I have an old old dog named Monkey. Last year I thought he was not long for this world, so I wanted to get a new puppy. This was for two reasons: to keep Monkey company as he wound down and to enable Monkey to teach a new dog some of his old tricks. So I got a six-week-old Australian shepherd and named him Maestro. For a while, Maestro maintained his subservient second-in-command puppy personality and all was well between Monkey and Maestro. By the age of six months, however, Maestro had taken over the role of Chief Irritator. Monkey tolerated him, but just barely. Maestro toed a precarious line with other beings, also. He barked for six hours as I hauled him to the cabin the first time. He consistently swam after the boat as it departed the dock. He wrecked the screen door at the cabin, chewed the cord to the fish locator in the boat, chewed the cord that chokes the boat if someone falls overboard, chewed the battery charger cord, chewed the carpeting in the boat, chewed the legs of the outdoor furniture. Maestro dragged his food dish (which is really a stainless steel bedpan) all around the yard, chewed up my husband’s new boots, and chewed our wooden steps. But the habit he developed just before his first birthday was also his last: he learned to chase cars. I had just located the dog-training shock collar that I used to break former dogs of this nasty trick. It was charging up for the first use on Maestro. However, I never got to use it. Maestro met an early death under the wheels of a pickup truck.
How did Monkey react? Much better than I did. He was lonesome for a few days and just wandered around. But now he can rest on his bed in peace without having to sleep on top of balls, bones, tin cans, plastic tubs, sticks, and another body. He gets to eat all of the food in his dish without having to share. My plan for his tutorage backfired, as I don’t know that Maestro learned a single thing from Monkey. And now Monkey will have to return to our island with only me for company.
Maestro is buried beneath a big pine tree on our farm, the latest in a long line of canine friends. Somehow I feel like I had more invested in him, as he was my hope for the future. Monkey, at age thirteen, cannot fulfill that role.