Archive for September, 2009

“I don’t want to sleep!  I want to keep soaking in all this love you’re giving me!”  I feel sure that was what Buddy was expressing about an hour ago.

It has been a day when i have been consumed by work – by tasks that feel, to me, too urgent to interrupt.  I was home for most of the day, and I did take Buddy and Lucy for several walks on this perfect fall day, but then immediately went back to my laptop on the front porch.  Then, around 5:30, i went into town to look in on, feed and spend some time with an elderly cat whom i am sitting for about 25 days, while her person vacations in Italy.  Then to a meeting and back home around 9:30 p.m.  Then i dove into returning the emails that had some timely need for replies.

When, around 10:30, i finally made some time to cuddle with my dog – the first time all day, which is unusual for us, he completely reveled in it.  We went out on the front porch, where i sat on the floor and invited him into his favorite place – between my spread-apart legs.  Buddy almost immediately threw himself against my chest.  (When he is less hungry for connection, he just settles in nested in the curve formed by my legs.)  Then he gradually slid down my torso to settle on the floor. He moaned with pleasure more than i have almost ever heard him do.

Then – as is typical – he would start drift off to sleep.  But he then displayed a behavior that i have hardly seen since the early days when he was so beside himself with actually getting a  lot of love.  After drifting towards sleep for just a minute or two, he would rouse himself and begin again the cycle of moaning with pleasure, periodically bringing his head up to me, asking for even more concentrated attention from me.  I feel sure that if he had words he would be saying, “No, i don’t want to sleep – i want to stay conscious, so i can really take in all this wonderfulness.”  We went through about three of these cycles before he finally surrendered to deep, peaceful sleep.

Then i did an almost similar cycle.  I myself would start to drift off to sleep.  But then – rather than surrender to my sleepiness and go to bed, as i usually do – i would rouse myself so that i would not have to end this so-sweet moment.

I want to feel and be this way with a lover.

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“I’m a pup again!”

My ten year old Buddy, who has lately been acting so much like an old man that i’ve been concerned that his arthritic hip is hurting him (which i do think it is), decided yesterday afternoon that he was a pup again.  He chased the extraordinarily fast three year old, long-legged Lucy in big circles around the yard in a way that was obviously thrilling for both of them – and thrilling for me to watch.  It lasted probably no more than two minutes, but it was amazing.  Buddy was plenty out of breath when he finally stopped chasing Lucy.  (She was not – god knows how much longer she could have gone.)  But he seemed really happy and excited.

When i go out to visit him for our goodnight cuddle, he usually gets crazy-ecstatic.  Last night, from his spot back in the bushes, he rolled his eyes in my direction, but did not even lift his head.  I mostly rested easy in the assumption that he was just flat-out exhausted, but i honestly did have a moment of anxiety that maybe  his hip was now really in pain or that he was somehow paying a serious price from all this exertion.  Neurotic doggie daddy.  He was so relatively unresponsive to being petted that i also thought for a moment that he didn’t need, but then i thought that in his exhausted state he might need it more than ever, so i hung in until I was falling asleep.

I was reassured when he finally let out a big letting-down sigh – the way he does when he is really settling in.  And even more reassured when, a few minutes later, he popped his head and torso up, all alert, in response to some sound he had heard in the night.  I briefly considered that maybe this was a night when i really should make him come in the house.  But he so much loves being outside at night – and he seemed completely content in one of his favorite spots.  And i decided that a night of laying on mother earth might be just what the doctor ordered for recharging his spent batteries.  (I’m sure it would be so for me, except that my old bones react very poorly from sleeping on the hard earth.)

Today he was fine: not chasing around much, but obviously happy and really moving pretty well.  He’s a wonder.

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I was venting to my neighbor this morning about some bites on my legs.  He asked me if Buddy’s flea medicine was up-to-date.  (He had found fleas on his dog, Buddy’s daily playmate.) Oops!

Now it’s the whole drill: bath and Frontline for Buddy, wash all his bedding – and mine.

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“Spoiling” a dog…

What does it mean to “spoil” a dog?

The woman who had Buddy before me told me very strongly, as i was adopting him, “Don’t give him too much attention – he does better that way.”  I knew, pretty much as soon as the words were out of her mouth, that this was complete bullshit.  I nodded politely and thought “You’re crazy, woman.”

She also, equally strongly, said “Let him be a dog.”  I never quite knew what that one meant.  He pretty well knows that he’s a dog – was she afraid that i would make him feel like he was a human?  It was obvious to me within a few weeks that the more love I gave him, the more self-confident he became and the better he played with other dogs.

About a month after I got Buddy, he and I were in the waiting room at the vet’s office.  It was our second time there: the vet had put him on an anti-inflammatory drug for his hip dysplasia – which his person before me had never noticed or treated – and had asked me to bring him back in a month so they could do some blood work and make sure that the drug was not bothering his kidneys.

Buddy already hated coming to the vet: when he hopped out of the car and his feet hit pavement (there was none of this anywhere near our country home), he knew where he was and immediately tried to get back into the car.  Much as he hated the car (still does), the car suddenly seemed like a much better option than going into the vet’s office (where they had drawn blood on the last visit – he really hated that).

There was a sweet little old country guy also waiting there with his old hound dog.  As he watched me being sweet with Buddy, trying to reassure him, the old guy said, very warmly, “I bet you spoil him rotten.”  I said “Much as I can.”

I give Buddy a little (or larger, if they have them in the meat case) femur bone (the kind that won’t splinter) every night.  When I am giving him his evening meds (glucosamine, omega-3, multi-vit and the anti-inflammatory), I give him lots of good treats to keep him eating: the liquid glucosamine goes on top of good all natural whole grain bread, the cereal-like O-3 goes in peanut butter, the anti-inflammatory drug gets wrapped in peanut butter – and i also give him some no-additive lunch meat and some cheese, just as treats and also to keep him taking what i am giving him.  And once in a while we splurge with an Ingles roasted chicken.  These days it’s usually Earth Fare natural chicken.  He gets the white meat, which i find too dry, and i get the dark meat – just to save him from the fattiness :).

I get all natural little dog-biscuits: they seem to me about as nutritious as his Science Diet dog cereal (yeah, Science Diet is a little more expensive, but it tales him forever to go through a bag, because he is such a light eater – so paying a few extra bucks for a 20-lb. bag seems like a good investment.  I later got turned on to Call of the Wild cereal for him) – and he really loves those dog biscuits (Lassie brand – they’re really cheap).  I give him one almost every time he asks for one (which is every time I’m at the kitchen counter fixing my own food).

I want Buddy to believe and trust that life is good – that his environment responds positively to him (maybe especially because i think that was not so much his experience of the world before he came to me).

Do I spoil him?  I spoil him rotten.

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Doggie vision

Tonight, when i went into the backyard to give Buddy his bedtime love, i decided – even though the hour was late and i wanted to get to bed – to first take him for a little walk, thinking this might help his old bones and arthritic hip not tighten up too much in the damp night air.

When we did come back and sit on the ground together, he indulged himself in an exceptional number of little moans – i think as expressions of just how good it felt to have me there beside him, giving him love and attention.

As we walked, i thought of a piece i recently read, saying that dogs really do not have great vision – and cannot actually see clearly beyond about 20 yards.  This had shocked me: i had assumed, i guess in part because Buddy seems to have much better night vision than i, that dogs had great vision.  It was a real comeuppance for me, reminding me of the ways that i do not really know and understand the world of my little Budster (or other dogs, for that matter).

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We had a lot of rain here today.  After our last walk of the evening, Buddy wanted to stay outside, but i exercised my parental option and brought him in: “That ground is just too wet for your bad hip, bud.”

After drying his wet, muddy paws, i gave him a biscuit and he settled himself in one of his favorite spots, on the plush area rug under the kitchen table.  I settled myself in one of my favorite spots, working at my computer.

But after about five minutes, Buddy came over and presented himself to me for love.  He never did this for the first many months he was with me – and still does it only occasionally – and i want him to know that this works for him now.  (I think it maybe didn’t work so well in his previous home – and that he just basically got discouraged and stopped asking, if in fact he ever had after his first few abused months before being adopted out of a shelter.)

So i dropped everything to give him some rubs and some sweet talk.  But, after all of about 30 seconds, i felt the call of the email i was writing and went back to my work.  I told myself that this was at least enough positive response to encourage Buddy to keep doing this when he really wanted or needed some extra attention.  Buddy went and laid on his bed.

But about five minutes later he came back.  This persistence in asking for more love was completely unprecedented, so this time i truly dropped everything and sat with him on the floor.  I told him, “You’re more important than emails any day of the week.”  And i stayed there with him for about fifteen minutes, until he seemed very peacefully semi-asleep.

I bet part of Buddy’s extra need tonight came from still carrying some acute trauma from all the scary thunderstorms we had today.  He seldom seems to be as terrified by thunderstorms as he used to be – at least unless the thunder crashes are exceptionally loud and close by.  But he was scared enough to hide back in my bedroom instead of under the kitchen table.

I gave him intermittent, brief stints of attention and reassurance, but was at that point in the day feeling more driven to “get some things done” before going into town in the evening for choir rehearsal.  I did wrap a little “security blanket” around him – a technique i read about in a doggie magazine and which i think does help.  (I think it gives him a more solid boundary and helps him feel more protected.)  And i dragged my boom box into the bedroom and put on some sweet dance music.

I think it’s miraculous that Buddy is doing such a good job these days at telling me what he needs.  He obviously is feeling more confident – or at least hopeful – that life will respond positively to him.  I want to keep building that confidence.  And to keep learning from his good example.  (I should be this good at asking for love.)

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“This is not OK!”

A guy about a quarter-mile down the road from us has several dogs chained to their doghouses on his little property (one of  the joys of country living).  They usually don’t make a lot of noise (a bunch of fairly discouraged dogs), but tonight they were all barking at once, sounding acutely unhappy.

Buddy, sitting next to me, all secure in our big back yard, was very disturbed by the sounds.  He leaned in hard against me.  I kept trying to reassure him – throwing my arms around him: “It’s OK, you’re nice and safe here.”

When we lived part-way up a mountain out in Haywood County, our landlord had built seven houses in a little neighborhood.  The five dogs (including Buddy) in the neighborhood all ran free – and mostly got along well with each other.  But one day – again, sitting all cozy next to each other in our yard – we heard the sound of a dogfight one house over, and it sounded like some little dog was getting hurt.  Buddy (not a fighter) immediately went charging off in the direction of the fight like a little policeman: “This is not OK – I’ve gotta try to do something about this.”  I raced after him, worried that he would get hurt, but the whole thing was over by the time we got there.

Would that we humans felt as much responsibility that no one get hurt on our watch.

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