Those of you who know are aware that Chrisi is Lu's Black Lab, sister to Trooper. She's different from any other dog we've ever had, even Trooper who was her half brother. She's much more sensitive and shows her emotions more readily. She also has more emotions that Trooper ever did or perhaps she's just more capable of showing them. I know how many view anthropomorphism but I am of the opinion that animals, and especially dogs, have many more emotions than most humans give them credit for. There is absolutely no doubt that Trooper loved me and was perfectly capable of expressing it. Dogs have body language all their own and if you spend enough time with them and pay attention to them you can see it and recognize it for what it is. Chrisi is a fountain of emotions and shows it in her expressive body language and behavior that fairly screams what she's feeling.
Back in August, when Trooper passed, Lu and I knew it was going to be hard on Chrisi, especially with the move. We started preparations for the move shortly afterward and were gone by November. Chrisi's has always hated having her routine upset. Hates it when one of the pack left, even for a few hours. She was sensitive to that Alpha Male's moods. When Trooper passed she went through a period I can only call grief, as deep as that felt by Lu and me. Expected behavior from any dog but felt keenly in a drooped tail and hung head and needing brown eyes.
After the move her behavior continued to change. She rarely showed the boundless joy Labs (and Chrisi in particular) are known for. She's paced and panted. She's escaped from the back yard and wandered the neighborhood, something she'd never done before. She took to wandering around our bed at night, panting, questing, perhaps puzzled. Many times I'd feel her cold nose nudging my arm in the middle of the night, asking a question I couldn't even understand much less answer. She's started sleeping on the bed with us, again something she has rarely done and even disliked when she was younger. I've seen it in her eyes. That lack of something. Call it a spark. Maybe a need she hasn't understood or been able to convey. She's hasn't been eating well. She stopped sharing meals with us and even turned down her beloved pig ears. It's been worrying, especially for Lu. While Chrisi knows who the Alpha Male is and is always attuned to my moods she's Momma's dog. It's Momma who she turns to when she's unsettled, in pain or just needing. She's been glued to Lu like a second shadow, hardly leaving her sight. Then something unexpected happened.
Our daughter and grandkids arrived last month, bringing with them the noise and happy chaos only two kids, 5 and 6, can bring. Lu said she thought that Chrisi would be happy to see them but I was unconvinced. I feared that their presence would unsettle Chrisi further. That the running, and fierce play and playful shouting would cause her to withdraw even more and stress her. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Chrisi has returned to the dog she used to be. She's calm and happy and at peace again. She's taken to sleeping either with the DO or in between the kid's bed at night. She wanders the house, from room to room, checking on the occupants and keeping watch. Her appetite has returned and she's stopped that stressed panting. You can see it in her contented body language. She's happy, really happy, for the first time since Trooper passed.
Perhaps it's the return of her pack, all together again except for one notable absence. Maybe it's her motherly instincts that are telling her the next generation is here and it's her job to guard and protect them. All dogs need a job, a reason to exist. I strongly believe that and you need look no further than Chrisi for proof. When Trooper was alive Chrisi's job was to be the Omega female. Trooper was the watch dog and Chrisi was content to leave him the job. Her job was to be Lu's dog, to run and play and fetch and travel with her. But now he's gone and I think she's discovering, in the kids, that she's inherited his job and she finally understands that. Whatever the truth, I'm grateful she's found her peace and perhaps her new role in the pack.
It's an old saw that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. That is patently false. Chrisi has found a new purpose and a new outlook. It strengthens my feelings that a new dog needs to be added. Chrisi is first and always a companion and she needs the surety of a large pack to feel truly at home. I think her teacher and protector sides are emerging, facets of her personality she and I never knew she possessed (Lu knew though. Lu always knows). A need she didn't know existed until two small children returned to her and showed her that her life still has meaning and purpose. She's still needed.
All at fourteen years old. A truly wondrous gift.