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Sunday, September 20, 2009

What's in a family?


What's in a family anyway?

It wasn’t long ago that I did an article on litter mate syndrome as well as one on who is the leader of the pack in your home. Both articles dealt with the family dynamics of a pack, either with or without human involvement. It’s been about four years since Steeler was brought back to me and integrated into his biological family unit and in that four years, while he has come a long way from the out of control fence breaking, wall pounding, window jumping dog who turned my body into one gigantic black and blue mark for about six months, he still has a ways to go. He is a great Therapy Dog and does interact well with other outside dogs he meets; however he is still unknowing of how to treat his own family.
From that very first time he pulled the gate right out of the wall to go after his mother Abby in the kitchen to the time he beat the crap out of our gentle Golden, Casey, over a dinner plate , Steeler has learned a little etiquette but his family is still very untrusting of him. Sister Emma will try to interact and show him how to play politely, but soon gives up when Steeler just does not get it. Mom Abby has over time become more fearful of him in her golden years as he can really body slam her and that hurts. Bentley will sit or lie down in one position until I or someone from the family walks outside to save him from the torment, and Chance will open a can of whoop ass on him if Steeler dare show himself a threat to any family member, be it human or dog, while he is in the area.

When Steeler first came back to us he worked his way through the family by intimidation and threats, until one day he picked on his mother, Abby, a little too much while Chance was coming through the back gate. There was no time for me to exhale any words from my throat as within seconds Chance was virtually on top of Steeler’s back riding him like a horse, all the while biting and pulling at Steelers neck. Steeler stood strong for quite some time as Chance rode him with all four feet being lifted off the ground due to Steeler’s height. I did not know how long Steeler could undergo such brutality and remain standing and that was the day I thought Steeler would die. Thankfully Steeler went down to the ground and gave into defeat as Chance stood over him. Surprisingly no serious wounds had occurred to either dog, except for the wound of self esteem. Steeler took a turn for the better that day, although he still does not quite get the play bowing, or the non threatening moves that one does to maintain peace among the group, he has come a long way and his memory of that day with Chance seems to be forever etched in not only my mind but Steelers as well.

So here it is, nearly four years later and finally I have been able to capture these interactions on film. Daddy Bentley was purposely left out of this one but I do hope to catch Steeler’s interaction with him on film as well someday.

It has always been said by me that bringing a puppy into an already established pack was a lot easier than bringing in an adult dog and Steeler, through no real fault of his own, has proven that to me over and over again.

Through the video you will see how Steeler’s continuous barking is ignored by his sister Emma, who seems to be thinking, yeah , yeah what ever, to how he tries to manipulate or intimidate mom Abby by towering his body over hers, putting his neck over her neck until she either fights back, or comes to stand by me. It will be just the three of them at first with Chance just on the other side of the fence listening to everything that is going on and you can hear Chance whining a bit in the background. The dynamics will soon change when Chance is let into the backyard to be with us.

So here it is, a Newfoundland’s story told by a human, but seen through the eyes of a dog.

Happy Watching!

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