Tuesday, May 15, 2007


My dog Scooby (no, I did not name him--he came with that name) is an eight-year-old Australian Shepherd, who thinks he one or two. I got him from the Humane Society five years ago, and he was wild as a March hare. They told me he'd been a junkyard dog, by which they meant someone just threw him in their back yard and fed him occasionally but paid no other attention to him. I hired a trainer and during one session I asked when Scooby would calm down. "Oh," he said, "maybe when he's ten." We've had an Aussie in the family before, and I knew that's true. Well, Scooby has calmed down a good bit, though my family doesn't believe it at all. He's not good in the house when there's company, because he gets too excited. He'll snatch anything edible if he thinks he can get away with it, and though he's technically housebroken, he's not reliable--I keep him in sight all the time he's in the house, and when I'm not home, he lives outside where he has a perfectly good dog house. But at night, in my study, he lies quietly at my feet, though every movement on my part causes him to jump in anticipation of something--a treat, an adventure, who knows what. And when I go to bed, he sleeps (barricaded and leashed) next to me and puts his head on the mattress to be loved. He is probably the sweetest dog I've ever had.
But Scooby is terrified of thunderstorms, absolutely, out-of-his-mind terrified. The first storm we lived through together, he hid under my desk and pawed at me until I had great bruises on my legs. He's gotten better, or so I told myself--it was, I thought, because he knew he finally had a safe, secure home. Lately though, he's gone bananas again. (I figure my anxiety comes and goes, so maybe his does too; besides, like all of us, his routine was broken this weekend by having two other dogs--or is that getting too psychoanalytical about dogs?) We've had regular early evening storms--short and not intense, but nonetheless thunder and the heavy air that comes before a storm. One night while all the kids were here, he bullied his way in when Lisa came in, and I had a horrible time getting him out. But last night was the worst. I let him in deliberately, an act of kindness, because it was storming. But later, with storms long gone, I couldn't get him to go out, even to eat his dinner. He balked, he hid, he pulled out of his collar (it's too big since he Colin took him to get a summer haircut--I can't manage him on a leash because he wants to herd everything from UPS trucks to strollers and bicycles), he jumped and squirmed and had to be dragged. And every time I got him to the back door, he bolted the other way. To his credit, Scooby never threatened me, never growled. And to my credit, I didn't yell--I tried to talk comfortingly, explaining that I would never let anything happen to him. My talk fell on deaf ears. Finally after about six frustrating tries, I literally threw him out the door (with only a slight bit of guilt). He absolutely could not stay in from 5 at night until 6 in the morning! Later when I let him in for the night, he went happily to his bed as though nothing had happened. And tonight, the predicted storm hasn't appeared, so Scooby is content. If I go near the back door, he's there, looking like "Won't you let me in?" but he's not frantic. And pretty soon I will let him in, and he'll have his treat and then sleep at my feet.
Life with dogs is almost as complicated as life with children and grandchildren, but I wouldn't be without any of them. Or that cat that bit me and threatened Mel this weekend--the cat won that standoff until Jamie came along, hustled him into the house, and gave him a stern scolding.

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