Daphne is an Australian shepherd. She also happens to be a red and white Australian shepherd. I’m told that in the Aussie world, a red and white dog is the most Aussie of Aussies. I’m not sure exactly what that means to an Aussie aficionado, but I get a little worried by the way they raise their eye brows and say things to me such as “Good luck,” or “Really? You’re willing to take care of an Aussie?”
I first met Daphne about a year ago. At that time, she was approximately a year old, had recently been adopted by her current family, and was – how shall I put it? – a bit WILD. She is also sweet, fun loving, incredibly agile and fast, and has boundless energy. She is one of those dogs who greets you by smiling from ear to ear while curling her body around on itself like the letter “C”, crabbing across the floor to you, and – oops – occasionally peeing in her excitement. I quickly learned how NOT to excite her in a way that caused her to pee on the floor. Mostly this involves simply not greeting her until I’ve quickly walked her outside. Everything I do with Daphne I try to do quietly.
Different dogs have different degrees of arousal to common stimuli. Adult Cavaliers need something pretty enticing to get them off the couch. Someone arriving with dogs is always a reliable trigger for my guys. Bouncing a tennis ball works for the three younger ones. But Daphne views absolutely everything as a five alarm fire that has to be investigated immediately and/or announced loudly. The trigger can be as simple as one of the other dogs getting up to change position, or to pick up a toy to chew on; or it could be something other dogs might also consider worth barking at, such as a car going by, or my neighbors walking their Weimeraners on the road. Life with Daphne is action packed and can be noisy. Once she is alert, it takes a while for her to settle back down.
If there isn’t another dog her size to play with, Daphne uses her excess energy attempting to control every move the small dogs make. And I’m spending mine trying to prevent her from annoying them. The little guys get cranky about her after a while, and eventually they give me imploring looks. The only way to get respite is to separate her from them. But then – what to do with Daphne for fun and games? There is always the Frisbee, which she loves, and we do a lot of that. But sometimes I call in my Secret Weapon.
Enter Timmy. Timmy lives with my friends Nance and Ed, and he is my go-to guy for fun and games. He thinks of my house as his personal neighborhood playground. I don’t have swings or a jungle gym per se, but there are other fun things to do here. He’s 9-months-old now, about 40 lbs, tan with a black muzzle and black hair threading down his back to his tail, and in a word, GORGEOUS. Everyone wants a Timmy clone. He is a sleek, well-oiled, and well-muscled playing machine. And he is Daphne’s favorite playmate. They are well matched in size, agility, strength, and perseverance.
Yesterday, Timmy came to play for the whole day. They did take a short nap once – I think it was around lunch time – but otherwise they were out flying through the snow banks at top speed. Their play was split about half and half between contact sport wrestling and tag. It was awesome to behold. We had 6 inches of fresh snow the night before, and by afternoon it looked like an army had marched through my yard. I don’t think there was one single spot of snow that wasn’t trampled. I brought them inside periodically for a rest, but they were unconvinced of the need and just continued exactly what they had been doing outside, albeit in a much smaller space. After they dried a little, I let them back out. They hardly skipped a beat the whole day.
Today, Daphne has been wandering around the house looking sort of dazed. She has been very quiet, relatively speaking. She has not been bothering the little guys very much. Maybe it’s true what they say about Aussies – that they need at least 18 miles of exercise every day just to be reasonable household companions. Daphne and Timmy both got in a good 18 miles worth yesterday.