It's not all the time. Most of the time, they are just their normal selves--Boscoe lobbying for pats, or snoozing in his dog bed on the couch, Riley occasionally standoffish, occasionally winding past our legs like a cat, wanting his hind end scratched.
But lately, every so often--usually at night, when we're relaxing in the living room--there is something else. Riley will occasionally bark sharply at Boscoe when Boscoe approaches. (And Boscoe's response is not surprise or defensiveness; no, Boscoe does not break stride, but just veers off course and heads in another direction. It's kind of funny to watch.)
Or Boscoe will hop down off the couch and stare at Riley. You know that border collie stare: intimidating. It agitates Riley. Calling Boscoe off does no good; he continues to stare, unmoving, and Riley gets so nervous he leaves the room.
Every so often, Boscoe decides to sleep in Riley's chair. More rarely, but occasionally, Riley will take over Boscoe's bed on the couch.
This started just a few weeks ago. So what is going on?
There's also the furious licking thing, where they lick each other's mouths; I've read a little about this and it's apparently a dominance/submission thing, but I cannot tell which is being dominant here, or which is submitting.
Is this related to Boscoe's aging? Is he reminding Riley that even though he's getting feeble, he's still in charge? Is Riley trying to co-opt the Top Dog position?
But truly, the position of dominant dog has been pretty fluid with them all along.
They bonded intensely when they first met in the yard of the humane society up in Forest Lake. Riley adored Boscoe from the beginning--long before he learned to adore (tolerate) us.
Neither one of them has constantly been Top Dog. Riley has always insisted on going through doors first, and leading on walks, and Boscoe has never cared. Boscoe gets fed first, and Riley has never cared. And none of that has changed. This is something subtler, something happening on a dog level that I do not get.
It's disturbing, because we don't understand it and we don't know where it is leading. Those of you with dogs--thoughts?