Bobby and Andy have finally made peace with each other, but I'm not sure I'm happy with the terms of their agreement.
Theirs is a simple deal: Bobby pulls things off the counters and Andy eats them. Me? I clean up the mess.
I knew the dogs would get along eventually, but I had hoped they'd team up in play, not destruction. After six years of living with Andy the Brat, you'd think I'd know better.
Bobby and Andy are an unlikely pair. Young Bobby is a shelter dog, his status elevated from foster dog to permanent family member soon after his arrival a few weeks ago. He's one of the happiest, most outgoing dogs I've ever met, his disposition as sunny as the color of his coat -- a bright, shiny gold.
Andy took over my house when he was a 10-week-old scrap of fluff. He has always had an endearingly bad attitude, a dark side that likewise matches his coat color -- steel-gray and black, like a winter thunderstorm. Boisterous Bobby just got on his nerves.
I came down hard on Andy's warning growls to the newcomer, but the dirty looks and sulking continued even after the older dog realized that Bobby's biggest problem -- chewing when left alone -- had a definite up side for him. Andy is too cool to go to the effort of pulling things down himself, but he won't turn up his nose at food on the floor.
So it was that the boys teamed up to eat two bags of pasta, a box of oatmeal, a sack of dog cookies and the piece d'resistance -- a full bag of garbage. After the first couple of incidents, I got better at putting things out of Bobby's reach, while working to diminish the anxiety that prompted his errant behavior.
Still, the possibility of food kept Andy at Bobby's side, and eventually he seemed to find other things to like about the younger dog. The two started wrestling a little in the morning, and sleeping close to one another at night. The dogs head for bed before I do, and sometimes I'd walk in on a big mound of fur next to the bed, with Bobby and Andy snuggled together.
But Andy still wasn't his normal obnoxious self until the other day, when I caught him and Bobby in an act of destruction. I'd just finished grocery shopping and had left the bags on the kitchen table to answer the phone in the other room. I disconnected quickly when I heard a "thunk" and went into the kitchen to read the riot act to the two dogs.
Bobby crouched low when I entered, ears back, eyes pleading, the perfect picture of canine contrition. Andy raised his head, a piece of cardboard packaging dangling from his jaws. His eyes met mine, but with no sign of guilt. He strutted over and dropped the package at my feet, then swung his muzzle around to view the prostrate Bobby with disdain. Andy glanced cooly up to me again before ambling from the room, leaving me standing in the middle of the garbage pile that had been a bag of groceries.
I hadn't seen such a display of bad attitude since Bobby moved in. It pointed to one thing: Andy the Brat was back, at long last.
To me, it was worth the mess.
Ms. Spadafori is a licensed pet trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o At Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.