A Mystery Solved
My evening routine has developed in such a way that I feed the dogs separately. That is because when we come back from our evening walk Sweetie insists on being tied up in front of the apartment so she can continue her archaeological research. Misha, having had as much of the big wide world as her nerves can stand, comes inside and waits while I fix her dinner. Once she is fed I go out and sit with Sweetie and write and have a single beer. Then Sweetie comes in, and she gets fed and then I fix something for myself. Sweetie likes to hang out near the entrance to the kitchen while I'm cooking my dinner. Misha will not come near, except occasionally she musters her courage and comes and lurks, slightly embarrassed, near the fridge. Because she is afraid of Sweetie at dinnertime. I have been aware of the fear but not really of what communication passes between them to prompt it.
Tonight I had eggs for dinner and offered the shells to the dogs as a treat. I put one eggshell in Misha's dish, and another in Sweetie's dish. Misha sniffed sadly at hers and Did Not Want, even when I held them out to her. Sweetie condescended to take hers by hand, so she was licking at the inside of the shells, while Misha watched from a distance looking despondent. I mean, her eggshell was still in her dish, I had offered it to her, she hadn't wanted it, and now that Sweetie was eating hers she was all like "Nobody loves me." I looked back at Sweetie for a second, she had paused in the egg-licking, and she was giving Misha that Look. It's her "Come an inch closer and you will learn a few new things about crazy, beeyotch." I'd seen her do it before, but never at home and never to Misha. It's the look Sweetie gets when she and I visit my aunt and uncle and she takes command of any area where food and attention are dispensed. She sort of quietly composes herself into a ball near the table and looks deranged. The intent is to frighten the bejabers out of their two standard poodles. It works too, which is remarkable considering that she backs it up with nothing but the most bloodcurdling snarls, and considering that the poodles each weigh twice what she does. Also she did it at once or twice at the Tick Ranch when she suspected that there was a critter's nest under the shed. Sat there like that, curled up, with the Look, in the boiling sun, for hours, and would not be induced to come inside.
Once we all went out on an outing to the Eastern Shore--my aunt, my uncle, my mother, the two poodles, and Sweetie. The others went off to lunch but I opted to stay, with Sweetie, in this nearby park and paint. I wasn't keen to spend two hours in a restaurant and I didn't want to leave Sweetie in the car with the other dogs. I set up my easel and Sweetie dug herself a little nest in some dirt a few feet away. We were quite content, the two of us, for the next couple of hours. The others came back, the two poodles bounding across the grass ahead of the people. They got within about ten feet of the easel and Sweetie, snarling, just sort of herded them out of the vicinity. She had apparently created a perimeter around herself and me, and these two poodles were not to be allowed into it. She sat back in her nest with the Look on her face, and whenever any of them ventured too near, Sweetie would spring up and escort him away.