Thursday was Loki's 4th anniversary with us and marks his 5th birthday. We had house guests here so we delayed his celebration until the weekend. For a dog so affected by change, to our surprise, he adapted well to house guests and even offered a game of tug with them.
This past year brought a few gray hairs of wisdom to the cracker's muzzle. Yet, he's still chock full of crack. I think at this point in his life, it's time to finally admit his last few anxieties will likely not be overcome. His anxiety around a singular one-person handler (me), vacations at Bernard's kennel, car anxiety and aggressive dogs are things that will always flip his crack-a-tude. Those are his quarks.
But the upsides to having him in our lives is worth living with those few quarks. He makes all of us smile and laugh every day.
But aside from his sillyness, he's a serious dog. And I really trust him. On many occasions, his instincts have served his, my, and even Juno's safety. I feel perfectly confident walking in deserted forests and unknown locations knowing he will be the first to let me know if something isn't right. I've learned to work with his strong defense drive, rather than against it, and it's served us well. Instead of correcting him for every little bark, groan or growl, I praise him for every alert and let him know his job is finished.
Recently, one of my house guests came up to my office to check on the printer. Loki was discerning enough to understand that my office was technically a no-guest zone so as my guest approached, Loki gave him a low growl. My guest was surprised, but all it took for Loki to relax was a "thanks but it's ok" --and of course the guest was allowed to pass and go to the printer. Some may say it's wrong for a dog to act this way. But I know better now. Behavior isn't necessarily right or wrong. It just is.
Part of me now understands that it is this method of communication-- working with his drive, not against it-- that makes him so insistent on being handled only by me. Because I get him. Who could blame him for not wanting his leash held by anyone who doesn't speak his language?
He and I are a team. For better or worse. And I thank my lucky stars he fell into our lives.
Happy Anniversary my boy. You've earned your gray hairs of wisdom. You are all grown up now.