Monday, July 25, 2011

Living with Levi

Levi turns one year old today, a joyful adolescent who toggles between the wild abandonment of puppyhood and an earnest desire to be a "good boy." He tries. He really tries. He looks so elegant with his stately posture and intelligent, caramel-colored eyes, but he's all dog -- 77 pounds of dog. He's clumsy, clownish, and frequently upside down. He's destructive, but not nearly as much as he was in the beginning. Still, when he gets a wild hair and an opportunity at the same time, he lets 'er rip. The difference is that now he gets an expression of sincere regret on his face when I discover what he's done. He loves toys, tennis balls, chasing lizards, chasing his tail, digging in the dirt, and rolling on dead things. And I love him, in spite of -- or maybe because of -- it all.

Here are a few memorable moments and some photos, to boot:

I'm eating dinner in front of the TV when Levi races into the living room. His head is low, as if he's carrying something, but he runs behind the coffee table and I can't see what it is. I say, "Levi, what do you have?" He drops the object instantly and raises his head. I get up and walk around the table, where I see a wooden-handled steak knife he has stolen from the kitchen counter. I check his mouth for cuts and am relieved that he apparently grabbed the knife by the handle. I am chilled at the thought of what could have happened and vow to remember to put things well beyond his reach.

Levi relaxing on the dirtiest spot in the yard -- the burn pile!
February 2011

I'm in the shower when Levi's nose pokes through the curtain. He's done this before, and it makes me smile. This time, though, he grabs the hot water faucet in his mouth and pushes down on it, immediately raising the temperature of the water that's falling on my skin. I grab the faucet from him and adjust it, wondering if anyone in history has ever been scalded by a dog.

After a bath -- June 2011

Levi sits on the sofa next to me, night after night, flinging his tennis ball from his mouth to my lap. I toss it into the airspace over his head, he leaps to catch it, then he throws it to me again. When the ball rolls under a piece of furniture. Levi lies on his belly and tries to reach it with his extended paw. Sometimes he can pull it toward him, sometimes he can bat it so that it rolls out the other side, other times he just can't get it. When he gives up, he sits and looks at me. That's my signal to reach for the broom, which nowadays, for just this purpose, lives behind the end table next to my favorite spot on the sofa. I use the broom handle to knock the ball out into the open so Levi can grab it and resume his game. One night, when I'm interested in a TV show and tired of playing ball, I decide to end the game by ignoring both the ball under the table and Levi's attempts to make meaningful eye contact. A minute later I become aware of a commotion in my peripheral vision. It's Levi. He's trying to get the broom from behind the end table.

"Throw it again, please, please, please!"-- May 2011

After I take the dogs out for the last time of the day (and I don't know how Levi knows it's  the last time), he comes in and goes directly into his crate. He seems perfectly happy to spend the night in there, but he never goes into it in the daytime unless I ask him to do so when I'm leaving the house. One morning after I take a shower, I put on the clothes I plan to wear when I go into town a few hours later. Levi takes one look at me and runs to sit in his crate.

Levi in doggy jail -- July 2001

Late one night Levi runs toward his crate and I turn my back on him to get bedtime treats for him and Butch. When I turn around, the crate is empty. Levi is standing right next to it, in the narrow space between the crate and the bookshelves. He stands perfectly still, watching me, his brow twisted into a puzzled expression. I'm puzzled, too, until I notice that the door on the crate has been accidentally closed. Under the circumstances the boy has done the best he could.

Comfy on the couch -- May 2011

Each morning I parcel out my medications, vitamins, and fish-oil capsules in my room, then go into the bathroom to get a cup of water. One morning, as I put the various pills into my palm, Levi watches me for a few seconds, then disappears. I go into the bathroom and find him sitting there, waiting for me.

Guarding the carcass of a "dead" stuffed squirrel -- June 2011

Levi is a pretty dog, fancy-looking, if you prefer that term, not a German Shepherd, Doberman, Rottweiler, or any other dog that looks as if it deserves respect and caution. But he is a watchdog. He stays alert, and when a sound outside captures his attention, he gets serious. Instead of the play-bark he employs when he romps with Kim's little Oliver, there is a deep, fierce bark accompanied by a throaty, menacing growl. Someone intent on breaking into the house wouldn't expect to find those intimidating sounds coming from such a curly-haired dandy.

Such a beautiful boy! -- April 2011

Levi's best pal is Oliver, who has been willing to race through the backyard with him since Day One. Though about one-fifth Levi's size, Ollie is the alpha dog. He established that at the very beginning of their relationship, and Levi clearly understands it still. Inside the house, the two of them play mind games, mostly centered around Levi's very large Nylabone. Each dog feigns disinterest in the bone while the other one has it, but the instant the possessor drops his guard, the other dog steals it and runs. The game is an elaborate one, involving much skulking, hiding behind furniture, and approaching stealthily from the rear. Kim and I should probably keep score, but we're too busy laughing at them.

Oliver telling Levi how the cow ate the cabbage -- June 2011

Levi hasn't yet managed to make Butch his buddy (God knows he has tried!), but he seems to have earned at least some grudging respect from the older dog. He used to try persistently to get Butch to play with him, but Butch hasn't been much interested in playing with other dogs since he outgrew his own puppyhood. (He will play with people, though, especially children.) Butch tolerates Levi now and is patient with him. Levi wakes up earlier than Butch does in the morning, so I let Levi go outside by himself. When he comes back in, he gets a treat and takes it to the bedroom, sits next to Butch on Butch's bed, and eventually comes back to me with Butch in tow. Kadi used to herd Butch toward the house when he'd linger too long at the far end of the yard, and Levi has recently taken over that job. It's helpful, especially late at night when the grass is wet.

"What do you want me to do next, Mama?" -- April 2011

Levi has made eyes at Kim's little Lucy since they first met, and, until recently, Lucy treated him as if he had cooties. She didn't seem to fear him as much as to find him disgusting, overzealous, and unmannerly. If Lucy was on the sofa and Levi jumped up to sit beside her, Lucy would promptly leap down and find another place to sit, rolling her eyes as she went. Only in the last month has she deigned to sit beside him occasionally, probably because he's learning to approach her more gently.

After his first haircut -- July 2011

It's quiet in the house. Nearby, Butch is sleeping and Levi is shredding the disemboweled skin of a stuffed animal, when suddenly Levi leaps onto the sofa and bounds across it to sit on my lap and lick my chin. He is so heavy--not the lapdog he seems to think he is--and I have to help him settle into a position where I can comfortably give him the hugs he seeks. Then, just as suddenly, he's off again, back to pursue another thought or activity or shiny thing, leaving me just a little more smitten than I was before.

"Yee-haaaaa!" -- July 2011


  1. Oh Linda I'm so glad you wrote about Levi, I've been wondering how he's doing. He's sure a smart one ! Keep those stories coming !

  2. Kybeadmaker, it's nice to hear from you. Levi's growing up so fast it's hard to keep up with him, but I'll try to document his "special moments" here.

  3. He's such a lovable goofball. I could read your stories about him all day. See you guys later!

  4. Dogs really add so much joy to a persons life, I can't ever imagine living without one, how about you?

  5. Well, you've certainly made up for the lack of dog posts around here!!! I love each and every tale and so glad to hear about Butch.

    "He's trying to get the broom from behind the end table." Never mind Mooom! I'll just get it myself! THAT'S a resourceful dog!

  6. aww, such a sweet dog! I love the stories, he certainly has a personality! I've never heard about a dog turning up the hot water, has he been watching "Psycho"?

    p.s. he looks good with his haircut!

  7. Happy Birthday, Levi! This post makes me want to come visit again just so I can give him a bunch of hugs and kisses. He is so adorable and I know he brings many moments of joy to your life.

  8. Kim, you're Levi's favorite person to sit on.

    Sandy, I agree with you. As wonderful as it is to BE loved, I think being the one who is DOING the loving feels even better, and having a dog around pumps that feeling into my blood many times a day.

    Holly, I thought that was pretty resourceful, too. I wish he'd been successful in getting the broom out of it's narrow resting place; would have loved to see what he'd have done with it next.

    Janet, after the steak-knife episode, I told my daughters that if they should walk in and find me stabbed to death some day, they should tell the cops not to rule out an inside job. Then came the hot-water episode. All I can say is I've got my eye on him, and I'm treating him REALLY nice.

    Annette, you can come anytime to hug and kiss Levi, and he, in turn, will lick your toes until you beg him to stop.

  9. Happy birthday to that oh-so-handsome boy! Wha a cutie! A face and heart that make it easy to forgive.

  10. Alison, it appears that you and Levi share a birthday: two blond-haired beauties born on the 25th of July. Happy birthday to you, too!

  11. Awesome post! Love, love, love the dog stories and photos! Thank you!!!


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