I’ve told you this before, but just so you’ll know about the dogs: Sugar was three weeks old when she came from the pound, dropped in a barrel by the door during a thunderstorm. Other than thunder, she’s afraid of nothing, and has always been sure of her place in the world, and her right to mail carriers, delivery vans, and my neighbor’s shoes while she’s wearing them. Once she bucked loose from me and jumped one of the two dogs another neighbor was walking. The neighbor, being a nice man, did not kick her head in. He hung her with her own leash. When she was calm, he sat her down. She shook her head, took stock of the situation, grinned and jumped the second dog. Understand, no teeth touched flesh, just a lot of air-gnashing and hair pulling.
Spunky? Though she and Sugar are the same age, Spunky arrived, also from the pound, over two years later, anorexic, trembling, with a mouthful of rotten teeth and her heart riddled with worms. “Daddy, daddy,” a child said, “look at this dog, she’s so skinny, she looks like a toy dog, but she’s a real dog, ain’t she cute?” It’s taken ten years of coddling for Spunky to come into her own.
Several months ago the girls got into a beech fight. Because my husband picked Sugar up and moved her out of the fray, both dogs thought Spunky won. She became Alpha Princess, bossing Sugar around with a toothless snarl, while we prophesized one day Sugar would get tired of it and take her down. Sunday was the day. My husband was giving them pieces of jerky treat, when Sugar got too close and TOUCHED SPUNKY’S BACK. Spunky whipped around to gum Sugar to death and Sugar knocked Spunky down, pinning her on her back between the couch and the chair. It looked as if blood would flow, maybe from Spunky having her throat ripped open. I was the mobile one, and I jerked Sugar up and away. Even though Sugar had again been the dog removed, nobody thought Spunky won.
Spunky got up and fled, first walking pretty steadily, but by the time she reached the living room, limping as if her leg were broken. I inspected. No blood, no pain, but her leg was very wet, as if Sugar had slobbered all over it. I picked the poor princess up, carried her to the couch, and tried to love her back to health. It must have worked, because by the time the leg had dried, Spunky was walking with no limp. “She just wanted us to know what Sugar had done,” my husband said.
Still, whenever Sugar passed by the couch where Spunky usually sits, Spunky would snarl that toothless snarl, and wave a limp paw, just so, you know, Sugar would fully understand how badly she had behaved. Not that Sugar cared, but you always gotta tell on them first.