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Tibet and Leo

Published September 11. 2010 09:00AM

When our grandson Jordan was born almost 21 years ago, our daughter had a dog named Tibet. Tibet was a Heinz 57 Variety dog -mostly Chow, but a large mixture mutt that Jen had bought at a shelter. A loyal animal, Tibet loved Jennifer a lot. He tolerated the rest of us.

When Jennifer's first son Jordan was born, Tibet sensed that something new had entered the house. He sniffed and sniffed at the baby seat. He wanted desperately to be close to the newborn. When Jordan cried, Tibet's ears perked up.

All of us were a little hesitant about Tibet's intentions. We had visions of this large animal sitting on top of the baby. We knew that Tibet was interested in Jordan, but we had no idea about the extent of his attraction.

Each evening, when Jen would put Jordan in his crib for the night (hopefully), Tibet would lie right beside the door to the nursery, whimpering. He wouldn't leave the door of Jordan's room all night. If the baby woke up and cried, Tibet was there - standing like a sentinel, watching everything.

Jen complained that Tibet seemed to be acting like a nursemaid. He was underfoot every time someone picked Jordan up. He was right there when Jordan got a bottle or had his diaper changed. He tried to lick the baby's face and stuck his snout into Jordan's chest every chance he got.

As Jordan got bigger, Tibet's obsession with him stayed the same. When Jordan started to walk, Tibet sniffled behind him, trying to make sure that the baby wouldn't fall. But, Tibet was getting older as Jordan got older.

One of my favorite photographs is of Jordan with Tibet in the yard. Jordan has a hold of Tibet's fur behind his ear. Tibet is looking at Jordan with love. No matter what Jordan ever did to that dog, the dog loved it.

As with all old dogs, Tibet finally went to that great meaty-bone-place in the sky. All of us mourned the passing of our Nanny Doggie.

Fast-forward about 20 years. There is a new dog in the family. His name is Leo and he is a huge animal - part Great Dane and part horse. When he wants to greet you and jumps up with his paws on your shoulders, his head rises above yours. He is much bigger than Tibet was and his temperament is pricklier around strangers.

Heaven forbid that a thief should enter the house or someone should try and harm one of the family members. Leo would rip them apart. Yet, he is cuddly (well, as cuddly as a monster dog can be) and wants to be a lap dog. There is no human being who has a lap big enough for Leo.

And, there is also a new baby in the house. Colton is now 2-years-old. Leo is 4. The last two years have been a déjà vu for us, watching Leo 'take care' of Colton. The big dog sat by the bouncy chair and licked Colton in the face when he swung forward. Leo followed the baby around when he took his first steps. His ears perked up whenever Colton made a sound. It was Tibet all over again.

What is it about these male dogs that make them such great caregivers? Their nurturing manner, their care and concern for welfare, their adoring behavior - all are maternal instincts. I am not a dog psychiatrist, but I wish I knew one so he could explain this phenomenon to me.

By the way, when Jordan was born, there was another dog in the house - a female named Lindsey. And, when Colton was born, there was another dog in the house - a female named Kita. Those two female dogs ran away from the babies, couldn't care less about them, and devoted their attention to Jennifer, their mistress. Odd, huh?


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