The Secret Service Agent and the Spy

If I had to describe Gryffin’s personality in one word, it would be “aloof.” He loved me and Kevin, but he didn’t have much use for anyone else. He lovingly tolerated his human sisters, but when they’d bicker, he’d dart to the sliding glass door in our family room to signal he wanted out. I truly believe he’d have been happy to be an only child.


Gryffin was downright rude to strangers. When we lived in Philadelphia, we would walk around Rittenhouse Square, and inevitably someone would stop us to comment on his good looks and ask about his breed.  My answer was always the same: “One hundred per cent pure mutt.” I would add that the shelter we rescued him from told us he was a Retriever-Chow mix. Gryffin’s response to the flattery was most un-dog like: No tail wagging.  No smiling up at the person with wide “please pet me” eyes. No, Gryffin would turn his back to the person, completely uninterested.

After the girls were born, I started calling Gryffin our Secret Service agent because he was always near us, just not next to us. He wasn’t one for cuddling, except for rare occasions early in the morning.  And sometimes the vibe you’d get when you’d sit on the floor next to him wanting to give him some love, was that he’d just as soon be left alone.  But he always had our back. In fact, we never installed an alarm system in our Philly home; we had Gryffin – loyal, loving and always on guard. Perhaps that was the Chow in him.

Galen, our Aussie/Lab rescue, wouldn’t make it in the Secret Service.  She’s more like a KGB spy.

Galen slinks around the house.  Her head hangs lower than her body, and her big brown eyes emanate guilt, like she’s done something wrong. She moves from room to room doing her darnedest to avoid our hardwood floors, so she takes circuitous routes determined by the layout of our area rugs. She never enters the kitchen.



Then there’s her unfounded suspicion that I’ve done something nefarious to her food. Every morning and night I fill her bowl with kibble and carry it outside – one of her many quirks is that she doesn’t like eating in the house; she prefers al fresco dining on our deck. (She even eats outside when it’s raining – her choice, not mine.) After I put her bowl down, she slowly backs away and looks at me. I put a single piece of kibble between my thumb and forefinger and hold it out for her to sniff. Ultimately, she takes it; then she stands beside her bowl and waits for me to leave.  She doesn’t like being watched while she eats.

We go through the same ridiculous routine when I buy new dog treats. She gingerly takes one from my hand only after she sniffs it, and it passes whatever test she’s putting it through.

I’ve long wondered what shaped Gryffin’s and Galen’s distinct personalities.  Is it the breeds that combined to make up their doggie selves?  Did being separated from their mothers when they were just weeks old impact their infant psyches? Did being raised by me and Kevin make a difference in who they became?

I suppose with canines, as with humans, it all comes down to that mysterious melding of nature and nurture. In any case, we’ve been fortunate:  Our Secret Service agent gave us ten great years of love and devotion, and these days, the spy who lives with us slinks about our house bringing us joy and making us laugh.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s