It might be a rustle coming from the kitchen.
Or a person knocked off balance by a loving charge and jump.
Or even just a moment when everyone realizes it’s been too quiet for too long.
Take whatever evidence you prefer. The conclusion is the same: there’s a lot more canine in the Rochat household than there used to be.
As regular readers know, Heather and I have kept a one-dog household for quite some time. But now, Duchess the Wonder Dog, the shyest lab-border collie mix in the universe, has company. Bounding, exuberant, seriously clumsy company.
I usually tell people that Blake is part Labrador and part Clydesdale. He belongs to my sister-in-law Jaimee, who has a soft spot for black dogs that are big on muscle and short on coordination. When she stayed with us over Christmas, Blake stayed, too.
And when she left after Christmas, Blake left, too … but not for long. A few days later, we had a boarding request on our hands.
With his people moving into a new place and shifting to a new schedule, it seems Big Blake was having big trouble adjusting. And like many a big guy in a confusing situation, Blake began singing the blues. I’m told the concerts were quite moving … and quite audible to the new neighbors.
So he wound up boarding with us. Just for a while, until things stabilize and Jaimee can help bring the big lug into his new home a little more easily.
And, like all parents, we’ve found you can’t judge the new child by the old one.
Duchess, when you return home, will scamper and smile and sometimes bark. Blake will run up and slam you like the front four of the Denver Broncos.
Duchess will give “cookie eyes” when you have food nearby. Blake will reach out and sample unguarded plates … on high countertops.
Duchess will bark to warn you of a stranger. Blake will bark to warn the stranger.
Duchess often keeps her distance until someone is close family. Blake will park on your feet and be ready for love.
And the two together … hoo, boy. The day they joined forces to break into Blake’s food bin will forever live in family legend, as well as in the X-rays of Blake’s massively distended stomach.
If it sounds like I’m teasing Blake … well, yeah, a little. But you do that with family, even with dogs-in-law.
Really, it’s been a learning experience. And that’s the best part.
It happens with any new arrival: a spouse, a child, a pet, a roommate. Half your time is spent learning the new person, but the other half is spent learning yourself. You start to see yourself in the other person’s eyes, become aware of absent-minded habits, maybe even start to trim your behavior to better suit your teammate.
In that learning, through it, love grows.
So yes, we’ve surrendered a little more space on the bed. (OK, more than a little – Clydesdale, remember?) But we’ve gained so much. More life and laughter, more warmth and affection, more company in quiet weekends and late nights.
It’s going to be hard when the time comes for him to go back with Jaimee. I don’t deny it. But she needs her stumbling klutz, too, and I won’t ever be the one to say no.
Besides, I doubt anyone would hear me over the thundering gallop, anyway.