Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sad Mad Dog

"Nelly seems sad. Do dogs get sad?"

This was the note that I left the dog-walker yesterday. He has been walking our guys on and off for about seven years, and he's a licensed vet technician, so I occasionally ask him questions about the dogs' health or well-being.

Instead of jotting an answer on the notepad as he usually does, he left a long and very sweet voice mail message. Yes, dogs get sad, or at least some canine equivalent. And yes, he had noticed it too - She seemed sad last week, and today she was just plain cranky and stubborn - "We had words," he said.

I've been working mostly at home since October, and the dog-walker was on a hiaitus until last month when I picked up a regular work commitment out in the world. He said the older dogs get, the less they like change, and she is probably upset that I'm away from home more. So she's going through a range of emotions, from sad to mad, but eventually she will be her old self again.

I certainly know that she doesn't like me gone. Enrico leaves for work five days a week and gets no more than a glance from Nelly, but I head into the shower and she has a fit. She clearly doesn't want me to leave her side, ever. Which is weird, because she's such an independent soul, not like Toby who loses all sense of his own identity if he's not in the presence of another being to absorb his boundless LOVE.

To make matters worse, I changed her favorite piece of furniture. She's napped up on the new daybed once or twice, but is clearly still displeased. I have heaped change upon change on her. And so she's sad.

And mad. Saturday we bathed the dogs, and she was pissed. She never likes baths, but usually practices nonviolent noncooperation - a dramatic woe-is-me act, sitting when we want her to stand, refusing to shake at the right time, etc. But this time, we could feel the anger coming off her like a physical force. She clearly would have bolted without a firm grip to the neck (and believe me, you do NOT want a sudsy, 60-pound dog to escape the tub). Afterwards as we were drying her off, she was huffing and sputtering, as if speechless with rage. It was a strange kind of anger, very human, because dogs have canine ways of communicating regular dog anger - a warning growl, a snap, a fight - and this was none of that. Just a sense of overwhelming, frustrating emotion roiling through her soggy little body.

So it appears that I brought this on her by changing jobs and couches. I am sorry, little one. It had to happen. We'll all ride out the change together. Stick close to Toby - his boundless love is a balm for all ills.

1 comment:

Shelly said...

When my cat died a few years ago, we knew on a friday that we were going to have to put him down on monday. I spent the whole weekend with him, sleeping on the porch with him because him mom, our other cat, was all hissy at him since he had lost most of his hair. Anyway, Mia, our dog, could tell that I was sad and she was sad with me all weekend, she just moped and pouted the whole time. The funny thing was that the mom cat didnt even seem to care, but the dog was very affected. So I agree that dogs can be sad.