It’s tough being the second child in a family. I know this from personal experience. The first-child thrill is gone so you get fewer pictures taken of you — not to mention hand-me-down clothes. You also get compared to the one who came first, and often not favorably.
But it could be worse. Much worse.
Imagine if children were born in sequence like a great many dogs are acquired — that is, one dies and, when the owner’s heart heals a bit (or in an attempt to make it so), another is brought into the household. And imagine if the previous dog was mellow and dearly beloved by all and the second dog is no angel.
That’s the case with Fergus, my BFF Clare’s new pup.
A Hard Act to Follow
In some ways, Clare’s first dog, Archie, was my first dog too. He was my inspiration for getting Frankie. I’ve written a lot about Archie and Frankie and our adventures together and I don’t want to revisit those posts, but I will link to my farewell to Archie, who died last August, just so you get an idea of what Fergus is up against.
Yep. Platonic ideal of Dog. I said that.
Clare adopted Fergus in March 2012 from a rescue that got him from a high-kill shelter. He was found, unneutered, in a bad neighborhood; scars on his eyelids suggest that he might have been encouraged to fight other dogs. He’s also young — about a year old — so he’s got a lot of energy.
Dog aggression and separation anxiety — to the point that the neighbors complained about his barking when Clare went out — has made life with Fergus less than ideal.
On the plus side, he’s never been destructive and he’s always been very affectionate. Clare says he’s a serious cuddler.
And in case you hadn’t noticed, he’s a major cutie.
I haven’t yet met Fergus but I’m looking forward to it. Frankie, who also initially suffered from being not-Archie, should find Fergus a natural ally. But he won’t.
The Progress Report
Clare hired a trainer and has been working very hard with Fergus. She’s been avoiding places where they’ll encounter other dogs but where he can get enough exercise to run freely — not an easy combination.
He’s slowly learning that being good gets more rewards than being bad, which was doubtless what he was led to believe early on. He gets along great with dogs that belong to friends of Clare that he’s encountered more than once.
It’s getting better every day. Clare no longer compares Fergus — or Gus, but never, ever Fergie, for obvious reasons — to Archie. Does she love him in the same way? Not yet. And maybe she never will. But she is dedicated to his care.
A literary legend
Archie’s full name was Archibald McLeash. It is no surprise, then, that Fergus got his name from a poem by William Butler Yeats:
Who goes with Fergus?
Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.
And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.
I’m not going to try to analyze the intentions of this poem but you’ve got to love the idea of a dog ruling “the brazen cars” and the “shadows of the woods.” And I had to laugh at one of the lay commentaries on the poem that I found:
This poem is about the dichotomy of the thinker and the actor. Yeats, in love with Maud Gonne, was the thinker, the courtly lover — the one who would “brood upon love’s bitter mystery.” Yeats was Mr. Nice Guy. Yet Yeats wanted to be the actor – the alpha male – the Fergus. Note the sexualized subtext that permeates the poem, who will “pierce the deep wood’s woven shade”? Who will “drive” with Fergus. Finally, we get the reasons to be the alpha male – the man of action, in the repetition of the word “rules.” The alpha commands and takes what he wants.
It’s not only Dog Whisperers who talk about alphas!
But if I’m not going to venture into my own exegesis, I do have an answer to the question posed by the title of the poem.
Who goes with Fergus? Clare does.
Have any of you experienced second-dog syndrome, not being quite as enamored with a second dog as with a first? What, if anything, did you do about it?
18 thoughts on “Who Goes With Fergus? Second-Dog Syndrome”
Aw, poor Fergus! In a way, he didn’t stand a chance. And Clare is learning to adjust her expectations in a major way, I’m sure.
Here’s hoping for them to work things out in a most amazing, happy-ending to the story kind of way!
Thanks, Kim. Things are definitely getting better. By the time I meet Fergus, he may be a prince among dogs!
I have to confess I didn’t love Lily as much as Painter while Painter was alive. After his death I loved Lily with all my heart. Hopefully she forgave me. After Lily’s death there came Jett and he became the light of my life until a year later when Girlfriend entered our lives. Now she and Jett share the spotlight. Fortunately, she doesn’t have the second child syndrome that Lily endured all those years.
Fergus is one lucky boy and Claire is one lucky woman to have uncovered her diamond in the rough.
Lily had nothing to forgive you for; you were good to her all the time. And she was such a diva I’m sure she wasn’t even aware that you loved Painter more. She wouldn’t have been able to fathom that. 😉
It sounds like Clare is dedicated to Fergus, even if he is not quite what she expected. I didn’t love my dog right away and she is my first. It took me close to a year before I truly felt connected and bonded to her. And of course I love her far more now. Sometimes these things take time. I have no doubt Clare will love Fergus just as much as she loves Archie, if a little differently.
Yes, I suppose I should have mentioned that I almost gave Frankie back because he wasn’t at all what I expected — i.e., he wasn’t like Archie! — and I certainly didn’t love him write away because I was convinced he hated me. And we know how that story ended…
We just told Misty the alpha Poodle that the second (and third and fourth) dogs were her pets. So we have never had an adjustment problem. She does a lot of the instruction and disciplining.
Ha! Now concurrent dogs are a whole other story. I’ve thought of getting Frankie a pet but it would have to be a teacup something and he probably wouldn’t like it anyway, since I would have to feed it and take it out and he demands my undivided attention.
See, that’s interesting … because technically Lilly is my 2nd dog as an adult (if you don’t count our other dogs that are technically Tom’s dogs … Cody, then Ginko), and I hate to say it, but I love Lilly more. I have a much stronger, better bond with her. Don’t get me wrong. I adored my dalmatian, but she was a very different dog, and we had a very different relationship. We’ve heard of “heart dogs”? Well, Lilly is a heart dog for me, and I do fear that any later dog will not “measure up” by comparison. However, now that I know HOW to build a better dog relationship, maybe it won’t be as hard or as difficult as I think.
I suppose that can be interpreted that I don’t love Ginko as much, but again … he is a very different boy, and we have a different kind of relationship. I adore him beyond all measure, but it is different.
That’s interesting, Rox, because Lily is fearful like Frankie. Sometimes I fantasize about a cheerful, outgoing dog. But the bottom line is that dogs have unique personalities, just as people do, and it’s difficult to know how individual humans and canines will click.
One of my thoughts before we got Viva also was if I could ever love her as much as I love Kenzo. Or maybe scarier what if I would love her more than Kenzo? In short, the measuring started early … not something I am proud of. I fight it by focusing on the giving, and they give it back tenfold on the receiving end. In the end there will always be one that will steal your heart completely, you can’t fight it I guess.
P.S. please don’t mention the smaller typeface again. It is for ever engraved in my guilt-memory
Smaller typeface? I’m all about the guilt but don’t remember anything about typefaces. It must have made an indelible impression!
No one likes to talk about it. But parents don’t leave their human children all equally. It’s human to feel different bonds at different times.
I was just thinking this morning about how it’s good to have different kinds of dogs at different times in our lives. Honey, because she’s not reactive, is very healing for me. It’s amazing not to have the same vigilance with her that I’ve had with Shadow and Agatha. But I don’t prefer Honey. I just see her as the dog I need to have right now.
Some day I may have a reactive dog again. And the lessons I learned from earlier dogs will come back. But my time with Honey will probably give me some much needed calm.
Best wishes to Claire and Fergus. All they are going through together now will build an amazing bond.
I am an the midst of this right now. We put our Tilly down in April and I adopted a dog this past week. Suddenly the sadness that had passed is back again and I feel the emptiness that was there when she passed. I am finding it hard to want to snuggle or bond with my new guy because I am missing her so much.
In my head, I know he will be my buddy with time but right now, it hurts. I am trying not to compare and it is hard to do. I am hoping I made the right decision.
Aw, that’s rough. Good luck. I’m sure things will change with time and that you made the right decision. Just allow yourself to feel the sadness for now.
Well, I hate to admit it but it’s Chester (my first dog) who suffers most from second dog syndrome. He is such a good boy that he doesn’t need much “maintenance” or attention. Gretel is the high maintenance one but not in a way that makes me wish she “was as good as Chester”. I have always loved a challenge so she engages me more because she is one. She is also younger than Chester with so much more energy. She is quite the little clown and an attention hog so I have to try real hard not to make Chester feel like a third wheel.
This comment is terribly tardy, but I was in an airport when your post about my boy came in. I attempted to send in a comment, but you never received it. Then a family emergency intervened, and this is my first opportunity to have computer and wits about me.
I draw great solace from the comments you’ve received in the interim, and they show me that I will survive, Fergus will thrive, and all will be well…if different. Archie so consumed my life (in a very good way), and I told myself that this time I wanted a dog, not a soul mate, meaning a pet I would leave home sometimes the way “other people” do, a pet about whom I might even say “he’s a DOG”, as people said to me when they thought I was giving too much to the Archie relationship. Well, I got the wrong kind of dog, and I’m the wrong kind of person for a casual relationship I guess. I’m consumed, and now I think the love will follow. I discovered that during my absence I came to miss Fergus. Very good sign, though baby steps.
Your having honored Fergus and me by memorializing our journey in this most esteemed of blogs also contributes to my sense that this isn’t all just a bad dream: he’s real, he’s here, he’s cute, he’s loving, he’s smart, he’s worthy of your words. He will melt my aching heart day by day. AND you’ve now provided me with the first page–quite literally–of the next chapter in my life with dogs. The last ended with your exquisite tribute to Archie upon his death, and now you have welcomed Fergus to the fold. I’ve printed it out for his baby book.
The fact that you created a baby book for Fergus in itself says volumes! And no, I can’t imagine you (or I) having a casual relationship with a dog. A man, maybe…
Of course you’re welcome.