July 24, 2011
About six years ago, Sophie joined our extended family as a companion for Frances’ Mom. A slim, energetic young English setter, Sophie understood her duties well: To provide an instant injection of good-natured enthusiasm whenever called upon, and to gulp down everything her owner secretly slipped her way at the dinner table. She was very good at her job.
Sadly, after a good long life, Mom passed away last week up north. We were called upon to fulfill our solemn promise to care for Sophie. So we all piled into a rental car and hit the road, bound for Texas. This represented a homecoming for Sophie, as she was raised by breeders outside of Houston. Her original mission in life was to be a hunting dog. But her advanced startle reflex had the unfortunate effect of causing her to shy from loud noises (like shots from hunting rifles). Unsuited for her genetic role of calling attention to birds hiding from hunters, Sophie ended up half a country away gobbling down table scraps.
After three days and two nights on the road, we pulled into our dry dusty driveway yesterday afternoon and commenced the difficult task of explaining to the 20 other animals on the property just why we needed to bring in a 21st. The reactions, breed-by-breed, were predictable:
- Sheep: The sheep collective quickly applied their trademarked empty-headed curiosity to the situation, bravely massing on one side of a reliable fence in order to inspect the new arrival (see photo above). Each time Sophie moved, the sheep scattered. No surprises there.
- Dogs: The two Great Pyrs instinctively knew something was up, having sniffed out a billion Sophie smells on our shoes and pants upon our arrival. We cut to the chase and introduced Sophie. Tentative nose-touchings led to a few wagging tails last night, but this morning the female, Freckles, emitted a few sub-sonic throat growls almost too soft to be heard. This probably was related more to the fact that she was eating breakfast than anything else. But we’ll have to watch.
- Chickens: The foolhardy chickens immediately approached for an inspection. From deep inside the recesses of Sophie’s little brain an ancient instinct awakened. “Bird… must… die…” Sophie flung her body through the air at the chickens, who quickly realized the error of their approach and flapped out of the way. (See photo at right.)
- Cats: As expected, the felines are treating this as an event on a par with Pearl Harbor in terms of its catastrophic impact. Babar the Wonder Cat — the only male — was immediately spooked, but once he ascertained that this dog would not affect his incoming supply of snacks, he greeted Sophie neutrally, if not warmly. Missy, the senior citizen, is doing her best to glare menacingly at Sophie. If Sophie wanders too closely nearby, Missy will take a half-hearted swing at her. But it’s poor Moonie who has gone off the deep end. Even before we entered the house she seemed to know there was a d-o-g in tow. She immediately took to the top shelf of the bedroom closet, where she stayed for a few hours until I pried her loose from the old sweaters. I brought her out to the kitchen but this completely unhinged her. She jumped onto the counter and then straight up in the air to the top of the cabinets, as if she had Flubber on the pads of her feet. (See photo below.) We will keep an eye on her, but she may need a long recuperative holiday after this is all over.