I’ve been learning this vividly since Shay moved in with us. Now I have a canine parade tailing me through the house, sitting together with mournfully expectant looks on their faces when I approach the refrigerator (which holds, on top, a box of doggie treats). When I walk toward the front door, go down the stairs, head toward the bathtub or climb into bed, I’m no longer an individual who happens to live with animals, but alpha dog in the sacred and zany pack that lives here.
Having never lived with multiple dogs, it’s a strange sensation to be surrounded by fur and followed by the click-clack staccaco of two big dogs’ nails on wooden floors. Furthermore, as leader of this pack, it falls to me to set the example. No more slipping the old dog food under the table when no one is looking (unless, by miracle, the new dog is far, far away outside for the moment). Much more asking the other members of the pack to sit, stay and come (which they do, amazing me since I could never train my kids accordingly). A lot of throwing squeaky toys and mixing up dog genders (particularly hard when you have one female and one male), cleaning up, hauling bags of dog food and turning my head when one of the dog does something completely disgusting (I’ll spare you the details).
When I leave the house, without a dog or two in tow, I’m just a person, but when I return I find myself deep in the den with the others who will follow me closely downstairs or up, inside or out, so happy to just be running, walking, knocking things over and surging forward as part of the pack. Even at night, especially at night, the pack is tight, dreaming together in our bedroom thanks to one queen-sized bed and two dog beds. They wake and come to me, staring into my sleeping face until I wake too, the reluctant, tired and happy leader of the pack.