This is Max (below). He’s very old, going on 15. He’s usually in this position, in other words, sleeping, unless someone says his name and the word “walk’ in the same sentence. Then suddenly he’s a puppy again.
Otherwise he’s within 5 feet of wherever I am in the house or yard, 10 feet at most. Unless he decides it’s too hot outside or that the porch furniture isn’t comfortable enough. Then he keeps an eye on me from my bedroom through the sliding glass doors. He’s a practical dog.
Since Max is getting older, he has some memory issues. Sometimes, when he wants to go outside, he stares at the corner of the room instead of the side of the door that opens. It confuses both of us when the door opens into him standing in the wrong place.
His joints aren’t what they used to be either. He has a hard time getting up onto the couch these days, but he still has his pride. We got him one of those little doggy staircases to make getting on the couch easier. He looked at it like we’d wounded him, then went and figured out an easier place to jump onto the furniture.
Despite his age, Max still keeps us safe from delivery people with packages, and anyone wearing a baseball cap. It’s very sunny in Albuquerque, and baseball caps are the most popular method for protecting the eyes from the sun year round. This means constant vigilance from Max, but that’s gotten difficult to maintain as he’s aged. He’s settled for semi-retirement and using the doorbell as an early warning system.
This is Koko the Wonder Dog. She was meant to be a diabetes service dog for Metamaiden, but diabetes technology has improved enough that now Koko gets to be an informal therapy dog and dog-who-deters-robbers-with-her-incessant-barking. She and Max are partners in this endeavor.
Their guard post is the arm chair in front of the living room window, which faces the street. It’s manned, or dogged, if you will, sporadically, to keep potential intruders on their toes, but the auditory alert system is always in effect, even when it looks like both dogs are sleeping. If Koko or Max hear a delivery truck, baseball cap, or another dog within 200 feet of the house, the offender will be loudly warned away.
Don’t ask how Max can hear baseball caps. It’s a special gift, honed over many years. If you’ve watched Netflix’s Daredevil, you might begin to understand the intricacies of his process of sensing air flow and shifty head movements. It’s an art that will likely be lost when he’s gone, as he hasn’t passed it on to Koko.
Koko is a goldendoodle, which means she should have long, flowing, curly locks over an undercoat that’s like a wool blanket. Since she’s a desert dog, she very much prefers to be shaved. She’s like a feminist icon in that way. She can’t be bothered with high maintenance hairstyles simply for the sake of looking good. No suffering for fashion here. She has multiple jobs to do.
In her mind, her most important job is trying to bring us birds. That would be because of the golden retriever side of the goldendoodle genetics. The curly locks come from the poodle side.
Our silly, silly chickens have never been willing to cooperate and let her carry them around in her mouth, so she tries to carry their eggs around instead. The Metawitches have never appreciated dog slobber all over breakfast, so this is discouraged, even though Koko is very gentle with the eggs and doesn’t break them.
We’ve compromised with bright orange plastic balls the size of tennis balls. Tennis balls are out because they damage dogs’ teeth in the long-term. Over the last few years, we’ve probably bought 2 dozen orange balls. Like socks and live birds, they wander away on their own and can only occasionally be found. You’d think the bright orange would help.
Koko is very, very dedicated to her retrieval job. She feels that she should be working at it for all of her waking hours. I, Metacrone, am the main indoor ball thrower, as my usual position on the living room couch allows for intricate bounce patterns into the kitchen and hall. I have always had surprisingly good aim for being otherwise completely unathletic and accident prone.
Koko ALWAYS brings the balls back to me, no matter who threw them. She usually has a minimum of 2, up to a maximum of 8 balls in play at any given time. Any attempt by me to move the balls away from myself is seen by Koko as an opportunity to retrieve them. Like I said, she’s a dedicated and hard worker. She will hear me moving the balls when she is asleep and at the other end of the house, in the middle of the night, and wake up to come retrieve them, because I will surely need them soon. I generally give up and sit surrounded by bright orange balls. Please try to still take me seriously as a writer.
When she sleeps, Koko often keeps a couple of the balls for herself. She’s a large enough dog that she can fit 2 balls in her mouth at a time. She likes to sleep with 2 in her mouth sometimes, so that she knows they’re safe. She also likes to hide them under Max for me to find like Easter eggs when she wants to give me a change of pace. She will stare meaningfully at me until I figure out where she’s hidden them. If I don’t get the hint, she’ll whimper. This will go on for as long as it takes. She was bred for perseverance, after all.
Sometimes Koko decides that her humans aren’t having enough fun with the ball game, so she goes even further to hide them for us. She puts them in other places in and around the furniture, or the yard if we’re outside, then encourages us to find them before we throw them back to her. She will become very insistent if we take too long. Sometimes she can’t believe our stupidity, but she tries to be patient.
Really, breeders need to be careful with this whole service dog thing. They are smart enough to take over the world at the first sign of a breakdown in the social order, and most are trained to be in control and lead people around. It’s a doggy coup and dictatorship in the making. Koko is the sweetest, most easy-going dog ever. If she wasn’t, she’d probably already have staged a coup and taken control of the house from the cats.
Mr Metawitches is chief outdoor ball thrower and dog walker. Koko lives for the ball throwing, but is a total homebody when it comes to the walks. This was a bit of an issue when she was supposed to be a service dog, but is fine now. Koko and Max have an arrangement where she is in charge of exercising Mr Metawitches’ upper body, and Max is in charge of exercising his legs. It’s a balanced system.
The two dogs cooperate well together like that, despite their age and size difference. They are role models for us all.