Levi (left) and Gimpy
We brought Levi home in December of 2010. Gimpy, his litter mate and best bud, didn't join our family until April of this current year. Getting these two back together is possibly one of the best things I've ever done. They have so much fun.
Levi (left) and Gimpy
On Gimpy's first day here, we found out Levi didn't actually know how to play ball. He'd never really had to learn, because he had had no competition. I'd throw the ball and he'd mosey around until he found it, then bring it back to me. Gimpy, however, had grown up sharing space with his father. He had learned to stand back a few yards so he'd be closer to the ball once it was thrown, and he'd learned never to take his eye off the ball. The first couple of weeks Gimpy was here, despite his nerve-damaged leg, he beat Levi to the ball every single time. Levi learned from Gimpy and they're a good match now, which makes the game more fun for all of us.
I thought in those early days that Gimpy was the alpha dog, because Levi followed him around, let him have first choice of toys, and submitted to his every whim. Now I think Levi just had a huge case of hero worship. Levi is the bossier of the two, but I suspect he's the boss because Gimpy lets him be. Winning seems to be important to Levi. Gimpy enjoys their various games enough to offer Levi a challenge, but he isn't nearly as intense about it as Levi is. I thought Levi might be using his size (five inches taller, 30 pounds heavier) to gain an advantage over Gimpy, but I've discarded that notion because Kim's little Shih-Tzu and, more recently, my stepsister's tiny Yorkie-Jack Russell mix can make both of my big dogs avert their eyes and stand at attention. Nope, I think Gimpy just doesn't care as much about being the boss as Levi does.
They "fight" daily, usually several times, but I've never seen them fight in anger. The mock fight is one of their favorite games. Like most of their other activities, it involves a tennis ball. The dog who has possession of the ball tries to keep it, the other one tries to take it away. It involves rolling, tumbling, much snorting, wide-open mouths with bared teeth, body slamming, choke holding, and limb grabbing. It can be played indoors or outdoors, and it is repeated over and over until both dogs are exhausted. I am included in this game. I am home base. For example, in an indoor game, the winner usually leaps onto the sofa and stands next to me--or, if Gimpy is the winner, stands on my legs--with the ball in his mouth.
Levi on top, Gimpy on the ground
I love these boys and can't resist hugging them or kissing their foreheads every chance I get. Levi has always taken sort of a drive-by approach to affection. He goes about his business, playing, eating, or sleeping, and occasionally, as if the idea just occurred to him, he drops by and plants a sloppy wet kiss on me. Once in a while he'll crawl up on the sofa beside me and stick around for some petting. Gimpy, though, is a lover, a cuddler, a snuggler. He plants his whole body on my lap several times throughout the day, licking my cheeks and chin, and if I'm not sitting where he can do that, he walks up beside me and pushes his head up under the palm of my hand so I'll pet him. That part of his personality makes him seem younger than Levi, even though they're exactly the same age. Levi is my big boy, and Gimpy is my baby.
As luck would have it, the cuddlier dog is the one that sheds. I explained in an earlier post that Gimpy takes after their father, a Golden Retriever, and Levi got more of their mother's Poodle genes. As much as they look alike, their hair is very different. Gimpy has never had a haircut except for an occasional trim between his eyes. His beautiful curls are apparently as long as they're ever going to get. That's good in terms of less grooming being required, but I'm sweeping up dog hair once again. Levi sheds no more hair than a human does, but his coat grows thick and long and fast. Without regular haircuts, he gets matted and tangled easily.
Gimpy is the naughtier of the two. He's nowhere near as destructive as Levi was during his first few months here, but Gimpy is a bit of a kleptomaniac. He especially likes to steal paper and cloth. If I lay down a dust cloth and turn my back, it'll be gone before I reach for it again. A towel dropped on the bathroom floor gets filched and carried to the futon or into Gimpy's crate. He pulls packets of paper off the office-supply shelves near my computer desk. He always seems genuinely contrite when I confront him about it, so I think the "debbil" must be making him do it.
Levi barks the most. His keen hearing alerts him if a neighbor opens or closes a door or if someone pulls into a nearby driveway, and he barks loudly--and sometimes emits a low warning growl--to let them know they're not going to get past him. I guess that makes him a good watchdog. It also makes him a little bit annoying. Sometimes, when Levi barks protectively, Gimpy makes a couple of little "grrfffs" himself, but more often he just comes to wherever I am and stares up into my face to see if I've noticed that Levi is barking. Gimpy is my back-up alarm.
Levi is the more confident of the two. Despite the previously mentioned barking, he seems to assume that new people he meets are friendly. I haven't found much that scares Levi other than little dogs with take-charge attitudes and the dreaded plastic Walmart bags.
Both dogs warm up to people quickly, but Gimpy is more cautious, holding back until he's had an opportunity to learn a little more about someone new. It's Gimpy who has snapped twice at veterinary technicians, and it was Gimpy who suddenly snarled and growled at a neighbor who bent down and put her face right next to his on the other side of the fence. In his defense, he's normally so sweet natured that all three of those people placed the blame on themselves. The vet technicians each claimed that it isn't unusual for a dog to get snippy when someone "messes with" his hind end, and the neighbor said she knew better than to make direct eye contact with a dog that doesn't know her well. Gimpy is still somewhat timid around anything or anybody new and even a few things or situations that are by now familiar to him. I'm hoping that enough time, love, and reassurance will build his confidence and make him less fearful.
Unless you count the fact that I shared my tuna salad with the boys at lunchtime, we haven't done much in the way of celebration today. I thought about getting each of them a new toy, but they'd each want the toy that the other one had, and both toys would be de-squeaked and shredded in less than ten minutes. They'll have a good play session tonight, I'm sure, but I can't imagine it will be any more or less exciting than the one they had last night or the night before. I can't speak for Gimpy and Levi, but I can tell you honestly that every day I spend with them is a celebration as far as I'm concerned. They hold my heart in their shaggy paws.
Levi (forefront) and Gimpy
Terrible twos? Not these boys.
Gimpy (left) and Levi