I knew from Rugby’s responses around other dogs that he wasn’t at all comfortable around them, but I also could tell that there was a part of him who really wanted to have a furry friend for play once in a while. I started looking for a suitable playmate, but that was no easy task! I really wanted to find an energetic dog so that Rugby could have a buddy to run the yard with him, but I was a bit concerned that there would be a too much energy and reactivity going on, and that might lead to some ugly business. Rugby really guarded his personal space, and a dog who really liked to wrestle and play might be too much dog for Rugby at this point in time.
Along came Layla. The sweetest Hound mix, who was so laid back and gentle to a fault. I was training her, and her owner was very open to letting the dogs meet to see if they would be a good fit. He and I both aren’t huge fans of dog parks, and we both wanted to find playmates for our dogs. He was heading out of town for a weekend, so I agreed to dogsit Layla, and see how the dogs would do together.
Layla was about 4 months old, and Rugby was about 18 months old. They hit it off really well, and became wonderful playmates together. We had regular play dates, which always started with lots of outside running and play, and when the dogs were tired, we moved inside and let the dogs enjoy some quiet play together.
Layla will always hold a very, very special place in my heart, because she was so incredibly understanding and patient with Rugby…even as a young puppy. Rugby’s rules for play were very simple: Don’t touch me, don’t trip me, don’t mount me, don’t cut me off, don’t roll me. Basically he liked a playmate who would just sit and observe him and stay out of his way! He didn’t enjoy puppy wrestling or nipping and biting games. Mostly he wanted to run, but Layla couldn’t hold a candle to him on speed or coordination. She tried, of course, but Rugby would blow past her, and often left her in the dust. He could turn on a dime, and was as fast as a rocket. As a young puppy, Layla was still trying to find her legs and coordination. She most definitely had a hound lope to her gait, and was not at all like the speed demon Rugby was with his long legs and quick movement. She learned quickly to stay out of his way when he was on a run from one end of the yard to the other. He would mow her down, and snark at her for breaking his stride!
Their house play was very nice as I recall. Rugby easily shared his toys, and Layla was very gentle with them. They both enjoyed each other’s company, and really were excited to see one another for play dates. They shared their humans nicely with each other, but I’m not sure that either one of them really enjoyed seeing their humans lavashing a massive amount of loving on the other dog!
I can’t remember a single rough encounter between them, and this was largely due to Layla being so completely sweet and gentle. She just didn’t mind letting Rugby be the boss, and Rugby needed to be the boss. He seemed to understand that she was still a young puppy, who was trying to sort out how to behave around an adult dog who had pretty strict boundaries!
The two dogs remained playmates for many months, until Layla grew too big for the dogs to safely play together. By then, she was a good 70 pounds, and had a younger sister, a Dutch Shepherd, who was nearing 50 pounds herself. Rugby enjoyed both playmates, but at 23 pounds, it would have been very easy for him to get hurt in play, and we all knew that he wouldn’t be kind to the dog who hurt him. I have the warmest and sweetest memories of this very special girl and the joy she brought to us and to Rugby. Not just any dog would have been able to accomplish what she did, and I’ll always be grateful to God for bringing her into our lives.