Meet Charles, my friend Rebecca’s Brussels griffon.


Rebecca is going into the hospital soon for spinal fusion surgery. I promised to take care of Charles for the three weeks during and post-op, so last night we had a trial sleepover.

It didn’t go so well.

Charles was distraught at being left with a strange human and a hostile dog, a.k.a. the normally shy Frankie. Here’s the sad part:  When he was first rescued,  Frankie spent many a night huddled up with Charles at Rebecca’s house; they protected each other from the predations of the other larger, more hyper dogs. Now that he’s the king of my roost, he apparently has no time for old pals.

Et tu, Frankie?

So… after Rebecca left for the evening, Charles began pacing — click, click, click go the toenails on my wood floor — in distress. Whenever he tried to approach our bed to get some comfort, Frankie growled at him.

I tried putting Charles and his bed in another part of the house. He began howling and, occasionally, butting his head against the door. I got up and brought Charles back to “our” part of the house. Frankie growled, Charles clicked away… you get the picture.

It only got worse the next morning.  Tired of growling at Charles, who didn’t respond, Frankie decided to show him who’s boss in another way.

Here’s Charles, minding his own business:

Here’s Frankie, scoping out the scene:

Who me? Up to no good?

Frankie the innocent

Then suddenly…

You're my bitch!

Frankie, that is sooooo tacky! Not to mention inhospitable.

You can see why Charles is hiding under the table in the first picture.

I know just how he feels.

31 thoughts on “Charles (Not) in Charge”

  1. Maybe you’ve abandoned all hope and your friend has decided she won’t be able to have back surgery after all. But, in case you want to give it another go, I have an idea. Make Charles (in Frankie’s mind) a ‘predictor’ of something wonderful. I know you don’t give Frankie treats because he’s diabetic, but is there something else he loves–a toy, a game, a special place he likes to be scratched or petted, something he finds rewarding. Don’t give him that thing except then Charles appears. (Honestly, though, treats would make this so much easier. Sigh). As soon as Charles makes an appearance in the room, give Frankie the goodie. Charles hangs around a bit, Frankie gets more goodies. Does Frankie like his regular food? Feed it to him in tiny bites. Just a little classical conditioning. Charles appears and something good happens. Just a thought.

    1. No, I haven’t abandoned all hope and my friend’s in too much pain not to get back surgery. She has five dogs that need caretaking — I was just supposed to be in charge of one — so we’re thinking about plan B: getting someone to come over and stay with three of them, who will have each other for company. At minimum, I would go over and feed them.

      Thanks for this. I like the idea of getting Frankie adjusted to visitors though classical conditioning — in advance! no more nighttime visits without better preparation — but when he’s too stressed he won’t eat or be distracted by toys. I suppose the good thing with a dog as laid back as Charles is that Frankie’s growling/humping didn’t have much effect , so at least Frankie doesn’t believe that bad behavior is a way to achieve success.

      1. Your situation with Charles and Frankie reminds me of when Sadie was a puppy and she HAD to feel comfortable with my friend Kitty and her two dogs Dudley (huge poodle) and Moses (mini poodle). Sadie was afraid of everything. If Sadie didn’t adjust then neither Kitty or I would have been able to leave town. We’ve taken care of each other dogs as if they were our own. We’re Mama Deborah and Mama Kitty to our dogs. So, Sadie fitting in was non-negotiable. It had to work. Kitty and I spent countless hours helping the dogs to adjust. Finally after a year and lots of little trial runs of various sorts I decided I could leave Sadie with Kitty for a week. It worked out. (Sigh of relief) The whole ordeal of getting the dogs, Sadie mostly, to accept each other and for Sadie to feel safe and happy was grueling. But, the rewards have been well worth it. Now she likes being at Kitty’s probably better than she likes to be at home because there’s more going on at Kitty’s.

        1. Yes, that definitely requires a lot of time and patience. I’m glad the results turned out to be so rewarding.

  2. Ah..I’ve seen that “innocent” look many a time around our home with our Bichon puppy Penny. Perhaps given time, Frankie and Charles will return to the peaceful co-existence that they knew when they were younger.

    Thank you for such an enjoyable blog…I’ve added your site to my blogroll and will definitely look into getting your book from my nearest Barnes & Noble. 😀

    1. Thank you for your nice words! I felt a little cheesy putting those pictures up, but Frankie is generally such a shy guy that I couldn’t resist showing his macho side.

      P.S. Penny is adorable!

      1. Thank you…! She is the love of our life and not a day goes by where we don’t laugh at some new funny thing she does or gush over how cute she is.

        That last caption really made me laugh…especially with Charles just lying there on the floor resigned to his fate. 😀

    1. I was just trying to be funny because I was so sleep deprived. I don’t know how long I can go without sleep waiting for them to settle in. Any suggestions about how to hasten the acclimation process?

  3. Ha! That Frankie – what a great sequence of photos and boy you could practically see it right in the photo that he was going to be very naughty…perfect example of dominance in action. And what a perfect caption!!

    1. Thank you Mary — and thank you for using the “d” word: Dominance. I was going to mention Frankie’s drive to dominate but have gotten so overwhelmed with training theory lately that I’m never sure what terms are okay anymore — e.g., dominance and Alpha.

      1. Frankie the naughty should meet up with Robby the Bad Boy Silky Terrier I know…the two of them could hop on their Harleys and tear up the town. (I think Robby would be good in a bar fight, so Frankie would have back up!)

  4. Those pictures and captions are hysterical! Poor Charles…but he has a very happy home life, so I’m sure he’ll recover. Frankie’s change of attitude toward Charles is highly reminiscent of his attitude toward Archie. When first they met, Frankie was Archie’s slavish acolyte. Now he growls like a tiger at Arch (to no apparent effect).

    1. Archie and Frankie’s shifting relationship was very much on my mind while I was writing this post. Frankie’s ingratitude and bad behavior wouldn’t be funny if it weren’t for the fact that it has zero effect on its recipients. Neither Archie nor Charles seemed particularly bothered by the growls and if you could see Charles’ face in the humping picture you’d see that he is profoundly bored by the whole process.

  5. And now a word from a founder of the entertainment portion of Edie’s most recent blog posting:
    It’s true, unfortunately, that skipping the back surgery is not an option. I sooooo would if I could!
    And I had bought a lovely, I thought, bag of all chicken and veggie dehydrated discs to help make the sleepover go more smoothly. Then I saw the label hidden on the bag: Made in China.
    At any rate, it helps, I think, to understand a little of Charles’ bio to reallly appreciate his abandoned waif routine. Early in 1999, I went to a local pet shop armed with the dollars to spring a no longer mini schnauzer puppy who had .. and oh, shoot, there went my back. I will save the story for later, but suffice it to say that 11-year-old Charles has, since puppyhood, treated me as a not-particularly-satisfactory member of his household staff. He was 8 before he decided that sometimes people could be relied upon to scratch an adorable little dog. He has a sharp little bark he uses to summon me for service — spotting him on the stairs up to the bed, fetching fresh water — but other than that, he ignores me.
    Maybe he missed our bed!

    1. Yes, it was Charles’ imperious attitude towards Rebecca and Frankie’s happy history with Charles that made this all rather suprising. Rebecca and I both knew that Frankie wouldn’t want to share his bed — or me! — but we figured that Charles would be fine snorting and snoring away in another room nearby. Neither of us predicted the pacing and distress that Rebecca’s departure brought on.

  6. I think Charles would need to come over for short visits pre-sleepover. I know that’s not an option now but if you decided to do sleepovers in the future. Or maybe take walks together and then come over so they mingle on equal territory and then it may be less threatening to Frankie.

    Frankie is a bold little bugger.

    Rebecca, thanks for the pretty roses.

    1. Thanks, Kate! Your reaction to the Frankie humping Charles picture at greyhound Lilly’s party yesterday inspired me to post it.

  7. Ha! That last photo is too funny. I know it really isn’t … from a dog behavior mindset, but you know. Thanks for the laugh.

    We went through this when we considered adopting Lilly’s best friend. Ginko didn’t take kindly to the idea. It took weeks of daily work, as Deborah suggests, before I felt OK leaving them unsupervised. Still … the adoptee candidate ALWAYS deferred to Ginko.

    Rebecca might want to visit my friend KB’s blog. She just went through another spinal fusion surgery recently, and she often blogs about her recovery process.

    1. Thanks, Roxanne, for the suggestion about the spinal fusion blog. I’m sure Rebecca will appreciate it.

      I’m glad you got a kick out of the photo even if, behaviorally speaking, it’s not very P.C.

      As it happens, I spoke to a trainer today about the Frankie/Charles situation. She said there wasn’t time to do anything substantive (the surgery is going to take place on Apr 29) but we’re going to try to establish some techniques that can help in the future.

  8. Thank you, Roxanne, for the blog referrral. I have been trying to talk to everyone I can find who has had the surgery. Of course, the spine dude’s medical assistant answers any and all questions with “It depends on the person……” Or she says that those issues will all be addressed in my as-yet-unscheduled pre-op appointment.
    BTW There appears to be a mysterious doggy attractiveness emanating from Charles since his big adventure. Now Bandit, my mostly dachshund, is chasing Charles around the house, lust in his eye.

  9. Pingback: Training Tuesdays

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