Chapter 6–Two Species, One House

Perhaps Greta just wanted to make our house more like home, or at least more like a Labrador retriever thought home ought to look.  But when she gave the  coffee table leg that gnawed look, we clashed over chewed furniture as a design concept.  Measures and counter-measures followed, but we were able to negotiate a settlement after I wiped down chewable parts of the furniture with hot pepper sauce.  Greta agreed to meet her chewing needs with a toy instead of furniture legs, and I agreed not to leave even the scent of hot sauce in the room.

Then there was the matter of the Other Dog.  The  Other Dog was mostly Lab, with a red-brown coat, golden eyes and four white paws.  The first time Greta saw the dog facing her, she bared her teeth.  The dog bared its teeth.  She approached the Other Dog.  It approached her.  The fur behind Greta’s neck stood up.  The fur behind the Other Dog’s neck stood up.  Greta growled.  The Other Dog was silent.   Greta lunged, and put several good-sized scratches on the full-length mirror before I pulled her away.

The bad news: in a three-bedroom house,  we had three full-length mirrors on bedroom doors.  The bad news from Greta’s perspective:  the Other Dog was there every time she approached a bedroom door.  And every time she saw the Other Dog, she had to meet the threat.  The Other Dog was an invader, on her turf.  Soon there were scratches on all the door mirrors.

My husband, Ron, didn’t have to tell me that Greta had to reach an accommodation with the Other Dog.  I knew she could get hurt if the mirror glass shattered.  I also knew we couldn’t commit to weekly mirror replacements.

I tried covering the mirrors with sheets.  It worked, except that it made the place look like  “The House of the Un-Reflected Ghosts.”  It was also harder to check professional-looking appearances before going out.  We needed a more permanent solution.   I turned to the Internet for ideas.

The sheets came off  the mirrors, and we waited.  Greta was in our bedroom when she spotted the Other Dog.  Ignoring both the plastic shower curtain covering the floor and the possible presence of a human behind the door, Greta lunged at the Other Dog, lips pulled back to reveal rows of sharp white canines headed for the mirror glass.   She doesn’t know how it happened, but suddenly she had a faceful of water.  She stood, dripping, then shook her head.  Droplets flew.  She looked at the Other Dog.  It looked back at her.  Its face was wet, too.  Greta retreated to think this out.

Greta saw the Other Dog again several days later and her hackles rose immediately.  She moved toward it, growling and baring her teeth.  The Other Dog moved toward her and bared its teeth.  Greta barked.  The Other Dog did not retreat.  At that point, Greta would ordinarily have lunged.  But this time, she did not.  She stood stiff-legged, growling, daring that dog to make a move.  When the Other Dog did not lunge or growl or approach her on its own, Greta decided on a policy of grudging tolerance.  She retreated and curled up on the rug.

The full-length mirrors in the house still bear scratches at a height of about two feet from the floor.  If the scratches are a design statement, they say, “Watch it, Other Dog.  You stay on your side of the mirror, everything’s cool.  You try to cross over to my side, lookin’  for trouble, you’ll find it.”

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