A Leg to Stand On

Featured in The Ultimate Dog Lover (August, 2008)

Ultimate Dog Lover book coverOkay, so everyone thinks their dog is so special. Is it my fault I happen to know mine actually is? Nubble loves all beings, no matter how many legs they have. Well, except birds. And snakes, but in all fairness he was snake-trained and they have no legs anyhow! But back to birds; he just finds them really foul.

Now, he is a patient and peaceful little cattle herder. For example, in front of Scottsdale’s City Hall is a cement pond with an assortment of birdies in residence, including two black swans. One decided it wise to nip at Nubble, who after a few warning growls finally took action, too quick for averting, by soft-mouthing the feathered treasure by the neck, and leading her back to the water. I am guessing it was, a her, based on the fact a little boy corrected his mother when she called Nubble a girl – by pointing out the fact, he has a handle. Anyhow, Madam Swan repeated this unsettling approach to my dog a few weeks later. Again, Nubble dutiful escorted her back into the pond. Third time that we walked past in her neck of the woods, rather desert, she wisely opted to leave him alone.

Nubble and I run together, often past the golf courses of Scottsdale, where if the chance presents itself, he will make time to ride herd with the ducks on shore, corral and march them into the water, and continue to herd them in a tight formation as he swims around the quacking critters. After a few laps and loops, he swims beneath them and surfaces in the center to a plethora of quacking and barks as the ducks take flight. Oh, for a video camera to catch – as dog gooses ducks.

Starbucks, a.k.a. Starbarks, has known Nubble since he got me from the Arizona Humane Society at two months old. I had studied the books by The Monks of New Skete and adopted their suggestion to acclimate your dog, whatever age, to 50 people within the first 30 days. He views the place as a spot where bi-peds come to pet canines, getting coffee and caffine as an afterthought. The one at the mall now keeps a couple of dog dishes for fresh water out on their patio.

Looking upward, you can see where Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, in its infinite wisdom of design, installed all these sharp spikes around the recessed lighting to keep the birds away so they don’t leave their own tips on the valets and cars of the beautiful people. The pigeons in particular have found the spikes make dandy support for their nests. However, they have not fared as well with the water dishes when Nubble is on paw.

Nubble is not prejudiced. Wrens, sparrows, or pigeons – none are deemed worthy of the patio crumbs or water from his water dish. That was, until a couple of months ago when a typical pigeon, female based upon the anatomical lesson of the young boy. It was garbed in predominantly soft gray with a smattering of white about the legs and neck, alit a couple feet from the sacred water dish. Did I say legs? I meant . . . leg.

Nubble has a natural black eye and hangs his tongue out the left of his muzzle to offset it. The pup turned his head one way, the pigeon turned her head to the other. They mirrored each other like that a few times as I sat my cup down to avoid throwing it in the air once my dog invariably warned the bird away. Their gazes continued – and I spied the sole leg. Nubble seemed to have observed sooner than me that the pigeon only had one leg to stand on.

The pigeon took a hop closer, Nubble sat down. Another hop, Nubble laid down with his head about six-inches from the bowl’s lip. Another hop to equal the distance, Nubble’s shoulders relaxed. The daring bird then hopped atop the rim of his dish, Nubble smiled. Don’t kid yourself, dogs do smile. A shopper stood transfixed as her eyes welled with tears. “My God. He knows.”

The bird dipped its charcoal beak to drink. A soft coo-sound as it stood upright, then dipped its head two more times. Others landed a few feet away – and my dog’s mere glance was enough for them to take flight as the pigeon took one more gulp, then craned its head as if to make sure the cool water thoroughly lubricated its throat. Next it hopped down, pogo-sticked right past Nubble’s black eye, and then took flight. One of the other birds returned as Nubble leapt to attention, barked the alarm, and I finally managed to spill my drink.

We’ve seen that pigeon a few times since then. The dance and communication always remains the same. Mutual cooperation. We’ve named his one-legged friend, Eileen.

- Per permission of Dr. Marty Becker & HCI: Health Communications, Inc. -

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