In the past year, we lost two beloved pets, Speeds, an indomitable spitz-type alpha female of small size and huge heart, and Lucky, a border collie of quiet, intense observation, fluid action, and incapacitating fear of thunderstorms, even when they were fifty miles or more away. We have another female dog, Lollygag, a hovawort (we believe). We acquired Lolly when the other two were already old. The day we met her, in the pound, she let us carry her in the crook of an elbow, on her back, her belly already evidence of a good appetite. She was an easy-going creature, with very soft, long, curly hair.
We had also three cats. So there are stories, maybe a entire book, about the interaction of the six characters, two species, in a fairly small house.
Now, though, I’m thinking of one particular habitual kindness of Lucky to Lolly. It deepened my understanding and appreciation of fondness between animals. Lolly often came home from walks with small twigs, briars, leaves, and especially burrs, entangled in her coat. She didn’t want us to brush her or try to remove the burrs. She would huff and move away, sometimes go to bed early. Lucky could groom her, though. He would lie on his belly by her and with his teeth gently comb out burr by burr. Lolly would lie perfectly still for this, turn over when it was time, and Lucky would continue until the burrs were gone. He left them on the floor, in a little row here and there or a pile. He didn’t attempt the briars or leaves. We had to devise ways of getting Lolly’s cooperation in their removal.
Maybe this kind of grooming is common in the canine family, and I just happened to have two dogs who were friendly enough and smart enough to work out the problem together. Since I had never seen that behavior among dogs, I assumed it was because Lolly adored Lucky—which she most definitely, boisterously did—and he knew it, and loved her back.