Tale Waggers - The Character - photo of Arthur


Every family has one - a "character".
The one whose exploits are the stuff of legend.
A free spirit, a puzzle, a misfit.
Arthur is our "character".
The straight and narrow path
of normal dog behavior is not for Arthur.
He goes his own road...
marking every tree along the way.

The Curmudgeon...
Arthur was born a curmudgeon. As a pup he preferred lounging on the window sill like a cat to cuddling with his people. He didn't develop any cuddly habits until well into adulthood (when he discovered human bodies make dandy pillows). He doesn't fetch. He grabs the toy, then wanders off to chew it up. Why chase it more than once? He knows all and sees all but chooses carefully what he will act upon. "What's in it for me?" is Arthur's refrain. No one has ever described Arthur as being eager to please anyone other than his doggie self.

Arthur is a dominant dog. He knows, however, that only foolish dogs try to seize control outright. His lack of respect is total, yet subtle. Arthur knows how the game is played. When they're looking - you do what they want. When they turn around - you have it your way. It works with both humans and dogs. Timing is everything if you want real power. His infinite patience has served him well. Still, there are unmistakable signs of his dominant attitude. Arthur is never the first to look away in a stare-down. He won't even give you the satisfaction of a blink. He does not give up - especially where food or honor is involved. Each time Arthur passes by I imagine I hear the strains of "I Did it MY WAY".

The Artful Dodger...
Arthur is a clever dog. Not a smart dog. No, a smart dog would eventually learn not to drink from the toilet after 14 years of correction. A clever dog uses his paws to reach through the neighbors fence and shove tomatoes toward his face. A clever dog checks every slat in the garden fence each day, looking for an exploitable weakness. A truly clever dog knows his missions are frowned upon and takes precautions to avoid detection. Arthur reached the zenith of dog cleverness when he found a way to open the refrigerator; then had us blaming each other for leaving the door open for months before he was caught in the act. This is how clever dogs spend their days - outwitting the humans.

The Aggressor...
Arthur has never learned to greet other animals in a civilized fashion. On our walks, Earnest did the polite nose-nose, nose-butt doggie greeting and then moved on. Arthur watched this and decided Earnest was a sniveling wimp that needed protection. At the sight of another creature, Arthur is up on hind legs choking at the end of the leash - a complete embarrassment. When Art was 11 and already deaf and a bit rickety, a new dog moved in next door. The sight of this intruder sent Arthur into a marking rampage. He squeezed himself dry marking every inch of the perimeter fence, all the trees, and every blade of grass over 2 inches high - a drop here, a drop there. Satisfied, he sauntered over to menace the intruder. The new dog promptly sidled up to the fence and brazenly peed a full foot into our yard and hit the big tree with a powerful stream that seemed to last forever. It seemed the younger bladder had prevailed. Arthur threw himself against the fence in protest and threatened the intruder. Then he suddenly insisted on going inside. He needed more water…

In the early days, Arthur and Earnest struck a deal. Earnest would guard the house and Arthur was responsible for the yard. Tristan's addition caused no change in the set-up. Tristan's job was to bark when anyone else barked - indoors or out. Even in his old age - with Earnest and Tristan gone and Emma completely uninterested in guarding anything - the rickety, deaf, coot with blurry sight still patrols the yard. Last Summer, a new intruder appeared in the neighbor's yard. A small, somewhat frail dog with a 6" fresh surgery scar down his side was dangerously close to Arthur's domain. After much ritual marking and menacing, the new threat was vanquished to the far side of his yard. Arthur was victorious for days - until reinforcements arrived. Arthur was languishing on the back stoop waiting for the door to open when he spotted them - the pack of three - cavorting next door. He hit the fence running, moving with a speed he hadn't achieved in years. There were savage screams and the sound of dog teeth hitting chain link. When I got to the fence, the neighbor's pack was milling about nervously and Art had blood on him. I dragged him inside and grabbed a washcloth. He'd cut his lip on the fence and had a very impressive bloodied muzzle. In his mind, I knew it was the enemy's blood he was tasting. He wouldn't let me wipe it off until everyone had admired it.

Artie the mild...
Given his rude behavior toward other animals, we were stunned to find that Arthur is an angel with children. I myself am not good with children, so I have no idea where he got the notion to be kind to them. He will forsake a pizza left unattended to guard a sleeping infant. He allows himself to be pushed and pulled by toddlers. He's been hugged (hard) by strange children who came suddenly out of a crowd. He is solid as a rock. Wherever we go, Arthur is at our feet. He guards the bathroom door (sticking his nose underneath to create disconcerting "Darth Vader" sounds). Nothing is going to harm one of "his people" on Arthur's watch.

Arthur is also an experience traveler, able to handle anything thrown his way (except the sight of another dog). He waits patiently when we stop. He waits impatiently at fast food drive-thru windows. He waits very impatiently at bank drive-thru windows thinking they are fast food portals. He loves a good rest stop dog run area. He's left his mark in 5 states! Last year he marched his rickety old frame to the edge of a scenic lookout and attempted to mark an area some 100 feet below. His arthritic hip wobbled. Fortunately mama had a good grip on the leash.

Arthur has been a challenge and a joy. He's helped me raise two pups, endured hip surgery, gone deaf, been plagued by allergies and arthritis all his life, lost two members of his pack - and survived. These days, he spends most of his time napping or trying not to get stepped on but, at age 14, he's still drinking from the toilet and stealing from the trash whenever he gets the chance. I wouldn't have it any other way… After all, he's a "character".

Copyright 1997 Elizabeth Cusulas
Tale Waggers - Stories for Dog People
All Rights Reserved - Reproduction without written permission is expressly forbidden