Monday, May 16, 2011

Water wars

The repeating click, slosh, smack of a tongue greedily scooping up water cuts into my thoughts and I realize I’ve been listening to it for quite some time.

“Okay, Murds,” I say in my serious voice. “That’s enough.” There’s a few more quick slurps followed by the whispered lapping of a soft tongue against linoleum, as Murds mops up the water he splashed over the side of the dish, and then it’s quiet.

I glance over my shoulder to make sure he’s really done and is lying down. I can always tell it’s him at the water dish because of his frenzied attempt to inhale every last drop. Bear drinks at a much slower, more methodical pace, but Murdoch has an ulterior motive, I can see it in his rigid posture and the glazed, manic look in his eyes when he plunges his tongue into the water.

In Murdoch’s world, everything is about leverage, about timing, who’s first, who’s stronger, who controls this environment right now. To Murdoch, a water dish is not just a water dish; it is something to be conquered, manipulated, won.

The water dish wars began when Murdoch and Max shared a space that no longer included a locked kennel door. The two of them lived side by side with Max always, always, getting preferential treatment. He got fed first, went outside first, got attention first. I wanted there to be no doubt in Murdoch’s mind where he ranked

Murdoch had other ideas.

The one thing he had control of was their water and he wasted no time in asserting his dominance as far as that was concerned. Murdoch drained Max’s dish at every opportunity. If Max was drinking from his dish, Murdoch would sit nearby, fidgety and wide-eyed, then move in as soon as Max turned away. It became an obsession

It was kind of funny at first, another eccentricity to add to the lengthening list of Murdoch’s delinquent personality traits. But it escalated as Murdoch’s evil plan unfolded and I stood one day in the entryway yelling for Morgan’s help as I hauled Murdoch off Max’s neck.

Max had just come in from outside and was in his wheelchair when Murdoch pounced and tackled him to the ground. His wheels stayed firmly on the floor while his front legs slipped out from under him and he lay twisted with the front half of his body lying flat at my feet.

In that moment my mind flickered back to the first days Murdoch lived with us, before he had a name, when we thought he might be crazy and didn't want to keep him.

I locked Murdoch in his kennel and turned to help Max who was stuck, unable to push himself back up. I could have strangled Murdoch then, or at the very least banished him to some far off land of giant dogs who would torment him relentlessly.

After that, we added a third water dish and started reminding Murdoch that it’s not a race and he doesn’t have to drink it all at once. I don’t think he really got it.

Murdoch doesn’t challenge Bear the same way he did with Max, the water seems to have lost some of its significance, but we still have to remind him his bladder is only so big, and usually we make him wait until Bear is done.

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