Sunday, March 3, 2013


Leo, Irina and Eddie's dog, died last week.  It was his time, and he had as good a life as any dog ever did.  Leo has appeared on this blog now and again in the past, and this, sadly, will be the last time. 
Leo was the first male dog to befriend Max in his new neighborhood--for all I know, the first adult male of his species he ever had a friendship with.  They didn't play, they didn't show overt affection--they just treated each other with respect and great understanding, and I know Max considered Leo his superior in the loose-knit 'pack' structure of the general neighborhood--never once did I see Leo exploit Max's subordinate status, or make any big deal out if it.  It was just an accepted fact between the two of them.  They were always interested in each other, always pleased when they happened to meet.  
Leo was what Cesar Millan would call "Calm Assertive".  An alpha, but one who had nothing to prove to anybody.  He walked through the run like the wise king he was born to be, reassuring the dogs around him with his quiet confidence, his tail held high like a banner.  He didn't threaten dogs who seemed to be out of line--he just leaned on them a little, and they calmed down.   He enjoyed watching them clown around, but he rarely joined in.

The day these photos were taken, over four years ago, there was this young unneutered male who wouldn't leave Max alone.  He was the opposite of a calm assertive--he had everything to prove, and he'd chosen Max as his victim--he meant no real harm, just heeding his immature instincts--it was pleasurable for him to assert his dominance over this larger male, who had no intention of accepting it, but that just meant the game could go on and on indefinitely.    Max snapped at him, barked at him, moved away from him--nothing made him stop.   Max could have given him a good chewing out (literally), but that just isn't his way.  I was starting to think I'd have to take Max out of the run, even though we hadn't been there that long, and it was a nice day.  As annoying as the dog's behavior was, it wasn't violent aggression, so I didn't want to make a stink about it with his people.  And I was curious to see if somehow the situation could be resolved without human interference.
I've never seen anything quite like what happened next--Leo saw Max's distress, understood what was causing it.   He walked over quietly, and I swear he talked to the little dog.  Talked to him.  Not with words, but with the language of the body.  His hackles stayed down, he never uttered a single growl, but the little dog understood he was in the presence of a true leader, and that he simply didn't qualify for that job, at least not yet.   He backed off, and didn't bother Max or any other dog for the rest of the time we were there.  

And Max knew exactly what Leo had done for him.   And so did I.   And this is my small way of thanking him.  And all dogs like him.   And the sadly small number of human beings like him.   But there are some.   I hope.

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