We have three dogs, but Weagle is definitely the queen/alpha. She was our first, and we got her from the pound when she was just six weeks old and was so tiny she could snuggle in the palms of our cupped hands.
Her name has evolved over time – her given name is Princess Buttercup, but when she was a puppy she had a distinctively Beagle-esque face and howl, and since her exact ancestry was unknown we figured she was some mix of Rottweiler, Beagle, and who knows what, and we started referring to her as Rottweagle (Rottweiler+Beagle), which eventually got shortened to Weagle.
Weagle is now 8 years old – not ancient for a dog, but her muzzle is getting whiter, her bones are getting creakier, and she’s getting crankier. But her primary directive is, and always has been, securing and protecting the pack. She is ever vigilant for trespassers and ne’er-do-wells, and she has never quite accepted that the mailman clambers up onto our porch every single day, in a gross display of border aggression that she meets with strongly worded warnings.
She also is a creature of habit, and if the household routine doesn’t run on schedule, she lets us know with hoots and chuffs – and even barks, if things go completely off the rails (by her definition). For example, if we stay up later than normal, she’ll go stand in the dining room and chuff at us, prancing and lowering her head like a Lipizzaner. We can hush her up for a while, but she can get quite bratty about it, and her ultimate insult is to go to bed without us. She doesn’t sleep, she just lays there petulantly so that she can glare at us when we finally do close up shop for the night.
And although Weagle is a gentle and loving soul with us, her pack-mates, I have no doubts that if an intruder were to enter our house with ill intentions, he’d have a lot of trouble on his hands, as well as blood on his clothes, and either he’d run off to live to fight another day, or Weagle would fight to the death to protect us. There is something quite comforting and primal in knowing that our household is protected by such a vigilant and capable guardian.
Another example of this is that wherever we go, however our furniture is arranged, or if we stay elsewhere, Weagle always goes to bed laying so that her eyes (and teeth) are pointed at the door. Always. It took us a while to figure it out, because she would sometimes contort into such inefficient positions on the bed, but we finally saw the light and now factor her protectiveness into our sleeping logistics.
Which brings us to the inspiration for this post, which is an incident that occurred last night. Yesterday (Sunday), we had a brief visit from The Girl, who came by for a quick pre-semester visit and to pick up a donated vacuum cleaner for the townhouse she just moved into (and out of the dorms). Weagle *loves* when she comes to visit – in fact, if we tell her that Annalisa is coming to visit, Weagle will perk up, ears up, eyes wide, tail thumping, and begin pacing and counting down until her arrival. And Weagle is at her most happiest when The Girl is here on the couch, and Weagle can lay up against her. When Annalisa is here, the pack is complete, and Weagle can finally be content that she is protecting everyone.
The girl headed back to San Marcos yesterday afternoon, and we finished up some home projects, and went to bed at a fairly reasonable hour. Weagle was in her normal position on the bed (up higher than the other mere dogs, of course), and we all settled in. But then Weagle got up, jumped down off the bed, and started pacing around the house. This usually means she needs one last trip outside, so we opened up the back door for her.
After 15-20 minutes she still wasn’t back, and when I peeked out at her through the window, she was laying in the middle of the back driveway – just…laying there. This is *very* uncharacteristic behavior for her. I called her in, and she hopped up and came right in, and I locked up the back and headed to bed.
But Weagle wouldn’t get back up on the bed. She kept pacing around the house, not quite agitated, but also not relaxed either. We figured that maybe she was having belly troubles, so opened the back door back up and went to bed, figuring she’d eventually get it figured out and come to bed.
But she didn’t. Marie went to check on her, and she said that Weagle paced over by the front door, and kept giving her imploring looks and wags. We figured that maybe she was waiting for The Girl to return, but Annalisa is quite the academic vagabond, so she’s always here then gone, or home late, so Weagle would not have had any reason to expect her back.
So we left Weagle to her patrolling, but after a while I was starting to get worried that something was seriously wrong, so I finally went looking for her, and she was laying in the dining room – a place where she never lays. I pulled up a chair and tried to figure out if she was ailing in some way – note that her behavior was now unprecedented, she follows the household routine 100% of the time, so for her to not be in bed, but also not be outside tending to business, and just laying in an uncharacteristic spot was a worrisome combination of factors.
I started having fears that she might be feeling so ill that she was heading off alone, as animals tend to do. But she seemed completely awake, alert, and not physically ailing in any way. I left her in the dining room and went back to bed, but after another hour or so I had to check again, as her behavior was just so strange (for her). She, again, seemed to be comfortable from a physical perspective, but wanted to stay right where she was.
I finally cajoled her into going to bed, which she did with some hesitation. And, after another 30 minutes or so, Weagle jumped down again and ended up spending most of the night sleeping on the bedroom floor just inside the door – again, *very* uncharacteristic behavior. But, from that point forward she (and we) slept through the night relatively normally, and I was prepared to chalk up her behavior as either her missing The Girl or her having some type of physical issue that wasn’t serious, just discombobulating.
Today also happened to be garbage day, which means that one of the first things I did upon waking up was to head out the front door with garbage bags – and that’s when it all became clear to me. The front door was not locked – in fact, it was slightly ajar, by about a half an inch. It was still caught by friction with the door frame, so it wasn’t in danger of flapping open, but it was unlocked and slightly ajar.
Although we now live in a smallish country town, we’re city people, and we always lock up tight every night. But somehow last night we missed checking the front door – but Weagle didn’t. She had even paced over there with Marie and stood and wagged, but in the darkness it wasn’t easily seen. So, Weagle had resigned herself to laying in the dining room, which also is on the route from the front door to our bedroom, and protecting us from our own forgetfulness by remaining in the potential path of any intruders.
I’ll stop here and say to those of you who feel I might be anthropomorphizing and/or reading too much into the circumstances, that you don’t know Weagle. When I told Marie about the door, she also *immediately* knew that this is exactly what was causing Weagle’s restlessness last night. Weagle is a constantly vigilant guardian, and over eight years of living together one gains insight into the behaviors of the other sentient beings of the household, and she was definitely trying to tell us about the door, and when we didn’t ‘get it’, she resigned herself to being extra-vigilant.
Needless to say, she got a whole lot of extra love and praise this morning, which she accepted with characteristic equanimity.