023 – Wonky Dog

mmm

This is Boris. He is charged with chasing intruders away from his homestead in Monroe. His family lives there, and they keep a garden and a blueberry patch, and they trust Boris to keep them safe and sound. A Great Dane, his head is nearly to my shoulder, and you can see that he is solid muscle, so even the friendly beekeeper has reason to be wary.

Boris and I have some history. When he was just little, I tried to initiate play with him the way I had his predecessor. Meridah and I used to play tag in the field before her hips started hurting in old age. Boris has a different personality though, and my dipping and tagging him nearly started a fight that first day, and he hasn’t trusted me since. So when I am there keeping bees, he is conflicted between his general friendliness toward people, and a specific memory of me ducking and tapping him in a threatening way.

Well, on this particular day, I was the only human on the property, and Boris was doing his job. He has some passive-aggressive tendencies, and will act skittish when approached directly, but will sneak up behind if he thinks I am distracted. So when I would be tending the bees in their hive, he would get up real close, then when I turned to address him he would bark terrifically and go bounding off on his long legs and giant feet, every bit of his body language communicating his internal conflict. It was getting annoying, actually, and the bees told me that they were getting annoyed too. They have a little change in their buzz sound when they are approaching a threshold of defensive behavior.

So I addressed Boris directly. I told him that sneaking up and barking at me was irritating me, and not helpful, and that the bees didn’t like it either. I told him that if he continues to do this, “You’re going to get stung.” And I have worked with dogs who can understand cause-and-effect communicated in English, but either Boris doesn’t have that mental framework or he just didn’t believe me. Because he did the sneak-up-behind-and-bark behavior again, and the bees decided to teach him not to do that by stinging his face.

And Boris ran away, flopping his ears around and raking at his cheek to relieve the pain. I think he only took one or two stings, and I didn’t notice any gross swelling. He went off toward the house. And that’s where he stays when I visit now; he doesn’t come be passive-aggressive-friendly-defensive any more. He’s learned that lesson from the bees. As have I, though it’s taking longer.

I call this “wonky dog” honey, because of lessons learned. It’s dark and rich; I tell folks it’s like eating caramel candy. I hope you learn your lessons the easy way, but if not, I hope you learn them the hard way. Until we all learn our lessons, Love Me Some Honey!