After I got married, my dog Quagmire found himself as part of a three-dog family for the first time ever. And he’s having adjustment issues. He’s been rather spoiled for the past few years. He’s been the center of my world, the apple of my eye. My snuggle partner in crime.
Now, all of a sudden, he’s the tiniest dog in a pack. I’m not even sure Junior, the Australian Shepherd, is aware that Quag is a dog. “What is this little rodent-sized creature that’s nipping at my heels?” he seems to say.
Quagmire can walk right under him without even having to lower his head. Not that he would. Because he’s way, way too busy trying to be Alpha. The two of them are very confused with one another. Quagmire growls. Junior, being deaf, ignores him, and tries to herd him from room to room. And that makes Quagmire growl even more.
Sweet Nelly, the third dog in this menagerie, tries her best to stay out of it. She looks at me with pleading eyes, as if to say, “None of this is my fault.” The curse of being a middle child.
If the Brady Bunch taught us nothing else, it’s that there are bound to be growing pains with every blended family. But when I see Quagmire following Nelly around in awe, or when he snuggles up against dear husband and contentedly snores while we watch a movie, I know that somehow, some way, it will all work out perfectly, and that some bright, shiny day, hopefully in the very near future, he’ll stop trying to mark his territory on our lovely hardwood floors.
One of the best things about having two dogs is that you learn a great deal about the concept of territory. The alpha dog spends a lot of time defending his turf, and the beta dog uses up a great deal of energy demonstrating that he knows he’s not in charge. “I’m just a submissive visitor in your land, sire. Please don’t hurt me.”
Even though it may not be as blatant in humans, the concept can be quite similar when you encounter a hostile individual that for some reason you have to get along with. For example, if you are being trained at work by someone who resents your very existence, there are many ways to handle it, of course, but my thought process is as follows: This person has been a grumpy old troll for years, and nothing I do or say is going to change that. There’s really no point in wasting energy by getting into a confrontation with someone like that. The situation will remain the same. So I let them pee on their psychological fire hydrant until they get it out of their system. And usually after that we do fine.
While this person has now forever lost all my respect, I never show it, because I am crossing into their land. There will be taxes incurred. It’s best to just pay them and move on.
And yes, it galls me to have to put up with someone’s crap, but the older I get, the more I realize that I have to pick my battles. I have very little energy to spend on territorial disputes. I’m much more content letting others be the landlords, if it’s all that important to them. I just nod and say, “Yes, sir, whatever you say sir,” knowing full well that they have absolutely no control over my opinions or my thoughts, so in the end, my inner territory is completely and utterly mine.
I used to kind of feel sorry for beta dogs. They seem to be constantly picked on. But now I actually feel more sorry for the alphas of this world. It must be exhausting to have to spend every waking moment trying to control everything and everyone around you. Especially when all of us puppies tend to wander around the yard willy nilly the moment your back is turned. It has always been thus.