It’s been a while since I wrote about the “Three Amigos,” the Australian Shepherds that run my life. No, really, that’s true. Aside from my work schedule, which is currently on summer re-runs, working around Rusty, Amos, and Lola is probably the chief determinant of what I do when.
And I’m not complaining. They love it when I’m home for the summer. They are out of their crates. If I’m working in the backyard, they like to be out there with me (until it gets too hot–the weenies.) This was a do-the-deck summer, so when I was sanding, or sitting painting rail spindles and railings they were right there with me desperately trying to wash my face while I was just as desperately trying to fend them off. They love being with me, and honestly I love being with them.
They don’t understand summer vacation, or at least not the sleeping in thing. As a fully experienced dog owner on summer break thing, I have taken care to go to bed fairly close to my normal school schedule. That means I’m usually up around 4:45 to take care of the hungry Aussies. Then we go for a walk by 5:00. Why? Because they insist on it and won’t let me get away with procrastination. It’s great walking weather and we are usually gone for about 20 minutes. Earlier in the summer it was light at that time, but now the sky is just beginning to brighten up. We’ve seen some gorgeous sunrises together. They are really great walkers, all three of them. They haven’t always been that way, but rarely do we have a snarl of leashes. The two reds (that’s what we call Rusty and Lola) walk ahead while Amos walks by my side. Sometimes we are distracted by community rocks and light posts, but for the most part we’re able to make the trip out and back with little diversion.
Rusty is the oldest, and will be six in January. I call him the “Big Man,” after Clarence Clemons, the late saxophonist of the E-Street Band. He’s also 19 inches at the shoulder and isn’t really much of a miniature Australian Shepherd, but he’d be very small for a standard Aussie.. He follows me everywhere and misses me when I’m gone. I’ve been to Kansas City for a week and will be in Bellingham this weekend for journalism summer camp. Rusty hates it when I’m gone and waits patiently at the door for me to come home. He is a wonderful companion, and is an excellent walker. He loves to lay in my lap, and if I am in the recliner will launch himself from across the room to get there. Lorri likes to call him the perfect dog because he’s nice to visitors, isn’t barky, and loves affection. Then she remembers what a horror he is around food. Because he’s long, Rusty stands tall on his hind legs and nothing on the stove or counters is safe from his incredibly long tongue. We’ve had words recently, but what can you say to your daily best buddy? And he shows little sign of understanding angry English.
Lola is the youngest and turned two on the Fourth of July. You may remember we brought her home from our trip to Sand Point last summer at just about this time. Lola is a piece of work. She is full of energy. All the time. Every day. She wants on my lap so she can endlessly wash my face. She wants my attention if I’ve been painting figures or reading too long. Lola wants a walk and barks at me to let me know that it’s time to go NOW! She consumes almost anything plastic and somewhere stuck in her colon are about a dozen or more of my socks. She’s terrible around visitors to the house, dissolving into endless barking. Though the house is littered with dog toys the way a daycare might be, Lola only wants the toy Rusty has. And he lets her take it. Lola may need serious psychiatric help.
But she is a wonderful dog. I’ve never been around a dog who is so relentlessly happy. Lola’s amber eyes shine and her mouth parts.into a toothy grin whenever Lorri and I look at her. Sometimes, when she’s really happy, and her butt is wiggling like a metronome, she pulls back her lips and gives us her “creepy” smile we call Miss Teeth. She loves to play, with me sometimes, but her regular foil is Rusty. Rusty doesn’t always want to play, but herding dog that she is, Lola drives him right out the door and chases him, until he begins chasing her, and then we have the big Aussie circles in the backyard that are such a glory to watch. She loves to play ball, and is almost as good as Lucy was–almost. And then there are those moments when I’ve climbed in bed to read and she wants a quick snuggle. I call her by many names, “Missy,” “Sissy,” “Peanut,” but usually she’s just my “Sweet Girl.”
So I haven’t said much about Amos. That’s because Amos is complicated. The reds kind of go together. They sometimes curl up together and wash one others’ faces. Amos, not so much. I wouldn’t say he is the odd man out, but for the most part he likes to be alone. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great dog. He’s fiercely loyal, very territorial (which means quite barky,) the first at the window to send off the poor UPS man, the first at the door when the doorbell rings (pizza delivery dude beware,) and if the neighbors are making some unexpected commotion, he’s the first to tell them off too–all through the window mind you. More than anything, Amos is a people dog. He likes people, even strangers, after he’s gone through his barking checklist, are friends. He’ll snuggle right up close to them and beg to have his tummy scratched. He’s a great dog. Not so good at playing, though every now and then he’ll surprise me and join in the fun. More often than not, he’s more the grumpy neighbor guy telling the Reds to straighten up and get off his lawn.
There are times when three seems like too many. But the moment passes quickly. Usually when I’m trapped on the floor surrounded by mini-Aussies trying to wash my face and can’t stop laughing. They are sweet and kind, and they are definitely the Smyth pack.