Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Odd Couple

We're dogsitting again. Yes, it's true. Jasper, the 85 lb bulldog, is once again gracing our humble home with his snoring, flatulent presence. He's like part of the family, and he's visited us often since we've had our other young man, Linus, at the home. But this was his first extended visit.

Jasper is largely indifferent to cats. In fact, aside from a short sniff hello, he tends to ignore them altogether. Linus, on the other hand, is still enough of a kitten that we were worried about his reaction. Because Jasper has been here so often, he has to think of the house as an extension of his own territory. He knows the house, and when he comes over he knows right where we keep his toys. (Yes, Jasper has toys that live at our house). As you may imagine, this perturbs the cat. In fact, the first time Linus caught sight of Jasper, he inflated himself to about five times his ordinary appearance and sought higher ground. But within an hour, Linus had established himself as the Alpha, and things have gotten pretty interesting around here.

We clipped Linus' claws very carefully before Jasper's visit, but were nonetheless concerned that the cat might actually hurt the dog. We found, however, that Linus is keeping his claws in when he hits the dog. And unfortunately, Jasper takes it on the chin a few times a day from the cat, quite literally. To be clear, lest people think we're allowing the animals to abuse one another, we're pretty sure Linus is not trying to injure the dog. He's just making a point.
Of course, all the power struggles end when the kids get sleepy, anyway. The very first evening we had Jasper with us, D and I snuggled up on the couch for a movie and, before long, two sleepy animals settled in on top of us like a warm blanket. D lucked out and got Linus. Jasper, however, who sees me as the Mama he never had, parked his rear end on my lap and stayed there until I lost all sensation in both legs. We weren't exactly comfortable, but the boys fell asleep about a foot away from each other.

Our animal expert friends have suggested that we monitor the animals as they get to know one another, but otherwise not to fuss over them too much. So far, it's been working. Their friendship is solidifying. Sort of. Jasper really likes Linus and follows him around like, well, like a dog. Linus, for his part, is highly amused. He tries to hide his affection, but lately we have noticed some secret naptime cuddling. Linus starts with one paw out and gently touches the dog on the back. Once he's sure the dog is sleeping and won't sniff in his face, he will put the other arm there as well, and the two sleep like that, in a strange embrace.
The daytime invites greater caution on both sides. The two will carefully touch noses now, although Jasper holds his breath, as he knows that Linus has mental problems and that one loud snoof is all it takes to send jittery Linus skittering away at top speeds.
One peculiarity we've noticed is that Linus' position as the Alpha has gone so far that if he is in a doorway, the dog will not walk past him. The cat, for his part, just lays there as if he's not doing anything wrong while Jasper whines and barks until one of us comes and moves Linus from his path. This happens even when Linus is sleeping, so we don't think it's an issue of Linus bullying him but rather a deference issue. Whatever the cause, we hope they work this out quickly, because most of these stand-offs occur in the wee hours of the morning.

All in all, the kids seem to having fun together. They're both getting a lot of attention individually, but when we're not actively playing with them, they seem content to pal around together. And we're making constant progress. Jasper has also stopped trying to demolish Linus' toys, and it's been a few days since Linus fired off any paw slaps. Unfortunately, we still haven't been able to fully prevent them from sampling one another's food.

Here are some pictures of the fledgling friendship:
First night:

While Jasper is nuzzling his "dudes," Linus takes opportunity to sniff a paw:


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