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The Social Butterfly


Butterfly at Grandma’s colorful feet


            When Butterfly first came home from the shelter she didn’t make eye contact with me or Mom, and I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to bond with us. They told us not to expect too much from her after spending her whole eight years in a puppy mill. She was afraid of being picked up or petted, but she licked my hand to say hello, so we started there.


Butterfly’s tongue

She was hyper vigilant even in sleep, curling up in a ball, waking at any noise. The first time she was able to sleep on her side, with her legs stretched out and her belly exposed, I knew what a triumph that was. A few weeks later, she started to do a little move where she twisted her head to expose her neck and chest for scratching. And then, just once, she rolled entirely onto her back.

But she has been a social butterfly with other dogs from the very beginning, especially in contrast to Cricket. Butterfly will walk up to any dog, big or small, yappy or shy. She doesn’t let Cricket’s fear or standoffishness deter her. The other day we took the girls out for a long walk around the neighborhood. We went to the left instead of the right this time and met a male dachshund and his human mother. Cricket kept her distance, because she usually does. But Butterfly was drawn straight to him. She sniffed his nose. Then she sniffed his butt. He peed obsessively against the telephone pole on his lawn.

Butterfly clearly liked him, but whenever he tried to sniff her butt, she hopped away like a good southern belle, exclaiming, “well, I never…” But she didn’t want to leave. When we finally convinced Butterfly to leave, she was in a great mood. Her hips twitched from side to side, and her nose and tail were up in the air.


The girls get all tangled with their friend Bella

            Cricket is not a social butterfly. When we’re outside and strangers walk by, Cricket automatically barks her head off. She needs to tell them that this is her neighborhood, her street, her sidewalk, and they have no business near by. Butterfly just stands there and studies them. She isn’t upset by Cricket’s barking. She almost doesn’t seem to notice it. She just seems curious, and like a scientist, she is taking time to patiently examine the evidence.

But in the house, Butterfly barks. She especially likes to bark at the doggy in the mirror. She’ll be walking around in my room, surveying the territory, and then look to her left and see another little white dog. The mirror on the closet is full length so she can see herself down to the toes, and she barks and hops and gets into play pose as if she really believes that another dog has come into the room to challenge her.

Butterfly’s biggest challenge is to teach Cricket how to be her friend. It is an uphill battle, with a lot of grumbling and suspicion and hiding under beds and hoarding treats. But right now, Butterfly is napping only inches away from Cricket on the bed. They are getting closer every day, whether Cricket likes it or not.


Blurry but happy. At least Butterfly is.

The Reluctant Mentor


Cricket is exhausted by her new job

Cricket is a reluctant mentor. She resents the way Butterfly follows her around. She hides treats she doesn’t even like, because she doesn’t want Butterfly to have them.

But, Butterfly thinks Cricket is her leader. When Cricket barks, Butterfly barks, or whimpers, or looks to Cricket for answers to the questions of the universe. When Cricket pees, Butterfly pees. If Cricket stops to sniff a bush, Butterfly stops, sniffs, and thinks, this is what I am supposed to do.

Cricket’s most important job has been to teach Butterfly to poop and pee outdoors. Butterfly is eight years old and she’s not used to having to hold it in and wait to be taken outside. She’s not used to thinking of poop as something that shouldn’t be left in the house. And Cricket is teaching her otherwise. I’d like to think that Cricket is pooping more often each day as a generous form of inspiration for Butterfly, to teach her the joys of pooping outdoors. But it could also be because she is an emotional eater and has been eating more since Butterfly came home.

Cricket is an adventurer and Butterfly is learning from that. She’s learning how to run and play and go further afield. She’s learning that long walks and sending pee mail messages and sniffing new places is fun, and safe.

She’s learning that you can get away with standing your ground and being stubborn sometimes and no one will hit you. They may just pull on your leash and make grumbly noises, but that won’t kill them, or you.

The first few days, maybe even more than a week, that Butterfly was home, she was uninterested in toys. We gave her two toys from Cricket’s box, carefully choosing ones she’d never shown interest in, but Butterfly ignored them. And then she found Ducky on the floor next to my bed and she fell in love. The duck quacks when you squeeze it and has been one of Cricket’s favorites since she was a puppy, with surgery scars to prove it. Now Butterfly tries to bring Ducky with her whenever she goes out for a walk (the answer is no). She licks him the way she would lick one of her puppies and that seems to calm her. But Cricket is not pleased.


Butterfly loves ducky

Butterfly tries to forget quickly after each time Cricket snarls at her, or blocks her way up the stairs. She chooses to forgive Cricket over and over.

There are some things Butterfly has not picked up yet. She’s not in love with the variety of foods Cricket enjoys. She doesn’t see the point of cheese, or red bell peppers, or morning pancakes with maple syrup. She hasn’t learned how to bark menacingly at strangers, or hide under the bed in a huff. She hasn’t learned how to revel in a warm lap and really relax, yet.

Butterfly has tried running after sticks and chewing on them the way Cricket does out on the lawn in the mornings, but sticks are an acquired taste.


Don’t take my stick!

            Just once, Butterfly tried to pee like Cricket, with her right leg lifted an inexplicable inch off the ground. But she found that position uncomfortable and ineffective. I’m not sure why Cricket does it, being a girl and all.

After all of that mentoring, Cricket has some aggression to get out of her system and she has taken to bringing me her rope toy when it gets to be too much and she needs to play tug of war. While Cricket tugs and jumps and growls and is suspended in midair, Butterfly hops around and pants and tries to get in the game. She can’t fit her teeth around the rope, though, and Cricket is grateful for that.


Cricket is levitating

            Once tug is over, they’re both exhausted and ready for a nap. Cricket has taught Butterfly all about napping. So once Cricket is asleep, Butterfly will stretch out on the floor, legs in front of her like a fallen cow. Just like Cricket.


Fallen Cow pose