What makes a pet a good older-sibling?

Before he was the rough-and-tumble-anything-goes adventurer he is today, Eko was just a little stinker. It’s a big world and there was a lot Eko was uncertain about. On the first day I brought Eko home he was very wary of my mom’s dog, Scout.

Despite the devil eyes in this photo, Scout is a total sweetheart. Nevertheless, Eko jumped in my lap every time Scout so much as looked at him

With lots of cooing and encouragement I was able to arrange a meeting. Eko didn’t bolt but he did use me as a human shield.

Although he was still wary, Eko was reassured by Scout’s sweet demeanor

And it wasn’t long after this first meeting I would walk into the kitchen to this scene:

From strangers to siblings in no time

Eko adjusted to his new life very quickly and an important part of his successful transition was Scout’s stewardship as his big sister. She was at turns tolerant, forgiving, playful and motherly. Scout helped teach Eko everything from bite-control to where to sit down when you wanted to let humans know it was time for a walk.

With Eko as a big brother in waiting, I now wonder how he will act with the roles reversed. Where Scout was submissive, Eko is assertive and where Scout was nonchalant, Eko is inquisitive and curious. Although, I think Eko well remembers the days when he was scared of his big sister. And if the park is any indication, those memories have stuck with him.

When other dogs act submissive, Eko stops playing and reassures them he’s harmless

“See, I’m just a big baby. Nothing to be afraid of.”

I really lucked out having Scout to help me show the ropes and I’m hopeful Eko will pay it forward as a dutiful and doting older brother. With that in mind I have a question for those of you with multiple dogs. In the days (or weeks or months) before you brought home the new dog, was there anything you did which you felt made it easier for the current dog to be a successful sibling?

Why get a second pet?

I announced Eko is getting a little sister, but in my school-boy giddy excitement forgot to share my answer to the most important question. Why?

Well, it’s certainly not because there’s room on the couch

Life is good right now and the puzzle pieces of my daily routine fit together nicely. I get a solid 7-8 hours sleep, and my work schedule is nicely broken up by two walks and one run with Eko each day. And although he still bounces around the beach like a puppy, Eko is fully an adult dog. The trials and tribulations of puppyhood are behind us. Things are comfortable, familiar and steady.

“Me, an adult? Never!”

My daily routine is a well-oiled machine, so why throw a wrench in it? Why add an unfamiliar and untrained dog to the mix? Why add new uncertainty and responsibility to my life? Am I doing this just to blow my hair back?

Blowing your hair back is good for shampoo commercials, but not so good as a reason to get a pet

There are a number of reasons I decided to get a second dog. First, and most simply, I love dogs. I enjoy raising, caring for and sharing life’s adventures with a four-legged buddy. Each dog I’ve had has been unique, and in raising each dog I have grown and learned new things about myself.

To that end, I am also getting a second dog precisely because she will completely shatter my familiar, comfortable routine. I thrive on change and challenge, and I am at my best when forced to adapt to circumstance. Eko completely demolished my routines and made me a much better person for it.

Speaking of the devil, I believe a second dog will also be great for Eko. Even though I do my best to find lots of new adventures, Eko has a predictable daily routine. A second dog will provide important novelty, stimulation and companionship for Eko.  She will also make sure Eko is never without a friend to romp with at the park.  I remember how puppy-Eko invigorated my mom’s dog and I think Eko would appreciate a similar jump-start. Eko is always more animated when we visit home or host a four-legged pal at our B&B. I know he would love to have a full-time sibling again.

Enjoy the peace and quiet while you can, buddy!

Math suggests two best friends is better than one, so I also have that to look forward to! So the question “Why?” has many answers, but in sum, because it is the right decision for both me and Eko.

For those who have more than one pet, why did you decide it was the right decision for you?

A peek into a future with two dogs

The wheels are in motion to bring home Eko’s little sister (more on that in a later post!) but I think I got an early peek into some of the fun Eko will have with a little sibling.

Spring is undoubtedly new-dog season in Chicago. We’ve seen new pups of all ages at some of our favorite haunts. Yesterday at the beach a 7-month-old pup sauntered down the beach and showed me what I hope will be a common sight in the near future.DSC05215-1

She sauntered down shoreline with the Eko’s favorite stick. Why was it his favorite? Because she had it and he didn’t. Eko wanted to change that

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He romp-bowed to try to run her off the prize

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But she dug in and snatched the stick up

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She evaded both Eko and his hired muscle, then took offDSC05221-1

The chase was on!

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The pup led Eko on a high speed pursuit up and down the beach

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Eko closed the gap…

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And finally caught his prey. Unfortunately, the pup quickly realized Eko is a big sissy and would never steal the stick from her mouth. That’s when she started teasing him

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“Nah-nahnah-nah-nah!” But the pup forgot one thing while taunting Eko…

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Her stick! Eko giddily trotted off with the whining youngster in tow. Although I was quite please with his brotherly solution to the dilemma

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Sharing is caring

If our trip to the beach is any indication, Eko and I are in for a fun summer with the newest addition to our family.

The First Smile of the Year

One of my favorite things is when Eko is happily exhausted, panting with a rolling tongue hanging off the side of his mouth. Eko is a year-round-romper, but a frigid winter limited the duration of any of our outings so I did not get to see any such smiles from Eko.

But a beautiful spring weekend in Chicago thankfully brought out the first real smiles of the year. Eko and I headed out on a jog to meet some friends at the park.

No, these were not our friends, but there was no way I was not taking a photo of these two Easter bunnies. Once the shepherd realized there were no dog treats in the baskets he quickly went on his way

While my friends kicked a soccer ball around, Eko was content to hang out and watch. Once I jumped in the game though, Eko decided to sub himself in as well

Eko was a one dog team, and his favorite move was trying to run between my legs to steal the ball. After chasing me around the field Eko was absolutely whipped

And then that smile finally came out of hibernation!

Tired and content, Eko and I sprawled on out the grass and watched people fly kitesFittingly, one of the kites was a happy pup

Today I have work, bills, moving apartments and a whole list of things I have to do and deadlines I have to meet. But yesterday while Eko and I were on the grass, smiling and watching kites, I didn’t have a care in the world.

Now, refreshed, everything I need to do seems more manageable. It’s amazing what a smile can do for you!

You threw it, why should I fetch it?

Fetch is a simple game – you throw, they retrieve. But after my mom blew my mind the other day with her insight about pet toys, I’ve started to take a second look at familiar things. A recent trip to the park had me rethinking what I can learn from Eko’s struggle to understand fetch.

If I take a ball from home, go to the park with Eko and then throw the ball? Eko assumes I must be throwing it away. He ignores the ball then finds a stick to run around with

On the other hand, my brother’s dog Dutch is so obsessed with fetch he will disregard an oncoming wave because he can’t bare to turn away from the ball

At the park Eko saw how excited Dutch was, but he couldn’t understand the hype. To Eko, my brother was trying to throw something away. Why would Dutch be rude and bring it right back to him? 

Eko gets a bit forlorn when other pups ignore him and prefer to spend their time playing fetch

“I don’t get it, Will.”

I laugh at Eko’s confusion, but I have to admit I don’t get it either. Fetch – a simple game – illustrates a simple lesson. You’re not always going to understand why pets or people love what they do.  Or why they’re passionate about the things they’re passionate about. So just enjoy your passion and enjoy others enjoying theirs.

Although, Eko’s passion is jumping into dogs who won’t play with him so…

I may need to tweak my theory.

What Do Your Pet’s Toys Say About You?

The other day my mom was telling me about which toys her new pup Auggie likes best. “Do you know why I like his toys?” she asked. I guessed durability and cost but my mom just laughed.

Auggie’s (and my mom’s) favorite toys

The soccer ball toy reminded my mom of us kids playing soccer growing up. She’s always loved turtles so she picked that plush toy. My mom has a black and white jacket she likes to wear with a bright green scarf, so when she picked a colored toy for her black and white boy she went straight for green. The black and white lamb was the first toy she bought, before Auggie even came home. It was a cute placeholder to remind her of what was to come.

I like the nostalgia and fun my mom put into toy selection because it’s a peek into who she is and the life she’s lived. That got me thinking about my own choices when I buy toys for Eko. A look into his toybin does show mostly utilitarian toys that have withstood months or years of wear. But that evidence is misleading. My photos show I (shockingly) pick plush toys based on how much they make me smile.

Eko’s first plush toy taught my little Ridgeback to hunt lions

 And a more recent plush toy did hard time with Eko

Eko of course shows no preference when it comes to toys – he’s happy to destroy them all. Yes, I generally pick up whatever is in the discount bin, but if given options I undoubtedly have my own (silly) preferences.

From now on when I visit friends who have pets, I will take a look at what toys are laying around and what that might tell me about that friend.

A favorite color? Style? Animal? What do your pet’s toys say about you?