Dramatis canes: (in order of appearance)
Lucy: A Labrador-ish fifty- or sixty-pounder found abandoned on the side of a highway when she was a few weeks old and turned over to the local shelter where we adopted her about seven-and-a-half years ago. On the alpha ranking in our pack of five dogs, she's the queen bitch, the leader.
Gladys: The San Miguel mutt from Central Casting. We found her in the parking lot of a condo development where we used to live, a year after we adopted Lucy.
She had a piece of rope still around her neck and showed signs of either a recent accident, perhaps getting hit by a car, or abuse by her former owners. We bet on the latter because she initially reacted very aggressively (or defensively) to cleaning women wielding brooms or anyone who came near Stew and me.
Gladys and Lucy teamed up famously and Gladys became Number Two on the alpha order. She never has been aggressive toward Stew or me. On the contrary, she's one of those stray dogs that seems eternally grateful someone adopted her.
Gladys is considerably older than Lucy, we figure she must be about twelve by now, fairly rotund and not moving nearly as quickly as the others in the pack.
Domino: A hapless male with black blotches on white fur (hence the name) that we found at the pound, cowering at the rear of his cage. Domino landed at the pound as a puppy where he spent the first eighteen months of his life. He is very timid, though he can suddenly turn on strangers when startled. On the alpha order of this pack, Domino ranks as clueless.
Roxie: Massively built, an undetermined mix of Rottweiler, Doberman and something else. Beautiful markings, weighs an all-muscle fifty or sixty pounds. We found her a year ago at a nearby ranch when she was three or four months. Extraordinarily sweet and blubbery with us, Félix and Félix' family—but very aggressive with strange dogs, farm animals or people who might approach the gate of the ranch. When crouching, growling and baring her teeth, she's menacing. Roxie would be third on the pecking scale, though visibly eager to move up.
Felisa: A most mixed-up of mixed breeds: short legs and stumpy build; longish body like a Dachshund; splayed front legs a bit like a Basset Hound; thick, coarse fur reminiscent of a German Shepherd and a too-long tail that wags furiously whenever she is awake. Now a ten-pound twerp, Félix found her under a bush in April when she was the size of a large rat. Her bark is more like a shrill yelp.
Roxie is her model, idol and surrogate mother. If Roxie is Edgar Bergen, Felisa is Charlie McCartly, ready to bark, run or do whatever Roxie does.
On Saturday morning the dogs are nervously milling in the kitchen waiting for food, except for Gladys who is still on her cushion not wanting to get up. When Stew accidentally taps Gladys with the kitchen door, she lets out a painful yelp that triggers a furious reaction from the other dogs, except Domino who stands by the sidelines.
Lucy, Roxie and Felisa simultaneously attack Gladys from all sides with the clear intent of trying to kill her or inflict serious injury. Stew calls me and we separate the dogs and stop the fight.
If we hadn't caught this attack in time, Gladys surely would have been killed or badly harmed.
Gladys is left cowering on the floor, eyes bulging, her body trembling uncontrollably. She's terrified.
We don't know what to make of this attack, particularly by Lucy, Glady's lifelong sidekick. For the next two days Gladys stays to herself, away from the other dogs, though she is eating normally and going outside for her needs. We can't find any injuries or anything wrong with her.
|Dowager Gladys: Chubby, gray-whiskered and not too agile. |
Photographed the day before she was nearly killed.
We call our neighbor Arno who has eighty-plus dogs at his ranch, and ask him for advice. He says that dogs often turn vicious toward other dogs they perceive as sick, weak or injured. He has a dog with epilepsy that has been attacked when she's had convulsions. Our vet concurs that dogs will attack a member of the pack they perceive sick, hurt or near death.
An article I found on the internet confirms those opinions: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=1468
"Some people who keep groups of dogs together have faced the grisly scene of coming home to find the pack of dogs has killed an elderly or sick member. Would this perhaps be nature's way of giving a quicker and more merciful end to a dog in the wild with no chance of survival? The behavior by the dogs who do the killing is certainly instinct, and not murder. Horrendous as it seems by human standards, this reminds us that dogs are not humans."
Gladys seems fine, particularly now that she has calmed down—except she is clearly the oldest member of the pack and slowing down.
The other dogs sniff Gladys curiously, who stiffens up with fear. By herself, Gladys runs around the yard merrily, but she keeps away from the others when they are all together.
Almost three days after her fur-raising experience, things are returning to normal with one probable exception: Gladys clearly has lost her Number Two spot on the alpha order of our five-member pack. She is now sidelined as the grandma.
So what have learned?
One, we can't leave Gladys alone with the other dogs when we're not here.
Two, no more dogs. I've said that before but this time I'm really, really serious, despite what soft-hearted Stew might say. I'm really serious. No kidding around.
Three, Mother Nature at times can be a cruel bitch, in more ways than one.
Curtain down (though this might not be the last act.)