Monday, February 4, 2013

Baby Girl Growing Up

The more I have read about Carolina dogs, and looked at their pictures, the more sure I've become since adopting Penelope that she is a charming example of this breed.  Her body is getting thicker and very muscular indeed, and her feet are growing into what appears closer to a classic Dixie/American Dingo shape.  She is still a fairly lithe dog, but the tuck of her belly is less pronounced as she has a regular diet (and I felt when I adopted her gaining at least some mass, if not fat, would be good for her).  She's got more control over a pair of prodigious ears, which still have  fold but are I think less "trembers" than they were when she was still really more puppy; she holds them up more than she used to.

Penelope has a very velvety coat with only a bit of wiry fur along her back, and a thin wiry coat but smoothly laid down along her belly.  Her forehead wrinkles, but when you touch her you can feel "extra skin" across most of her torso; she's built to shed heat, I think, lots of surface area.  Her eyes, when you photograph her, might "squink" and look almost like she's in a rictus of laughter, but in person they tend to appear very very round, and she has "people eyes" too - you can see her whites, and it makes her expressions very strong indeed.  (Pen's pathos is not to be believed!)  Along the "back" of her tail (the dorsal side, which is most often curled up and therefore not as highly visible as the ventral side) she has a good bit of black hair, so when she is unnerved or unhappy, you see a dark tail.  When she's at ease or excited, of course, her tail is curled pretty tightly upward, showing cream fur even lighter than most of the rest of her coat.  So most often, she's a very light colored dog indeed.  To date (having adopted her later in October), she hasn't shed to speak of, but I will not be surprised if her output in that area is similar to Siddy's; though Sid was a husky mix, she was very short-coated, and if Penny is a southern-bred dog this velour finish she's sporting is probably thick enough to let a lot go when the temps go higher.

Penny "Squinking"
Gossy Lookin'

Her ears are a marvelous literal barometer.  Very pink when she is excited or happy, they stand up and tell you how she is feeling.  Pen *rarely* lets her ears go down, and they are thinner and wider and less cartiligenous than Siddy's (who didn't often prick up her ears entirely; I used to joke it was too much heavy lifting for anything but special occasions or interest).  So she doesn't have the sometimes sad look about her Siddy did, with her extremely dark, glossy, brown, almond-shaped sad eyes.  Pen can do pitiful as well as any dog, of course, but her face is just too insouciant to stay that way as a default.

She has black skin around her muzzle, so when it rains she gets "freckles" on her nose.

She has lighter brown eyes; not as light as mine, but a very very warm brown compared to the deep, dark, almost-black color Siddy had.  This adds to her expressiveness, too.

Her wrinkles and extremely mobile ears and eyes make her charmingly funny-looking, in the best possible sense of the phrase.  Siddy had a little bit of a droop to her lips, but Penny has an underbite.  Give me a more impossibly insouciant feature, c'mon - I dare ya.

Her cranium is extremely round and her nose has a well-defined break, straight lines both vertical and horizontal, and a nice length of muzzle.  The proportions are in fact almost exactly like the bulb and stem of an old-fashioned incandescent bulb.  Siddy had a head like a Volvo - it was boxy, but it was good.  Penny has a head that is round-o, round-o, like a beet (anyone naming the Tom Robbins reference there wins ... recognition on the Diane L. Major blog - whee!).  Her head, like Siddy's was, also tends to be warm, and her ears even warmer.  She must let off an enormous amount of heat from those things in summer time.  She has what I call "a head full of teeth" - some of the largest, whitest, and strongest dog's teeth I've ever seen, scissoring outward enough that along with her underbite it's as common as not that she's showing them, even without any aggression.  Pen-Pen's teeth remind me of nothing so much as Aku, from Samurai Jack.  And the late, great, vocally inimitable Mako played Aku, so that's cool beans.  Apparently both my "kids" have to have cartoon associations of some kind.

This weekend, the first two of three fencing companies came out to look at the back yard and provide estimates, and I am pretty excited about that.  Penny plays frisbee, and to hang out in the yard with her, and to run with her without being leashed together, is going to be great.  If I am an extremely lucky and industrious doggy mommy, the fence will be up before some of my family come to visit in spring, which will be good for the visit in helping to burn off some of her New Friend Excitement/Greetings issues.  She is of course not to be worried about, but it can be wearing paying attention to nothing but her when she's a bit overwhelming, and it will be nice too to have a place to stow her where she'll be deliriously happy rather than nervous and shouty.  Putting her in the cage when people are over has proven all too imperfect, and I hate to do it to her (and to guests).  Having enjoyed "I got a new baby pet" twice in the past six months, now I'll get to enjoy a bit of "I got a neat new backyard" too - and Penelope certainly will.

Carolina dogs, it seems, do suffer separation anxiety (check), but operate in many ways as a pack - rearing of the young, hunting; they are cooperative.  Penelope has a pack with me and Goss, but it has its imperfections.  Carolinas apparently can be very suspicious of strangers, and as wonderfully open as she is, she's shown me more than once her willingness to protect us - she has a good instinct for who is friend or family, and who is visiting us for some impersonal reason - she can be friendly to the contractors who've come to the house, for instance, and will be subdued - but her approach is completely unlike her overwhelming adoration and sometimes urinary submission.  Ahem.  She is wary to the extent of taking three days just to get over the fact there was a jolly snowman-shaped sign in the neighborhood for the winter party here; she eventually submitted to discovering its inanimate nature, but never converted from extreme submission to her wonted friendliness.  On a smaller scale, particularly when it's dusky or dark out, she evinces paranoia at shadows, tree branches, cars she hasn't seen before, and the like.

Fortunately, with living creatures she tends to be far better socialized.  Stillness - particularly the inert presence of things not in a given place previously - irks her to no end, but people and animals she's generally game to put up with very nicely.  She dislikes walking on the busier street in our neighborhood, and will go along well behaved but with her tail down and more liable to get her back up.

And she gets her back up very distinctly.  Sid could "ruff" at the neck, and her agitation was very aggressive when she was protecting our home (never out of control, and I usually thanked her on the occasion she felt she had some reason to bark, as that's not an instinct I want to quell completely), but Pen's fur ridges very high indeed, unevenly down the length of her spine including her tail, and actually makes her coloring change - when she gets her back up, her fur looks darker.  I think that is more because of light and shadow than because of any actual color change in her coat closer to her skin, but it's a clear and definite change.  Pen also has a much harsher, louder, higher bark.  When she does use it (not noticeably more than Sid ever barked), you just have to stop whatever you're doing and wait, because she makes it difficult indeed to concentrate on a phone call, or writing, or the computer or TV.  A piercing bark, as is her "singing" - the sounds of excitement she makes, for instance, when she sees our next door neighbors - whom, much like her predecessor, too - she is hugely in love with.  Be it doggy mommy or doggy, she doesn't care, she aches and pines to get attention from either one of them.

Pen was supposedly about six months when I adopted her, but then she was also "almost there" with house training and was listed as a lab mix.  Her vet thinks she's more likely at least a month older than that, so she may be about a year old now or very soon.  Even so, I've given her the birthday of April Fool's Day - as much as anything so I can count her age, as birthdays are not exactly massive celebrations around our pad.  (Gossamer is May Day birthday boy, and though he may be a hair older than estimated at adoption, too, the difference there is more likely to be the matter of a week or so.  If he was not eight weeks, but nine or ten, given that I adopted him July 12, the first of May could be accurate for him.)

The pair of them get along very well indeed.  Though she shows acute interest in squirrels of a less buddy-oh-pal variety, I've never yet seen Penelope react to any cat with great interest, and her play with Gossamer is, if not particularly gentle, well within my comfort zone (and Goss's) for the two of them.  If Pen-Pen's energy isn't properly used up with walks, attention, and play, she gets more irritating to him, but there's never any more issue with that than the annoyed yowling - and it's extremely easy to tell when Goss is fully participating and instigating their fight-play.  I still like to throw around the occasional "touch not the cat" her way, and she knows the meaning of The Evil Blue Water-spraying Bottle of Doom, though it never quite dissuades her for long from whatever she's trying to do.  She's a good girl, but can be immensely jealous, which means she tends to get more attention than Gossamer - but then, Gossamer gets to sleep on my bed and she isn't allowed up much at all, so I hope the little grey guy doesn't feel as jealous as she so ostentatiously does.

What we have is a good little pack, with smart and sweet beasties, and a human slowly learning the proper ways of the animals.  I'm grateful and fortunate, and hoping - one of these days - they'll be as fortunate as I am.

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