Our dogs’ first fight

The other day, while Mia and Leo were tussling on the back patio, I heard the tone of their conversation change. Mia’s growls sounded meaner; Leo let out some hurt-sounding high-pitched barks. I looked outside and saw that Mia’s jaw was tangled in Leo’s collar.

I know that you’re supposed to separate dogs by grabbing from their hips, but what do you do if they’re stuck together? Probably not stick your hand in their faces and try to disengage their mouths. I felt Leo’s teeth bite down on my hand and pulled it back. His collar was pulled tight against his neck, but fortunately, the clasp was on the back of his neck where I could release it without endangering my hand further. As soon as the collar fell, the dogs went back to normal. My hand had blood on it (mine) and hurt like it had been slammed in a door.

I rinsed off my hand and grabbed an ice pack. He broke the skin in two places, but nothing that required medical attention.

My mother, who is visiting, walked in the room from the other side of the house, unaware of what had happened. I told her there had been a little incident, but everything was fine now. Meanwhile, could she chop the vegetables for the skillet meal I was planning to make?

Leo came inside and kind of cowered behind my mom’s legs while she sliced. Leo doesn’t know my mom well, but she was there the day he came to live with us, so maybe he remembers this nice lady who kept him safe after his unhappy first interaction with a different adult female shepherd.

Later that evening, something happened when Mom was in the kitchen and Rob was walking from the computer room to the TV room. The dogs got into it in the kitchen until we separated them and put them both outside. They were fine after that.

They slept in the same room with us as usual and were lying on the floor nose to nose when I got out of the shower the next morning. Before I left for work, Mia was inside and Leo was outside. I reached for Leo’s collar to lead him past Mia to his crate. Duh, right? It reminded him of having her pulling his collar and she was right there. They got into it. This time I used the hip-grabbing method, but had a hard time breaking them up. Eventually I got Leo into his crate and Mom and I left for the day.

After work, I let Mia out first, and then got Leo out of his crate. As I opened the sliding glass door so Leo could join her, I thought, “Oh, I should take their collars off,” but before I could even reach for them, the dogs were fighting and it was bad. I redirected them to the main part of the yard, thinking they’d settle matters and move on, but the fight intensified. This was something I didn’t think I had to worry about anymore. They’re best friends! They don’t fight!

I couldn’t get them apart. Rob wasn’t home. I didn’t want my mom and aunt inside to even know there was a fight going on. I grabbed one dog by the hips and tried to pull them apart. The other dog held on. I tried grabbing the other. I couldn’t get between them. Finally, I moved them inside the dog run and managed to shove Leo to the outside of the gate. I took Mia inside. Leo continued barking at her, but it wasn’t the panicked spastic barking that Isis used to do. More like, “Oh, yeah, come back over here and let’s finish this!”

Rob pulled in the driveway. I went outside and sat down on the ground between our two cars to tell him what had happened without alerting my mother and aunt.

He said, “Maybe I’ll take them both out back and see what they do… wait, is Mia bleeding?”

Yes, she was, she had a puncture wound on her front leg. I took her to the vet where they cleaned it up and told me it would heal on its own. They also shaved around it, which is charming since she still hasn’t grown back the fur on her other leg where they shaved all the way around to anesthetize her to have a tooth pulled. Does fur grow slower in older dogs?

I kept them apart until Rob was done with his class. Mia in the bedroom, Leo out back and in the kitchen. I had a lovely dinner with my mother and aunt, feeling stressed and upset the whole time. I am a master of keeping dogs separated, but I didn’t want to have to do that anymore.

Leo sat very calmly on the kitchen floor, smiling. Yesterday, he did that with Mia right next to them. Were they not going to be able to be in the same room together like that anymore? Mia whimpered from the bedroom. I realized she’d never had a chance to relieve herself so I took her for a short walk.

After Rob’s class, we decided to try reintegrating them. Collars off. Mia was inside, whining because she wanted to be with Rob and Leo on the other side of the dog run gate. Both dogs had calm looks on their faces and wagging tails. Leo did a few play bows and pounces for Rob. They both looked like they wanted to play. We let Mia out. Leo did not charge the fence like Isis used to. I opened the fence. They ran up to each other and resumed their best friend play dynamic.

And all was right with the world again.