The same thing happens every day. I take one out first, then take the other. My dogs have been doing this routine for a few years now, and it still never ceases to amaze me. How does Myschka know where her sister has been? Litter sisters they are. Does that make a difference?
For several reasons, I walk my two dogs separately. When they were young, I used to walk them together with never a problem, until they were attacked by hooligan dogs, with hooligan owners, shall I say, more than once. This made them wary of other dogs, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to control two dogs if they were attacked again, so I started walking them separately. I found this benefited each of them with more quality time, as they were glad to have my undivided attention for at least half an hour. There has always been sibling rivalry between them.
You would think that litter sisters would be the same, wouldn’t you? Well, they couldn’t be more different. Their father was a huge short-haired sable and gold german shepherd, about the same colouring as one of my dogs, Myschka. Their mother was a much smaller long-haired black and tan, like my other dog, Jezebel, who was the runt of the litter of nine. She had to fight her way past the other eight pups to get fed, so she always knew how to defend herself against the bigger pups, and she became feisty. She was the dog I chose when I had the pick of the litter. I wanted a black and tan.
I wanted a companion for Jezebel so she wouldn’t be lonely when I was at work, and as the owner was selling the pups cheaply because their mother had mastitis and had to be taken away from them, I decided to have two. I didn’t mind which of the others I had, so long as it was a bitch. But Myschka chose me. They always say you should let the dog choose the owner, not the other way round, don’t they?
When they first arrived at my house, Jezebel immediately picked up my door-stop in my kichen and ran off with it impishly. That was it…..she had a name! She was going to be a Jezebel. Myschka was soft and fluffy, with a fat fluffy tail. She looked like a cute little fox. But she was a bit timid. She let her sister investigate first, before she went to something new. I thought that Mishka sounded a kinda cute name, and I was told that myszka means ‘little mouse’ in Polish and mishka means ‘little bear’ in Russian, so I rather liked my choice of name for Myschka. She’s the sensitive one. Jez is the bolshy one. Myschka wants to please. Jez doesn’t give a monkeys! She wants to please herself. But is she jealous? Boy, is she! She HAS to be the first to be taken out.
I used to take it in turns to take one out first, then the other. It was so embarrassing listening to the howls of frustration from Jez as I walked up my road with Myschka first. Myschka stayed at home quite happily chewing on her chewy stick I gave her to placate her, when I took Jez out first. On the other hand, Jez would ignore the chewy stick and howl until I returned, when I took Myschka out first. So it was that Jez always went out first, and in slight compensation in my mind, Myschka got her dinner first, while Jez sat patiently waiting for hers.
Then started the routine. I would return with Jez, and Myschka would spend a moment or two sniffing her feet before she went out with me. Then on Myschka’s walk, I would let her lead the way. She would go the exact same way her sister had gone on her walk before her. Bearing in mind that I rarely went the same way, I thought this was amazing. I wanted a different walk really, so I often would make the decision to go on a different route. Myschka would enjoy the walk, but I could see by her behaviour that she wasn’t wholly comfortable with it until she picked up her sister’s scent again, when we reached the point where we were back on the route I had taken with Jez. Clever aren’t they?
Even cleverer though, is Myschka’s behaviour on a day like today, when I deviated from the normal route of one of our regular walks. On the walk with Jez, I decided to walk around the housing estate near where I live to admire the gardens, which are all bursting into colour. I usually go nowhere near any houses, preferring the open spaces. On our return, Myschka didn’t recognise some of the smells on her sister’s feet, so she spent longer sniffing them. I could hear great inhalations from her. Then it was her turn for a walk, and off we went. We reached the point where we’ve not been before, well not for a very long time anyway, but the way I had been on my walk with Jez. Myschka looked a little puzzled, but turned to go that way, leading me on my long lead. She ignores that junction usually, as do I. Bearing in mind that she was not actually sniffing the ground, I am gobsmacked that she knows that was the way her sister went.
I tried to confuse her after that by crossing the road before we got to the point where I crossed with Jez. Myschka looked very puzzled again, and started sniffing the ground, like a bloodhound. She is not happy. She doesn’t know where she is. Her sister hasn’t checked this bit out first. It’s not familiar territory. She even ignored the cat lying a few feet away from her. Fifty feet or so later, where I had crossed over the road with Jez, she lifted her nose from the ground and visibly relaxed. Her sister went this way. She was happy to be back on track, and we were still nowhere near familiar territory.
How on earth does she know?
I submitted this story to Pet Pages of clevermag.com, edited to suit the emagasine
under the title of “The Tracker” 29.07.12