Tale of Tails: Tino Part 4
Gratitude is the memory of the heart.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
Tino settled in to his life with us extremely well. He blended into his low place in our pack like a natural even though he had been the absolute alpha dog with his brother Bernie. He quickly recognized and readily accepted his place at the bottom of the pack in our household without complaint or challenge. I think he was just glad to be there and would happily take whatever love or comfort was given.
Our chocolate lab Sally’s acceptance of Tino was a different story however. I had visions of Sally and Tino becoming good friends, running and playing together – forming a brother-sister bond. She was a very friendly and outgoing dog who loved to play and had several ‘good friends’ who she played with constantly. But that was not to happen. Sally barely acknowledged Tino’s existence. There is never any animosity; she just ignores him like he isn’t even there. The only time she takes notice of him is if he happens to be getting more than his share of attention from either me or Steve. Then she butts her way in between us and Tino meekly slinks away. She will occasionally ‘play’ with him but usually only when there is another dog in the game.
Tino was a real “dog’s dog” and preferred dogs to people and solitude to the togetherness of our pack. When we first got him, Tino slept outside. Slowly, over time he moved from the mud room, to the living room, to the bedroom and eventually on the bed with us. But he still spent the majority of his day outside. We live in California, so the cold is not that much of a factor to his luxuriating in the outdoor sunshine all day long. The only interruption to a full days enjoyment of the outside is rain and even then, there are times if it has been raining for too long, that he just says ‘screw it’ and traipses outside and finds a dry spot under the bushes or the porch to sleep and get his fresh air.
Once he was out of quarantine and had free reign over our entire yard, he discovered the joys of the mailman, the UPS guy and trash day. After his daily run with me in the morning, those visits became the highlight of his day. Each morning, he would patiently wait in the corner of the front yard watching for Pete, the mailman to come by so he could bark ferociously at him and race back and forth along the fence. Once spent, he would sit quietly and politely next to the mailbox and accept the biscuit that Pete offered to him each day.
Tino was very nosy. He monitored the activity of our neighbors very closely and announced their comings and goings robustly. Our neighbors across the street had two dogs, a golden retriever named Buddy and a black Lab named Chloe. Tino watched for them everyday. We also had a neighbor with a bull terrier, Lucy who would come by a couple of times a week for doggie play dates. Tino was finally learning how to play, although he tended to be a little rough. Luckily, Lucy could handle herself and never failed to put him in his place when he got too rambunctious.
Tino never showed any signs of aggression towards a person which was amazing given his history. He loved people. He would be cautious around them at first, but once he felt your hand on his head or under his chin petting him, he would not leave your side.
The only occasion Tino showed signs of aggression towards another dog was to protect his sister Sally. I would run with the dogs each morning along various trails near our home in Pasadena. We went early in the morning and only occasionally ran into other dogs. Usually when we did, they sniffed and circled, maybe a few quick playful romps and we went on our way. There was however, a border collie named Georgia who seemed to have it in for Sally. I’m not exactly sure why, as I said before, Sally was very deferential towards other dogs – always playful, but submissive if the other dog was showing any signs of dominance. This border collie was always dominant with Sally and Sally always approached her meekly, with tail tucked and a willingness to roll over into total submission. To say I disliked this dog was an understatement. She was unpredictable and sometimes would greet us playfully and sometimes she would go after Sally snapping and chasing her. I typically went in the opposite direction when we saw them as the owner rarely had control over her.
One day, as we turned a bend toward the end of our run, there she was, just a few yards in front of us. I had not seen them coming. Before I could grab Sally and Tino and head the other way, she was upon us, and with a vengeance. She immediately went for Sally and Sally yelped. Sally dropped to the ground and rolled on her back. Georgia stood over her and was going for her neck. Tino, who had been lagging a bit behind heard Sally’s yelp and came storming toward Georgia tail raised, hair up and puffing himself out to appear as big as he possibly could. He jumped right into the fray and distracted Georgia away from his sister – ready to do battle if battle was necessary.
As they stared each other down, the owner finally reached us and was able to grab his dog. Once she was under control, Tino knew the danger was over and trotted away as if nothing had happened. Sally had a small bite on her ear, but she too scampered off without sign of any further damage. I gave the owner a piece of my mind and thankfully, we never encountered him with Georgia off leash again.
I was a bit surprised but pleased with Tino’s reaction – he knew to defend his pack against this other dog and he knew when the danger was over and he could go about his business. For a dog who lived by his wits ‘on the streets’ he was as gentle as could be and displayed his gratitude to us ever day in simple ways like this.
Do any of you have stories of gratitude – ways your dog shows his appreciation and thanks to you for your love and care?