January 10, 2005 ~ Becoming a Pack
I've read and heard many people say that German Shepherds are "one person" dogs. That they are fiercely loyal and loving to one person, and just tolerate everyone else. Well, Monty is not a full German Shepard, but that is the majority of his breeding, and from the start, he has seemed to stick to that characteristic. At the rescue, he picked me, loved me, followed my every move with adoring eyes. But other people? Not usually interested. It took a long time before he'd even allow Morgan to touch him.
When we started the adoption process, I remember Morgan saying, "I hope that Rose will work out for us to adopt along with Monty. I love Monty, I do, and I'll love to give him our home, but I have a feeling he'll never love me back. He'll probably always be your dog. It would be nice to have Rose to balance that, since she is so loving and outgoing."
And, sure enough, Monty always came to me for reassurance, looked to me for guidance, preferred for me to the be one holding his leash, changing his bandage, brushing his coat. I'd always get the licks, the nuzzles, the offers of his belly to scratch.
It would be comical if it weren't so frustrating, watching Monty with Morgan the first week we had him. "Monty, come!" Morgan would say, and Monty wouldn't even acknowledge that he'd heard Morgan's voice, but then I'd call Monty, and he'd instantly come, grinning and wagging his tail. "Monty, off the bed," Morgan would plead, and Monty would just stretch out more and grumble a bit. I'd order him off the bed and he'd instantly comply. Monty would lay across doorways, but move for me when I needed to get through, but for Morgan, it would be a battle.
In other words, Monty was challenging Morgan, not quite accepting him as an alpha, a leader. "Melissa's my alpha, but I don't know about you." Pack politics, to put it politely, were "strained." And when the dog doing the challenging is 115 pounds, you can quickly find that you have a potentially rather serious problem on your hands.
But, through our joint care of him over the last few weeks and Morgan's patient persistence, things have shifted.
One night, Monty came to Morgan first to beg for petting. And later that evening, he laid down next to Morgan rather than me. Slowly, he stopped caring who was holding his leash. He started clearing the way for Morgan to walk through paths that he was blocking. And then, one evening, he rolled over and gave Morgan his belly (a signal of submission).
Two Mornings ago, I had to go to work, and Morgan was staying home (weekends. I miss those.) He decided to sleep in. I crawled out of bed, and when I emerged from the bathroom, I saw a sight that just a week before I'd have never expected to see in all of my days. Monty had crawled up onto the bed and snuggled in next to Morgan, laying his head on Morgan's chest and worming his way under Morgan's arm. They cuddled together, Morgan sleepily scratching Monty under the chin, and Monty utterly relaxed, submissive, and loving. My heard broke with happiness, just then. I wanted to take a picture, but didn't want to wake them with the flash.
Peace in the household. "My Dog" has accepted my mate as his other alpha, and all will be well.
Oh my Monty. You have come so far from the scared dog I met a year ago. I look at you here in our house now, and you look as if you've finally found your way home, as if you finally feel comfortable in your own skin, your own role. You know your place, and you have not only accepted it, you have embraced it. Thank you.