By Rock and Candi’s Mom

Dogged determination. Doggedly. I never quite understood the true measure of these terms until I started living with dogs. Possessing a series of obsessions, my two black labs, Rock and Candi, prioritize theirs in slightly different ways. For Rock food is number one on his list, with balls, preferably ones with a squeaker inside, as a close second. Candi’s number one is peering out the window on the lookout for intruders, perhaps a jogger, bird, or your shadowed reflection on the opposite window, will cause her to bark and bay in warning. Food is her close second.  With every obsession, there is the need to use strategies to get the object of your desire. Masters at getting what they want, Rock and Candi can charm any two-legger into giving them a morsel or two of their food. Their strategy is simple. Rock’s is passive and Candi’s is slightly more aggressive. As a passive-aggressive team, they are unstoppable. No matter what you are doing, no matter how tough your resolve, they will engage in a face off where they will use their dogged determination to get their prize.

It is 7:35 p.m. on a Friday night. Snoozing on pillows in front of the fireplace, Rock and Candi are facing opposite sides, like mirror images. I often wonder how they always end up mirroring each other’s resting positions as if they are extensions of each other. Stooping to put the movie in the DVD player, I hear the beep, beep of the microwave signaling that the popcorn is ready. Rock raises his head and Candi gets up to investigate the crinkling sound coming from the kitchen. As Larry separates the popcorn into three bowls, Rock enters the kitchen and sits facing Larry with the counter between them. He tries to begin the face off right then and there. Candi pads around the kitchen counter looking up at Larry imploringly, deciding to take a more direct approach. Larry ignores them both and gives Vashti and me our buttery treat. Knowing their targets well, they both come directly to me as the one who usually gives in first. Rock comes to me and sits. His aim is to keep eye contact with me and the popcorn. Candi trots over and places her face on my lap, blinks her eyes and looks up at me. Pushing her away, I turn to the other side of the sofa. She comes to that side and places her face on my other thigh. Rock’s face turns to each of us, Vashti in the chair closest to the TV and Larry and I on the couch. We crunch and crunch and gulp and gulp our popcorn and soda. Candi goes between each of us squeezing her face into any opening our laps. Rock never moves. He just watches, and waits letting the thick, viscous, drool make long icicles on either side of his mouth. Vashti happens to look at him. “Yuk, Rock how nasty! Mom, Dad, look at Rock’s drool.” At that point, I decide to throw him a popped kernel. He catches it without effort. Candi runs over to me and sits up straight as if mimicking Rock, waiting for her treat. This encourages Vashti to share with Rock. They both run to her to get their fill. Larry will throw Rock one or two.

After they have had their fill, they pad over to the water bowl and lap up water from their shared water bowl. Their tongues are synchronized in their loud lapping sounds. Before they can return to begging, Larry orders them on their pillows, putting an end to their feast. Rock plops down in a heap on his pillow. Candi circles twice on hers to find just the right spot. Mission Accomplished. They fall asleep, but Candi’s ears are peeled back ready to hear the first signs of an intruder or the second sounds of food. Rock rests up for his next face off, depending on Candi to let him know when that will be.

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