Toy Story

Auntie Laura is the best. First, she gives up a whole day to help you ride home from the shelter, and sits in the back seat with you even though she gets carsick, and doesn’t even care that you’re stinky and farting up the car for three hours.

I wrote that from Bosco’s perspective. Really. I swear.

Last week Auntie Laura gave Bosco a huuuuuuuuuge basket of dog toys. I will admit to being  skeptical about his enjoyment potential.  I recalled Rop at BARC saying Bosco didn’t understand toys. He was given a toy to come home with, and I’d purchased a few others, hoping to understand what he liked.

He had no reaction to toys – unless you count that he destroyed a fleecey pillow  when he was at a doggie hotel, and I consider that to be more about boredom than play. I like to play catch with a ball, but he just doesn’t get how it works – he flings himself in front of the ball, and then gets upset when it hits him. His idea of play is to run around the yard, and then run at me. Only problem is that he doesn’t know how to stop on his own. So he runs into me. I think about Joe Theisman a lot.

So I brought home Laura’s stuffed toys, figuring that they’d sit around untouched for a few weeks, and then I’d get sick of tripping over them and put them away in a closet.

But Bosco surprised me. I set the basket down and waited to see what he’d do. I thought he’d at least get off the sofa to check it out, but instead he just leeeeeeeeaned off the cushion edge to look. Then the faux-fur bonding began.

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Bosco’s number one draft pick, a fleecy sheep with red feet, got carried up on the sofa. Within the hour he had his starting lineup. This rotation includes a teddy bear AND a giraffe. Wilfred viewers will understand why that made me more than a little nervous.

Now here’s the thing – I don’t know what dogs are supposed to do with stuffed toys. My beagle had 26 tennis balls, and one stuffed toy that he’d throw into the refrigerator as a diversion to snatch food. My parents’ dog treated stuffed animals as puppies, and she was protectively weird with them. Do male dogs do the fake puppy thing?

Apparently Bosco does. Over the next 24 hours, he picked which toys went upstairs to his bed. And yes, the bear and giraffe are in that group.  But it seems he has nurturing on his mind. Since I hadn’t fed them in a week, Bosco decided to take on that responsibility himself.

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Bosco’s a family man now.

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The Paw

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When Bosco moved in, he didn’t know what to do with himself, or me.  He spent his first few weeks sitting in corners pressed against the wall. He never turned his back on me. He wouldn’t eat when I was watching. He wouldn’t let himself fall asleep when I was in the room.

But at the same time, he thought that maybe he might sort of like it if there was a chance of someone considering the possibility of skritching his ears.

Maybe.  But he wasn’t going to commit to that.

He would slowly walk up to me, and stand with an expression of longing and uncertainty. He wanted affection, but it made him uncomfortable.

I tried to be sensitive to the situation, but the reality is that Bosco is so cute and cuddly, it’s hard not to hug him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him and call him good boy. And when I do that, he ducks his head away from me, and curls himself up into a  question mark shape. Teacher Robyn says that means he can’t handle that level of intimacy.

So then I would back off and let him set the tone – which was to stand in front of me with an expression of longing and uncertainly.  But then we found a middle ground.

Robyn, just skip this paragraph, okay?  One evening I came home to find Bosco sleeping on the sofa. My last dog was not allowed on the furniture, and I’d intended to keep that policy with Bosco. But that night, he was so cute. And he gave me his first super happy tail wag. And I sat down next to him and told him how cute he was and how much I loved him. And he pressed himself against me. We started to sit on the sofa together, with his butt pressed against my hip, and my arm draped over his back. Then I would sneak in subtle petting on his shoulder, and he would fall asleep.

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So we turned the corner. For the next few months, I woke up in the middle of the night to find him at my bedside with his head on the mattress, staring at me. I’d say “I’m still here, baby,” he’d get happy, I’d pet his head, and then he’d go back to his bed.

We’re building on Bosco loving, bit by bit. Sometimes when we’re on the sofa, I get his head in my lap. One night when I had a houseguest, I had half the dog in my lap. That’s when I knew that I am “his person,” and he wanted to make sure my guest knew that too.

We’re working towards the big one – tummy rubs. Whenever Bosco’s proud of himself, and/or all worked up, he will leap into my arms. When he’s really happy, he’ll fall down and roll over for a few seconds. I try to get some quality rubbing in there before he realizes what’s happening. Right now it’s still too much for him to lay there all exposed, but I can tell he likes it.

But best of all…. Bosco’s gotten used to receiving affection by me petting his shoulder. I’ve used that to idly connect with him while I do something else, to keep him from being nervous when we walk outside, and to reset his comfort level after I’ve cuddled him too hard. And now he does it to me. He takes his big paw, puts it on my shoulder, and moves it down my arm. And then he does it again.

Bosco pets me.