Saturday, March 12, 2005

Elsie the Tease

So while Ridge has been out of commission with his recent dental issues, Elsie and Baxter have played 1:1 more than usual. All along we've known that Baxter teases with the best of them, but we didn't realize just how much a tease Elsie has become. It's starting to show.

Oh, to be sure, Baxter still nudges and flaunts and boasts, but Elsie lately does just as much so, or more. Picking up Kongs, ropes, or bones, she holds each in her mouth just far enough to create a firm grasp while leaving enough of the toy exposed for the other dogs to grab hold. Once she's gripped the toy securely, she trots up to Baxter or Ridge, nudges him with her nose or the exposed end of the toy, and then turns and runs.

Little imp.

She'll do this inside or outside. Doesn't matter. She just likes to tease.

The funny thing is that the fun for her seems to be the chase, not the toy. She's happy to give up whatever item she carries once the boys have chased her for a time. It's not about the toy; it's about companionship. She loves company (canine or human).

And that's a good thing. Baxter enjoys company, too, and will play her game all day. Ridge, wise old four-year-old that he is, engages Elsie's teases only briefly, then demonstrates his dominance. He gets the toy and disappears with it. He always wins.

But Elsie wins, too. She gains attention and playtime and a reminder of her place in the pack. All three help her feel secure. It's a win-win routine. Labs instinctively work these things out.

I wish humans could work things out as easily and with as much fun. Teasing, power plays, vying for attention, asserting dominance--in humans these issues end in (or are accomplished through) violence or wounding (emotional or otherwise). They never result in win-win; it's more like win-lose.

We have something to learn from our canine friends here: it's possible for us to engage one another and establish our roles without it having to cost someone so much. It can be win-win, if only we're willing to make it so.

'Til next time,

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