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?