Monday, December 12, 2011

Malinois and kids

Phoenix turns 5 at the end of the month (yeah, where does the time go?) and I have noticed a pattern that has formed over the years. It’s not so much about Phoenix’s behavior but about how kids react to him.

Since the Farmer and I have a bunch of nieces, nephews and neighbor kids, we are routinely subjected to requests to buy fruit, cheese, wrapping paper, candles, nuts, magazine subscriptions, candy, popcorn, evergreen wreaths, cookie dough, pizza and a partridge in a pear tree. This means lots of kids come to the house to deliver the goods this time of year.

Jamie has never dealt well with “strangers” in his house and it hasn’t gotten any better as he’s aged, so when headlights come up the lane, I pop him in the bedroom and shut the door. Phoenix can stay loose because he likes to do the meet and greet thing.

Here’s the pattern: WITHOUT FAIL, teenage girls delivering partridges in pear trees immediately start to coo and fuss over him. They want to pet him. He wants to be petted. They can’t keep their hands off him. He can’t leave them alone. They get so involved in one another I wonder if their moms appreciate how much malinois fur they are going to drag home with them.

But the boys? The boys are something else. They are scared to death of him. Of course, they are too cool to admit it. But they keep their hands in their pockets. They don’t make eye contact. They stand sideways, trying to be small, as they edge toward the door.

I assure them Phoenix is friendly and loves to be petted. They might make one small foray with a hand to pet his head, then stuff their hands back in their pocket. No, really, he’s very friendly. You can pet him, he likes people. The look in their eyes, while not totally abject terror, shows a distinct level of discomfort. No doubt they think he likes people with ketchup and a side of fries.

Most of these are farm boys who are used to handling livestock but are totally put off by one li’l ol’ malinois. And he’s not even clacking his teeth.

Again, I am sure Phoenix has some feline DNA somewhere in his genetic makeup because like a cat, he’ll pick the one person who does not want anything to do with him and fawn on them excessively. (He did this a lot when we went to visit Dad in hospice care, too. He’d find the one person in the room who was NOT a dog person and guess what, malinois in the lap.)

Watching him work over the latest neighbor boy to deliver FFA oranges and grapefruit last week, I was reminded of the scene in one of the Harry Potter books where Professor Dumbledore comes to pick Harry up for another year at Hogwarts and conjures drinks for the Dursleys, who are less than impressed. Of course, they refuse to even touch the drinks, which become more and more insistent and go to great lengths to get the Dursleys to acknowledge them, with the glasses eventually banging the reluctant muggles on top of their heads.

I finally rescued Tanner from Phoenix, who was nudging, poking, leaning and turning himself inside out to get some attention. Poor kid. It couldn't have been fear of dog fur. He has a lab of his own.

Poor Phoenix. He’ll do better with the Girl Scouts when it’s cookie time in March.

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