As soon as I got out of the car, my jeans cuffs were attacked from all sides by a little powerhouse of a black dog, barking non-stop. I stood there, stock still, seemingly surrounded by this barking dynamo, as his master approached and called him off. As soon as the dust settled I was introduced to my fearless attacker. Rex. Quite a welcome!
Rex is an Australian Shepherd, small for his breed, with a thick, wavy black coat, white chest and forelegs, a stumpy little tail with a white “feather” sticking out, a white streak down the middle of his handsome face, and a broken tooth.
The jeans attack took place when I visited his master (soon to become my boyfriend) for the first time on their 22 country acres, a couple hours north of my home in central Florida. Since then, I’ve spent a few days every month with the two of them and Rex now considers me a part-time member of the family, entitled to his full protective services. My jeans are safe now!
Rex and I have become good buddies during this time. In fact, his master jokingly refers to me as Rex’s girlfriend! When I’m outside by the pasture, relaxing in my squatty little beach chair, Rex trots over and plops his face in my lap, sometimes trying to scramble on board. I wrap my arms around him, give him some sweet-talk and he’s all mine, ready to protect me from any and all intruders, streaking across the field like a bat out of hell whenever a car approaches.
But Rex is more than just a fearless protector. In addition to his guard dog skills, he has a very sympathetic heart. He always howls consolingly when Roxy, the resident donkey brays her lonely bray. And once, when Maddie, the asthmatic pony started coughing, he trotted over to her and put his nose to hers through the fence as if to say, “Are you OK?”
When he’s inside the house, I’ve often caught Rex padding from room to room checking on things, and sometimes he’ll sneak into the bedroom–an off-limits, no-flea zone. He’s risking a scolding in order to make sure everything and everyone is accounted for. And I’m convinced that his habit of always being underfoot is an attempt to station himself close enough to guard us, innocently unaware that the greatest danger we face is that of tripping over him!
Most evenings when I’m visiting them, Rex, his master and I can be found in a little room off the kitchen watching TV. I’m cozied up in a comfy chair, his master is at the computer, and Rex is curled up by one or the other of us; sometimes in between, sound asleep, dreaming his doggie dreams, but ready to jump up in a split second if he hears anything suspicious.
Things weren’t always so rosy for Rex though. He came dangerously close to being put down at a rescue shelter before my boyfriend entered his life. He was told that Rex had “bad psychological traits,” and cautioned against taking him home. As a matter of fact, Rex almost dislocated his master-to-be’s shoulder in a flying leap when they first met! Whether this was a watchdog move or a “take-me-home!” plea is anyone’s guess. At any rate, he was taken home and given consistent discipline and lots of loving by his outgoing new master, who greets him every morning with a resounding “THERE’S my stumpy-tailed little doggie!” Repeated twice for emphasis, and answered by Rex with plenty of vigorous, stumpy-tailed wags.
I have to confess that I’ve never really been a dog person at heart; not even a pet person, actually. A confirmed introvert, used to living alone, I like to go about my business without interruption and sometimes get caught up in my thoughts, oblivious to what’s around me. Rex seems determined to cure me of my tunnel vision though. Running up to me while I’m puttering around outdoors, he gets me out of my head, trotting ahead of me or positioning himself nearby, reminding me of his presence. My trusty little sidekick.
It seems to me I lucked out on that fateful day when Rex, his master and I first met. I got myself a two-for-one deal. And that’s a very good thing in my book. Very good indeed.