I used to have three dogs; Madam, TJ and Little Monkey. The old male, TJ, kept the peace between the two rival females; Madam, the Alpha female of the pack, and LM the runt of the litter and definite Omega. Whenever I took them in the car, I put Madam in first, and scooted her bum along the seat right to the door; lifted in TJ (gammy legs, unable to jump) then let LM bound in, tongue lolling, “Isn’t this great fun, Mum?” trying to stop her (unsuccessfully) from leaping all over TJ. Then off we drove, TJ lying down resignedly in the middle, Madam looking out of the window and studiously ignoring LM, and LM all hyper-excited and happy.
Most of the time the three if them lived happily together as a pack, but now and again, there would be a flare up, usually between the two females. You can read about the other fight here Fight!
In later years, when this incident happened, there was a lot of tussling going on for dominance between the now old and somewhat frail Madam, and the strong, in her prime LM.
One day, I came home after being out for a while and opened the back door to let the dogs in. TJ was lying on the stoep and Madam and LM were down in the garden by the Eugenia tree. It looked like there was something on the ground between them. I didn’t say anything, but I think the fact that I was now there triggered this fight, because next second Madam and LM were really going at each other; with lots of snapping and growling.
Often, if you can distract the dogs for a second they will break off. So I threw my car keys at them, luckily still in my hand. The keys shot through the fighting dogs, hit the wall and ended up under the mini hedge, making not the slightest difference.
So this was going to be more hands on! I wasn’t afraid of being intentionally bitten by the girls, even though the fight sounded so bad. As long as I kept my hands away from their heads I’d be all right. Madam was much more likely to bite me than LM, so I grabbed hold of LM’s tail and started pulling her away from Madam. I held tight and moved backwards, dragging LM with me; all the while the two girls were going at it. LM had now got Madam by the ear with her little front teeth, so Madam was coming with us, with her head on one side!
I pulled LM, with Madam in tow, all the way across the lawn to the apple tree fifteen metres away. Eventually, when I was wondering just what else I could do, LM let go and turned round to look at me, as if to say, “What are you doing, Mum? I’m trying to have a fight here!”
Madam, suddenly released, stood still for a moment, and I thought, “Great, she’s free. Now she can go in the house” only to watch in amazement as Madam threw herself back into the fight with gusto. This old dog wasn’t going to give up the reins just yet!
Finally, I pulled LM off again, shooed her behind me, and marched Madam into the house, where TJ was keeping out of it all, and shut the door. Breathe!
This wasn’t full blown aggression between the dogs; rather trying to find out who was the more dominant and leader of the pack. Madam was much more an Alpha dog than LM, who is way down the pecking order at the Omega end!
I quickly checked over LM. Some damp gobby bits of fur, but no blood. I went inside and checked out Madam. She was also gobby, but although she had no major damage, her ear was bleeding from being dragged across the garden by LM’s teeth. As she was very old, I decided to take her to the vets for a check up, just to be sure.
So I went in the garden to retrieve my keys from under the hedge. The car ignition key had broken open into two halves after hitting the wall, so I just snapped it back together again. I shut up the house, leaving TJ and LM behind, and went out to the garage with Madam.
I settled Madam in the back of the car and started the ignition. Click! Nothing. Oh for Pete’s sake! What a time for the battery to be flat, or whatever else it was. I tried again, but there was no way this car was starting.
Back to the drawing board; or rather, phoning my friend to take me and Madam to the vets. I sat outside and waited with Madam, and a bottle of wine for my trusty friend. A quick check at the vets revealed only superficial damage, but the vet cleaned Madam up and gave her an antibiotic shot and painkiller. I’m always more careful of old dogs, and had been worried about the after effects of shock on Madam.
The next day I tried starting my car again; no joy. Then I had the bright idea of trying my spare set of keys. The car started first time! So I phoned up the car manufacturers and asked them about the key, and the cost of a new one. They said there was a tiny chip inside the key, that was probably damaged, and depending on the type of key would cost anything from a few hundred Rand to a thousand or more to replace! Hmmm.
I opened up the faulty key again, and compared it to the working key. There was a tiny tiny chip missing! It was about 2mm by 3mm in size; and black with a little white V on it. This was going to be hard to find!
I went outside to where I had picked up the key under the hedge, 24 hours before. It had rained over night, was still drizzling, and under the hedge it was full of dead leaves and dirt. I scrabbled around with my hands, wondering how I was going to see something so tiny and dark as this chip! Well, I went through sections at a time systematically, gathering damp earth and filtering through it. And I found the chip!!
I wiped it off, fit it back in my key, and the car started again!
But what had the dogs been fighting over in the first place? I went to investigate after the vets. You won’t believe this, but it was pooh!
They were fighting over who got to eat the dog pooh! This certainly was a dominance issue, but really girls?