Everybody needs someone to look up to, and animals are no different.
When people are born into this world, the most basic, innocent interactions we have are with our siblings. I was two and a half years older than my brother, Sean. Throughout our childhood, Sean looked up to me and we seemingly did everything together, from building snowmen together to walking to school together. Siblings, especially older ones help us realize how we are supposed to act, and they even teach us about our surroundings. Dogs are no different.
Near the end of August, my wife and I adopted an eight-week-old pitbull, named Toby. Now four months old and nearly 40 pounds Toby has fully embraced his role of looking up to our two-year-old German shepherd, Roxy. When we first adopted Toby, we thought he would get along really well with Maximus, our three-year-old Shih Tzu. Maximus gets along with everyone and he was Toby’s size at that point. Roxy is very territorial, but to our surprise Toby and Roxy have been inseparable from day one.
As with most sibling relationships, there are times when Roxy is generally annoyed by Toby’s insistance that everything is so much fun. Roxy, like anyone, needs her space, this of course is a practice that Toby does not understand one bit. Before we got Toby, Monika and I would come home and let Maximus and Roxy out of their cages and both dogs would run to see Monika, their mother tails wagging in pure excitement.
Toby, however is the complete opposite. I usually let Maximus and Roxy out of their cages first before getting to Toby and his first reaction is to run over to Roxy and jump on her to give her an abundance of licks to make sure Roxy remembers him. The dogs often all get excited while playing at the same time which usually leads to as we call it, “crazy run around time”. The dogs basically run circles around our house for about 20 minutes before they get tired.
The run around time is usually started by Toby and Roxy chasing each other. Also, when the dogs all have toys they are playing with separately, Toby tends to find a toy that he thinks is pretty much the coolest thing he has ever seen and he decides it is appropriate to carry that toy over and shove it in Roxy’s face to inform her of all the fun he is having. About a year ago I noticed that when Roxy lays down on the ground, she curls her right leg underneath her body for some reason. I had never seen a dog do this before, until two weeks ago when Toby began doing the same. I couldn’t help but smile, and think that Toby was doing this for the simple reason that he wanted to do it to be like Roxy. The same thing that thousands of younger siblings do every day as they try to emulate every little thing their older brother or sisters do.
Studies have shown that dogs are very intelligent, and can even decipher their owner’s emotional reactions. The same can be said for interactions with other dogs. Dogs are inherently social animals that thrive on such experiences with each other. The fact that two dogs living together would become close friends is no surprise. Dogs are very much like humans in this respect, as contact with other living beings enchances their life experience.
When I was 16, I moved from living with my mother to my father’s house 160 miles away, disrupting my relationship from Sean for a couple of years. For the time it had a profound impact on our relationship and both of our lives individually, as it was the first time we were ever apart from each other. Such a change would irrevocably impact the already short lives of Toby and Roxy, because everybody needs someone to look up to, and dogs are no different.
Dennis Glade is a graduate of Indiana University. He enjoys driving fast, spoiling his three dogs and rooting unabashedly for the New York Yankees.