Being brothers

Buttons was a year and a half old when we brought Scooby home. Two boys with such a small age gap between them – every expert would have told us it was a bad idea.  (The ideal age gap between two dogs, just like for humans, should be at least 3 years. And they should preferably be of opposite genders so that there are no territory wars or gender-related tension.) But we didn’t know any of it. With only the mildest of qualms, we brought S home.

The initial days were easier than we would have expected – but B being B was amazing. He was puzzled and worried, but let S into the house, the bedroom, even on the bed. And S, thankfully, has a high EQ. He would sense B’s every emotion and mood and respond in the appropriate manner. Yet, despite all of this – and SR’s constant presence at home – we did have skirmishes. There were sudden flareups, lots of growling and many raised hackles.

Around this time, we had to travel and we dropped both B and S off at a new boarding place, which did not agree with B. More about that in another post. But whatever he experienced there changed him – he started showing signs of fear and aggression towards the most loving gestures and I was bitted twice in three months. But we didn’t take this too seriously either.

But nothing was as horrifying as the Big Scare of 2016, when while playing, B’s teeth got caught in S’s collar, almost strangling him. Poor B could not get himself loose and he struggled, getting bitten and mauled by S, who was choking. In their frenzy, they had rolled under the bed and by the time SR and I came running – which must have been ten seconds later – enough damage was done. I stuck my hand in the middle and unclipped S’s collar (which was thankfully the press-button type and not a classic buckle).B had a nasty gash on his forehead and was bleeding badly. S was spluttering and gasping for breath but was otherwise uninjured.

When I look back, the days proceeding the Big Scare are a hazy mix, although some images crop up with startling clarity. Sitting in the bathroom with B, a tiny, scared figure with a nasty gash on his forehead; talking to him soothingly, putting betadine on his wound and calming him down, while SR sat with S in the other room, stroking his back as he regained his breath. B with a big, white bandage around his little head, walking weakly up to the balcony to bark me goodbye, like he did everyday; and the tears blurring my vision as I wept in the car, hating having to go to work, but having no choice.

But the real damage was emotional. For over a month afterwards, B and S were wary – giving each other a wide berth. S was on high alert for the slightest shift in anna’s demeanour and my heart broke to see that little guy be so stressed throughout the day, not relaxing completely even in his sleep. And Buttons’ behavioural issues started becoming worse. He would retreat into his den (under the old sofa) at every opportunity, showing lacklustre interest in food, even his erstwhile favourite chicken meals. Any time S passed that way, a low warning growl would sound from under the sofa.

It was a time of high tension for all of us.

Somehow, miraculously, we worked through all of it. We took Buttons to a canine behaviourist, who helped us understand his body language and communication signals. Talking to her showed us the incidents and stimuli that triggered B’s nervousness, his worst fears. We started being more aware, using learned techniques to distract them and dispel tension, whenever we felt it building up. We began feeding them in separate rooms, behind closed doors, so that they could eat in peace.

Eventually, we got to a point where B and S were friends again – cautious initially, then delighted, and now, inseparable. Every time we walk in and catch sight of the two of them playing or curled up next to each other, our hearts sing in joy. There’s perfect understanding between them – B leaves a teeny bit of his food in his bowl for S to lick clean; and S respects his anna by waiting outside the room patiently till anna has finished and comes over to touch noses with him and give him permission to eat what’s left. B, the lazy bum he is, lies regally on the sofa while S stands in the balcony patiently, sounding alert growls when he spots the rottweiler from the next block out on a walk. Only then does B deign to get off the sofa and go check what’s up.

That is not to say everything is always hunky-dory. But given how well-meaning, yet inept we are as parents (I can see B nodding in agreement), I think we got real lucky with these two. There is someone watching over our kids, keeping them safe and happy. May they live long and prosper – together.



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