I’ve apparently had a Mexican standoff going on in my home for the past couple of days, and I wasn’t even aware that the parties involved had any beef with each other. This does not bode well for the admittedly slightly uneasy equilibrium of my household.
Per Wikipedia, “A Mexican standoff is a confrontation in which no strategy exists that allows any party to achieve victory. Any party initiating aggression might trigger their own demise. At the same time, the parties are unable to extricate themselves from the situation without suffering a loss. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it.”
Outside event. That doesn’t sound promising.
In this corner we have Cocoa:
Cocoa is a 14 year old blue and fawn Chihuahua I adopted two years ago after her human went into hospice care. She was once 26 lbs! That’s why you see that extra skin hanging there — she’s now a svelte 13-14 lbs (she’s a large framed chi to begin with, and should really be closer to 10-12 lbs but the extra skin weighs a bit). I fixed her color dilution alopecia problems, her busted thyroid and she’s thriving now. She got used to being in a household with my two larger dogs as well.
She’s pretty chill, and mostly just doesn’t care much about anything except feeding time. She’s still very much an obese dog in a thinner dogs body. (This is not about body-shaming, obesity in pets is NOT COOL. It’s dangerous, it’s abusive, FIGHT ME.) Anyway — she’s chill.
And in this corner, it’s Smokey.
Smokey also came to me when his person was in hospice, last year. He’s now 16 years old and he’s quite the feisty old fellow. He was also an only dog, very loved, and is used to be spoiled rotten. He HATES Joker, 11 year old pit bull, who tolerates it with his usual grace and aplomb (he looks upon these chis like they’re puppies, and puppies can do no wrong). After a year in my home, we’ve mostly worked out the kinks with Smokey – he’s got a few weird issues but he’s really a charmer and quite lovable, once you get to know him. And, he’s 16 years old. I mean…dude. You should SEE him tear around the house, jump up into the chair, it’s amazing.
For the past year and a bit, they’ve gotten along. They weren’t **friends** but, you know, they hanged.
They dealt with being in the stroller together.
They did the Santa Claus thing.
So believe me when I say to you that when I heard growling from behind me last night, I paid it no mind. I thought it was Smokey growling at Joker again. I continued doing my work, knowing that Joker would just go to the other side of the couch. But then the growling continued, and I realized it was a different pitch, not the usual “smokey” pitch. (Hence his name, he sounds like he’s been smoking too many cigars and drinking too much whiskey. Raspy, harsh, the dude’s an old jazz man from N’awlin’s down on his luck, looking for a place to hang his hat in his golden years…that’s my imaginary backstory for him.)
I look behind me, and see Cocoa and Smokey: Cocoa is sitting on the pillow with the heating pad, ears set back, clearly saying, “This is MY spot.” Smokey is standing sideways to her, at an angle, ears up, trying to get her to move. Anyone who studies dog behavior can see that this is clear aggression, he is trying to force her to either share or move completely. Cocoa’s lip is curled and she is snarling and growling, and her whole body is tensed. I’ve never seen her this mad. I’ve never seen Smokey want that pillow that much either.
“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” I thunder. They stop and look at me. I settle Cocoa down, bring Smokey onto his *preferred* seating (my lap) and go back to work, thinking that was odd but it’s over now.
Then at dinner time, the usual juggling of the dinner dishes, watching over Smokey so he can finish in peace and neither Joker nor Cocoa will push him away before he’s finished (there is a fourth dog, who has NO PLAY in this at all, smart girl). I’m cleaning up, and from the hall, more little growling. Again: the standoff. Smokey is hassling Cocoa again. Usually at mealtimes it’s the other way around. He’s all up her butt, sniffing at her like he’s “interested” in her. What the…. and she snaps at him and lumbers off.
Now, you might be saying to yourselves – so what, chihuahuas arguing, big deal.
IT IS A BIG DEAL! THEY’RE OLD!
Cocoa, with her past weight issues has major arthritis and while she walks and runs, it’s not without problems. She has a “hitch in her giddy-up” so to speak. Her teeth are better since she’s eating raw but they’re not great. She’s not fast. Her eyesight is fading, and quickly. Smokey also has arthritis, has fast-growing cataracts and while he ACTS like he’s a young man, he’s not. His teeth are perfect but c’mon…an old Chihuahua battle? Really?
Over….what? I have no idea what’s going on between these two. And just this morning, it started again over on the couch. I snagged Smokey and am writing this with him snugged against me in the chair so Cocoa can lie peacefully on the pillow. She didn’t want to sit with me while HE had the pillow earlier. *rolls eyes*
Clearly, they’re going to need to work this out without hurting each other. I can’t afford the vet bills if they do. I never in a million years thought I would have to separate my ELDERLY CHIHUAHUAS when I left the house to avoid bloodshed. But just in case, Cocoa and Joker in one room; Smokey and Gypsy Kale (the good one) in another.
Because that “outside event” part of the Mexican standoff? They’re both old, but in good health. I’m not looking for either one to kick it anytime soon. In a house full of senior dogs, death isn’t an option we look FORWARD to.