And smart. He's probably the smartest dog we've ever had the joy of living with. And he's wise; as each new pet addition has come into our lives, Murphy has been there to guide them in our ways. Always, they fear him when first they meet...he towers over all of them, looking like a Shetland pony rather than a black lab. But, he knows just what to do to put them at their ease. He turns his back, sits down elegantly, and shows them he means them no harm. If this doesn't work, he lays on his back, all four feet in the air, presenting them throat and belly to show his trust of them. And soon, they trust him in return, following his lead, alert when he's alert and relaxed when he's relaxed.
Murphy towers over our Callie who's on the small side for a bench lab.
I was proud of him today. As David and I mucked out the chicken's play yard and cleared the coop of damp pine shavings (in the pouring rain, I might add), Murphy stood guard just outside the pen. As always he was watching my back...there is no leaving him in the house if I'm outside - he knows his job and he'll bark incessantly until he's let out to do it. But that's not what impressed me this morning - I expect him to guard me diligently through rains and winds and whatever life may throw at us....I was proud for another reason.....I was proud because he gently herded one of the escapees....
Our Aggie, always the bravest of the chicks, escaped. I had neglected to lock the pen gate behind me as I entered and after their first adventure in free ranging, those chicks want out now...badly. There's a whole big world of bugs and worms and flowers and green stuff just begging for their attention don't you know....Aggie waited for me to get involved with David's mucking efforts and snuck her way out that gate. Shortly thereafter, the other four decided to try their luck at scooting out that gate as well, but there was a big black nose that blocked their way and a big black gentle body that moved this way and that way to keep Aggie near that gate on the outside.
We haven't allowed the dogs into the pen and during our first free range event they were locked inside the house (Murphy barking his fool head off at the outrage, mind you) because we were not sure if they would consider the chicks prey or chase them to death. We plan on having one dog out on a leash at a time for awhile to control their introduction to chickens frolicking in what has to date been an exclusive large play pen. But, Murphy will now get to escape that leashing exercise...he proved today that those chicks are already just a part of his ever growing pack - another group that he will protect with his own life.
There is some sadness as I type this post - our Murphy is ill. We're not exactly sure what's wrong with him. It could be epilepsy or lymphoma. He's had several seizures and is on meds for that, but he has visible tumors on his long lean body. Blood work has come back okay, an aspiration of one lymph gland came back negative, but we decided that was the extent of the testing we would do. Much as we love him, as much as he means to us, in the end, he is a dog and extreme measures are not something we will take with him. We're hoping for epilepsy and there are signs that this is what it is...labs get tumors...not all of them are malignant. We've been told that he's on the "cusp" for both diseases....age 6 is the time for epilepsy to develop and age 7 increases the risk of lymphoma..... Murphy's 7.
Whatever illness our Murph is experiencing, we're not taking him and his special personality for granted....already spoiled, he's being spoiled more than ever....if he asks to go with us on an errand...he gets to go. If he comes up for a cuddle, he gets that cuddle even if it means stopping what we were doing for a moment.... I was proud of our Murphy today.....and he got an extra special hug and a bone of his own to chew on....