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Published on: Nov. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

They've been snarling at each other for nine years. Trash talkin'. Woofin'.

Sibling rivalry. Brotherly love - if ever there was a sweet-sour relationship, that's it.

It's not people I'm talking about. It's Dacques and Chubby, the French Brittany littermates. Dacques was the first born of Pepper's puppies, and Chubby came along later in the evening.

Dacques is the jock of the litter, a chesty French Brittany with the gee whizzy enthusiasm of a high school fullback. My wife claims he has a set of weights stashed in the doghouse and he works out at night, a dozen reps of curls and presses, a few lifts, a half-hundred snarls at Chubby.

Dacques is like picking up a sack of concrete that has gotten wet and set. He is a fur-covered boulder.

Chubby is stocky and sweet-tempered. His fur is soft and curly (any woman would kill for his natural curl). Dacques runs like a rocking horse, tight-muscled and jointed; Chubby is more conventional, slower and more methodical.

They pay no attention to each other as they hunt, except they cross trails. If you plotted their route on graph paper, it would have a geometrical symmetry.

I don't know if they communicate when they're hunting. There's no evidence. Perhaps it is an unspoken communication of the blood, a telepathic bond steeped in their very marrow. They don't need to talk. They just know.

But all the cooperative links snap when they're home in the kennel.

Then they growl at each other, begin to posture and threaten. They snarl, lift ruff fur and semaphore white-of-eye messages. Not all the time, but when there is something at stake, like food or me. Of the two, I am the best prize.

Dogfood is good, but Daddy is better. Chubby usually starts it; he is the more emotionally fragile, ever afraid someone will take me away from him.

The food always is available - there are three self-feeders in the dog pen, so they each could have one, with one left over, but whichever one starts eating first spends as much time growling at his brother as he does eating. They stick their heads in the small opening and the barrel of the feeder serves as a sound chamber and the rumble is like distant thunder.

They'll stand shoulder-to-shoulder, heads lowered, mouthing the most awful canine threats. Neither wants to back down. Matter of pride. Finally

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