An Analysis of Butter

Despite the fact that he may very well be the happiest dog in the world, there are a few things Butter does not like.

He does not like it when we ignore him when he stands next to the treat cupboard, sniffing the spot where we usually open the door, waiting semi-patiently for a treat. (This, he does often.)

He does not like running into doors because we do not open them fast enough for him to run through.

He does not like it when we—Conservative Boy and I, and whoever else might join us—sit at the dining room table and eat without acknowledging that he is sitting beside us, drooling on our thighs, waiting for a bite.

He does not like it when we place plates in the dishwasher before allowing him to lick them clean.

He does not like getting tangled around the tree in the backyard when he’s roaming on his chain. (Oh wait, that’s the one I don’t like because I have to go out and untangle him. I think he does it on purpose, actually.)

Sometimes he does not like it when we wipe his paws clean when he comes in from outside. He’ll snap at us then, warning us he is not in the mood. But actually, most of the time, this he does not mind.

He doesn’t like it when I won’t let him sniff other dogs’ butts on our walks. This makes him sad more than mad, I think. He’s a dog-loving dog if there ever was one. (Fortunately, he recently had the opportunity to sniff his friend Cubby’s butt and chase him around our basement for quite some time, so that will hopefully satisfy his butt-sniffing urge for a while.)

He does not like the bright lights of cars late at night, whether they are driving by on our quiet street or stopping to see the neighbors. Past 10 p.m., any car lights signal trouble. And he’ll be sure to let us know.

Most of all he does not like squirrels. Or rabbits. Or any other intruders. (Besides birds. He doesn’t mind them, even when they fly directly into the window where he is sitting and flop to the ground below, mortally wounded. For some reason, this does not faze him.)

But should he spot—or, just sense, really—squirrels chasing one another up the trunk of a tree in the backyard, he is suddenly hopping up on the windowsill in the dining room, the hair on his back standing straight up like a mohawk, panting and whimpering and carrying on.

Should he be outside when the squirrels make an appearance, he immediately jumps up on the trunk of the tree where they sit, as if he has single-handedly treed them, and lets out a frantic, high-pitched bark that surely has the neighbors thinking I am beating him. And when a rabbit manages to perch perfectly still on the brown patch of soil that only a few months ago was my front-yard garden, Butter will squeal and hop around and let out low rumbles from deep in his throat as if that rabbit, sitting so serenely, signals the end of the world.

Now that I think about it, however, I am reminded of something that Butter likes even less than squirrels or rabbits.

The mailman. Or any delivery person for that matter, who breaches what he considers sacred space (aka the front stoop) at any point in the day or night. They are the ultimate intruders. Any person who would come every day, right up to the house, but not be let in, must be bad. Any person who drives such a strange-looking, noisy truck, and walks right up to the front door of every house on the street without being let in, must be bad.

For a while, he would get so worked up over the mailman coming each day that he would jump up on the glass of the front window and scratch at it and bark the bark to end all barks. The glass of our front window and the curtains that frame it have the claw marks to prove it. He’s since calmed down a bit (thanks to a bit of training), but still, delivery people are his enemies.

And so he will alert me to any delivery person’s presence—day or night—urgently, angrily. Just so I know the house—if only for a minute—is under attack.

What a guard dog.

Other than that, Butter is an infinitely happy fellow. He is no longer afraid of baths, stairs, hair brushing, or any of the other things that alarmed him when he first came to live with us. He still won’t get too close to the hairdryer, but he no longer barks at it—just looks at it like what it is, an odd curiousity. And even though the vacuum is still a big bad monster, he chases it around and barks at it now rather than running away, cowering. All in all, he’s a pretty tough fellow.

Or a big softy, depending on how you look at it.

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