My Weimaraner Cinder doesn’t know how to play. Well, she plays, but not in the way you normally see dogs play–rolling around, chasing a ball, frolicking with another dog. She’s been a little awkward from the time she was rescued at just over a year. In the house, she always wrestled with my last dog, Miranda, but even then there was a clumsy ineptitude, probably resultant from living on the streets during her formative puppy months. She enjoys wrestling with her friend Rex, but only inside and preferably on the bed. She doesn’t often interact with other dogs in the park. This is probably because they don’t know what to make of her.
Because Cinder is an alpha, she greets every dog at the gate with the same stony glare of a bouncer at a nightclub. Then as they come in, it’s right to sniffing and making sure they are fit to enter. Almost every dog she meets backs down from her. This is lucky for her because when she has been challenged, she never knows what to do. In other words, she talks a good game, but doesn’t have any follow through.
Her usual job at the dog run is to walk around marking other dogs’ pee and maintaining the peace. If it’s warm, she does this from the comfort of bench where she can bark in a dog’s face if he gets too close to me and the cookie bag. She rarely wants to play. Actually very few of my friends have ever even seen Cinder run around. It’s always a source of amazement when she does. “Look, Cinder’s playing,” someone will cry out when it happens, like he’s just spotted a rare bird out of it’s natural habitat (In her case, the couch).
This week with snow on the ground, Cinder has been friskier than usual. And she’s wanted to play. This has sent most of Cinder’s good friends running for cover. Not because they don’t love Cinder, but because Cinder’s idea of play is to run up to them, give them a quick nip on the ass, a “tag, you’re it,” and then scoot away waiting for them to engage her. It wouldn’t be so bad if she was a cattle dog of some sort. You kind of expect them to nip and chase. But an eighty pound Weimaraner?
It’s really embarrassing when Cinder does this with a dog she doesn’t know well. She came away from a standard poodle the other day with a clump of his black hair in her mouth. I quickly disposed of the evidence, but not before the owner saw it. “That was a very expensive haircut,” she told me. She didn’t seem mad, but I apologized anyway, trying to explain my child’s strange behavior. As it turns out, the poodle was some sort of world champion and he’d just won a major competition. “Don’t worry,” the woman said, “his best friend is a “Weimaraner. That’s not odd behavior.” Really? Who knew. I felt slightly better, but still a bit embarrassed by her social awkwardness. On the plus side, she’s eleven and it does make me feel good to know that she still wants to play and enjoy her life. I only hope the Italian dogs will be as accepting of her quirkiness as her New York friends have been.