Dogs find common ground

I was dog-sitting last week. My houseguest was a 100-pound, very furry country dog who is used to going in and out far more frequently than my work schedule allows. She demonstrated her displeasure on day one. But I was able to mop it up.

My dog, in contrast, is a sleek, 30-pound former city dog. There isn’t much shedding to speak of, and she can stay inside for just about as long as my work requires. She also ran and hid when I came home that first evening, except for occasionally poking her head around a corner to nose at the other dog as if to say, “She did it!”

Country dog barked at every car that drove past, or every time the newspaper was delivered, or the mailbox closed … or for no reason at all. City dog wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

And when the food came out, well, so did the fangs. Here was where city dog got territorial. “Whoa! TWO bowls of food. Both are mine, all mine!” And gigantic country dog cowered until city dog had eaten her fill. There was snarfling over toys, or who got to sit on my feet. (Yes, apparently that was important.) For the most part, the two dogs seemed to just barely be tolerating each other until the end of the week.

I had been hoping they would frolic and play and become best friends. But when I took them to the dog park, they went to two points as far away as the fencing would allow and didn’t acknowledge each other until it was time to get back in the car.

City dog was being just plain rude, I thought. What a terrible host. Until the thunder came.

Country dog, as it turned out, is actually a chicken. You’ve never seen an animal quiver and whimper so inconsolably. She stuck beside me like glue until it was time for bed, when I explained to her she would, in fact, have to figure out how to handle the situation on her own.

That’s when the miracle happened. Country dog plopped herself reluctantly down on the floor, still shaking rather remarkably. And city dog put her nose into the air – apparently, dogs really can smell fear – and then plopped herself down right behind country dog … and put one paw on her back!

It was an unmistakable “There, there. It will be OK,” gesture. Postcard worthy, really.

So of course I reached for my phone to take a photo. It seems that, just like toddlers, dogs know when someone would like them to remain still for a photo, and do just the opposite. City dog spared me just enough of a glance to give me the doggie equivalent of rolled eyes, and then removed her paw from country dog’s back. Country dog started shaking again, but the moment of kindness had passed. City dog got back up and ran away, and I have no proof that she was not quite the worst possible host.

At least, by that point, the storm had nearly passed as well, and country dog did not have to suffer much longer.

Despite those hiccups, which, truth be told, held their own entertainment value, having two dogs in the house for a week was not as disastrous as I had worried it might be. I work too much to make it a permanent arrangement, but I learned the situation was perhaps more flexible than I had imagined.

If you are looking around your home wondering what it might be like with another (or a first) dog or cat in the mix, I encourage you to be flexible, too. Local animal shelters are desperate for adoptive and foster homes for some of the greatest animals around. Every animal with whom I’ve ever shared a home has been rescued or adopted, and even if they can be bad hosts sometimes, they really are wonderful creatures.

Give one, or two, a chance. And keep your camera handy.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at