It’s just after noon, and I have to make a phone call for work, but Angus is barking.
I know this bark. This is not his “There’s a man in a blue uniform stuffing paper through the slot in the front door again!” bark. It’s not his “There’s a squirrel on the bird feeder!” bark, nor his “The neighbor is walking her dogs through our alley again!” bark.
No, this isn’t a bark of alarm. This is a bark of outrage. And I know why: My husband has taken Rosie for a walk and left Angus behind. How dare he?
Ever since Doug and I started working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an awful lot of togetherness. This is good, and this is also bad. We love being together, but sometimes, you know, the house feels just a little too small.
The first few days we were hunkered down at home, the dogs were exhausted. They were not used to being awake for more than a few hours a day, and constant alertness was wearing on them. They’d trot up the stairs and peer in on me and then cross the hall and peer in on Doug, and you could tell by the worried looks on their faces they were thinking, “Do you not have jobs to go to? Have you been fired? Who is going to pay for our Milk Bones and bully sticks?”
But as time went on, they got used to the new routine. They now sleep a lot again, usually Angus on the couch and Rosie on the gigantic dog bed (aka “the raft”) that we bought for Angus. Sometimes they snuggle together.
We let them out a couple of times a day, and they race into the yard and execute deep, dramatic play bows and chase each other around the tree and leap into the air and bump their chests.
Inside, in the evenings, they play tug with their blaze-orange rope toy while we are trying to watch television. Sometimes, one of them — usually Rosie — will drop the rope in front of Doug or me and make it clear she wants us to play. And that is where the trouble begins.
I pick up the rope. I toss it. Rosie chases after it. Angus scrambles after her — he wants to play, too. But Rosie has decided she wants to play with me and me alone, and when Angus grabs one end of the rope, Rosie snarls and barks. Angus barks back. Things escalate. Teeth flash. We stop play, remove the toy, and they simmer down.
They would never hurt each other, but we can’t allow that barking and growling any more than my mother allowed it when I barked and growled (so to speak) at my siblings.
With dogs, it’s called “resource guarding.” It manifests itself every so often, and each time we find it alarming. What one dog gets, the other dog wants.
If Doug grabs a couch pillow and stretches out on the living room floor, for instance, Angus will snuggle in close. Rosie approaches. Angus barks at her: “He’s mine! Back off!”
Sometimes Rosie barks back at him, and sometimes she retreats, but either way, the fun is over. Doug stands up, goes back to his chair. He can’t allow himself to be a resource that the dogs are fighting over.
The rivalry comes through at other times, too — such as right now, with Rosie on a walk and Angus barking his outrage at being left behind.
I know what I have to do. I shut the door, and I make my phone call. And then I go downstairs and strap the leash onto Angus. What one dog gets, the other dog gets. It’s a way of keeping peace.
On our way out the door, we encounter Doug and Rosie returning from their walk. The dogs take turns sniffing each other suspiciously, to make sure one didn’t get something good that the other one didn’t get.
As Angus and I set off down the sidewalk, I can hear, from inside the house, the sound of Rosie barking. She sounds positively outraged. “He’s getting a walk!”
Whatever one dog gets, the other dog wants. And believe me, they keep score.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. She has been chronicling the life of Angus, a rescue puppy, since he was 7 weeks old.
Read all of Angus’ adventures at startribune.com/puppy.