first black Cocker mix female named Putter, to my two hound-mix sister siblings named Scooter and Taffy, to my little terrier/poodle mix named Pooh, and now this Cockalier pair.
They are our “final dogs,” or at least I keep saying that. Who knows? In another six years, I may find myself with yet another dog who will delight and surprise with quirky behaviors much like having a loving, demanding, and spoiled two-year-old child. If you’d like to see a photo of Meryl and Byron, albeit a bit ugly with their short summer haircuts, go to this page on my author Web site.
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