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It is strange how the introduction of a new element changes the group dynamics drastically. This is a very high sounding title to an article about how the rest of the pets reacted to the introduction of the two new golden retriever puppies.

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The latest additions before that, had been the birth of five kittens, three of which survived. But that was not so terribly earthshaking as still two of the three, along with their mother, pull a disappearing act most of the time. Just one of them, Pixie, being deaf, is very bold and courageous and often quite a pain in the you know where. So let’s say that to all intents and purposes there are two high profile cats, Snowy, the Persian dad,

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who is more of a biblot than a cat, and Pixie the brash teenage tom.

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Then indoors I have the two dogs, Cookie, who came to me in a very strange, roundabout way. A few years back, after losing my Yorkshire terrier Poochy, a neighbor called to ask if I was interested in getting another dog. She said that her daughter was passing the nursery in the compound where we live and saw a small white dog tethered by a rope around her neck to a pole in the ground. She asked the keeper about her and was told that an expatriate couple who were leaving Egypt gave her to the owner of the compound, a man who does not like animals! The girl told her mother who called the owner and offered to take the dog off his hands. He was relieved and gave her the dog. But she was a medium sized dog and my neighbor is not in the best of health, so asked if I would like to take her. I said let me meet her and see if we get along.

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I went to visit my neighbor and the dog came and sniffed at my feet. She looked so cute I just said your are such a cookie. As we did not know her name or how old she was, it seemed as good a name as any. When half an hour later I got up to leave she followed me. I went out to the car, opened the door and without prompting, she jumped in. So off we went home, where my Mom saw her and fell for her immediately. From then on Cookie became my Mom’s dog.
A few months later my vet called to say that after losing his beloved dog one of his customers gave him a Yorkshire terrier that he simply could not bond with as he still missed his dog, and would I be interested in taking him?

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Off I went! Saw the poor little thing, cowering under a chair. It seemed that as the vet was not interested in him, the staff did not give him much care. I took in the poor little dog, who had been called Diamond. I thought that a rather inappropriate name and said will rename him once I saw what kind of dog he was. And thus Frisky was named. It has taken him a long time to feel enough confidence to approach me and the rest of the humans in the house, but still he is very easily scared, and once someone inadvertently harms him, he doesn’t forget and is forever wary of them. But he is now much more confident, and he and Cookie form a united front against Pixie when the latter goes off on his shenanigans.
Out in the garden I have two dogs left out of the original six. Four had passed away over the past six years, and those two are getting long in the tooth.

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My favorite, Caesar is still doing well, though I could tell he is getting on in years, and his daughter Lippa (Tulip) who is just one year younger, but still getting on as well. Though big and black and looking rather ferocious, they are the gentlest and most loving of dogs. Now that they are just two, they have the run of the front garden as well as the back.

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When first I introduced the two golden retriever puppies, Helen and Troy, the reactions of the pets already there differed, each according to their character.
Pixie, on first seeing them, was at a disadvantage because he could not hear them. He was so startled he fell flat on his stomach, then panicked and tried to run away but kept slipping on the parquet, looked so ridiculous I burst out laughing without fear of his hearing me and being hurt. He then disappeared, along with his mother and siblings for two days. Snowy on the other hand, opened half an eye, stretched, curled up and went back to sleep on the back of my chair.
Cookie was actually the first one to give them a welcoming sniff. As babies they were looking for their parents and Cookie, to them being bigger, might have been a substitute. When the puppies first came there were the three of them, my two and the third belonging to a friend till she could come pick her up. So there were three puppies to contend with.
Frisky was another story. He warily sniffed them then retreated, was curious came out sniffed again then retreated. This he did several times, then decided that caution is the better part of valor and hid under a chair.
The first few days were rather chaotic, what with the third puppy, with my friend coming and staying to bond with her puppy before taking her away from her siblings, and all three puppies not being house broken, we were running around picking up lots of little messes all over the place. I couldn’t even start a routine as during those days I did not have one. After my friend left, taking her puppy with her, things started to settle into a kind of routine, which is very important to both pets and humans. It gives structure to life and some sort of stability. And it was then that the group dynamics started to change.
Pixie’s initial fear translated into aggression and he used to go out of his way to snarl, arch his back and swipe at the puppies whenever they met, a couple of times connecting with their noses and causing them to yelp in more surprise than pain. These incidents aroused the chivalrous spirit within Frisky and he took up the defense campaign. He was the puppies’ guardian. Whenever Pixie approached, he dashed in, barked like mad – a totally wasted effort on deaf Pixie – and even snipped at him a couple of times. So poor Pixie became the one put upon by all. Can one say that this cat became the underdog? Anyway, being a champion of the underdog I started giving Pixie more attention and love, so very quickly he settled down and even started being civil to the puppies, mostly ignoring them.
The surprising change that this brought about in the relationships of the pets was totally out of left field, Frisky, having finally found someone in the person of Pixie that he could actually bully, promptly fell in love! How could you tell him that Pixie is a cat, and male to boot? But love knows no boundaries and sees no differences.
Introducing the puppies to Caesar and Lippa was very smooth. Those beautiful, gentle large dogs took to them immediately and the puppies were ecstatic to find big dogs that remind them of their parents. Now we are just one big happy family, cats and all sorts of dogs, living happily together. The only fly in the ointment is that the puppies have discovered that they love playing with Snow, who is really a very grumpy old man, and are all over the poor cat till I rescue him from them. They still have no discipline so it is usually a forcible extraction to rescue my beautiful Snowy from being licked by two enthusiastic big tongues.
Not only have the pets each defined their role in the group, but the humans as well are getting settled. The houseboy twice asked when they will be let out and kept in the garden, and twice I told him that they were house pets. Though he pretended to tolerate this, I think he was secretly pleased, because, like the rest of us, he has fallen for those adorable duo. The gardeners take advantage of the times I take the puppies out for their swim and exercise to bond with them and usually like to keep them out there as long as possible before opening the door for them to come back in. So finally both humans and animals are falling into a pattern that is becoming the new group dynamic.
20 June 2014

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