It's hard to be glib when talking about pet health issues, especially death. But in the case of most dogs, it's more difficult because they instinctively become family members. Obviously, I hope my dog Roxy lives forever because my bond with her is strong...and even stronger with the rest of my family.
In the fall, we had a kitchen cabinet refacing estimate done. When the representative arrived, our watchdog identified the newcomer with her generic intruder bark. Usually she calms down a few seconds after the guest is welcomed in. Not this time. There was something about this foreigner she did not like. While he stroked her head and patted her side, she uncharacteristically growled and snapped at him. He said some odd things that included nailing her exact weight as well as guessing that our mutt was part beagle. I swear on a stack of bibles at the exact time I said, "Yes, she's part beagle." He licked his lips and dreamily said, "Beagles are sweet." Roxy was still trying to take a nip out him as I gave him the bum's rush, out!
This past December, Roxy caught my attention with a unique, continuous bark. We don't have a doggie-door, so when she has to do her business, she lets out a single, medium-level bark. Like "Old Faithful" these barks come a minute apart until someone opens the door for her. On this occasion, she made a machine-like, bark per second. The tone lacked ferociousness and even had a suggestion of fear in it. I was certain she wasn't being the intimidator...she was scared. Like any dutiful father, I dropped what I was doing. It was about twenty degrees that afternoon so my vantage point from inside our Florida room allowed me to see the whole yard.
I saw nothing out of the ordinary. The backyard was as still and peaceful as this Currier and Ives print.
CURRIER & IVES PRODUCED PRINTS OF FAMOUS PAINTINGS FROM 1834-1907. I ALWAYS PREFERRED THEIR PASTORAL SCENES.
In front of our shed about a hundred-fifty feet away, Roxy was pacing and running in little circles...a nervous wreck. Her hackles were up, she couldn't be still and never varied from her steady cadence barking. Nonetheless, I saw no reason for her terror. I slid open the door, called her in and called her a knucklehead. She didn't respond. I even did my secret whistle that brings her 95% of the time. This would be one of those 5% moments. To no avail, I even stooped to offering her a treat.
I was about to conclude that my dog was hallucinating or under a Svengali-like trance from our tooth deprived, anti-Christ neighbor "Boob the Bowman" when she finally looked up!
Behind our fence, in our around-the-corner neighbor's yard was a barren oak tree. Halfway up was a huge unorganized clump of straw and branches. An elementary deduction, it was a bird's nest. Then the most threatening red hawk arose from it and flapped its wings.I'M NOT AN ALARMIST BUT I IMAGINED THIS KILLER CARRYING OFF MY FIFTY POUND PUPPY IN ITS TALONS.
My shouts were frantic but my furry canine genius stayed in harm's way. Then the bird swooped out of the tree and made a bee-line right at me. The majesty of this beast commanded my awe...and I was safe inside. The looming predator remained focused on me until it flew over the house and looped back to its perch.
The situation got weirder, a few seconds later. From out of nowhere, a gazillion crows blackened the sky. They circled overhead, while caw, caw cawing a deafening and menacing din. Then as if guided by a GPS, they strafed the nest. When the dive-bombing was over, this Hitchcockian scene got eerier as the birds landed on branches and surrounded the hawk. While the crows postured in an attempt to regain their lost territory, Roxy seized the opportunity. With her tail hanging low, my Weaselina ambled back into the house.
In appreciation of my warning, she made me this Christmas present.
ROXY'S GIFT TO ME, HANGS IN OUR YARD NOW AND SARCASTICALLY ADDRESSES MY CHILDHOOD FEAR OF THE, "WIZARD OF OZ."
It's great that I have the ability to communicate so well with my dog. But what troubles me is her inability to express her a rare condition that messes her up. I can only characterize it as: a panic attack. Over the last three year, maybe ten times, Roxy has experienced twenty-minute seizure-like fits. The logical cause would be a sudden loud noise. But she is not unsettled by thunder, a dropped dinner plate or random smoke alarms. Even when we take her to the groomer for a manicure and a bath, she cries the whole way there. She then thrashes around, jaws-a-snappin' while the staff retrains her. But that drama vanishes as soon as she's done.
We limit Muttzilla's intake of table goodies. When she is rewarded that way, we are certain to avoid sickening and potentially lethal foods like chocolate and onions. She's even smart enough to self-regulate drinking sources by recognizing bad batches of toilet water. And for you male chauvinists in the audience, her irritability has nothing to do with periodic discomfort or doggie PMS, she's been spayed!
When these sieges occur, I try every trick in the book to distract her like; putting her on my lap and soothing her, giving her a favorite snack or a walk in the neighborhood. Nothing works. It's sad to watch this odd behavior. While she shivers, sits, stands, walks in circles, hides in odd places like under the computer desk or in the bath tub, a parent can only watch in fear that she might hyperventilate, vomit, become incontinent...or worse.
It's easy to forget these episodes because within a short time, the symptoms vanish for several months. This past May, I made a point to bring her malady up during her yearly well-visit to the veterinarian.
I like our vet. I look forward to our meetings because he is such a cool guy that I wish we were friends. Plus his love and commitment to animals and appreciation for their owners, makes for a tremendous bedside manner.
I have complete confidence in his doctoring abilities but you might notice, I don't use his name. The reason is, he professionally listed more ailment possibilities but we discounted them all. Then he, (let's call him Dr. Bombay), said, "Roxy doesn't have the classic symptoms of epilepsy but if you like I could run some tests...but I think they'd be fruitless." He was done speculating but it seemed he was holding off one last idea. I said, "Is there something else?" "Well," he said, "most folks don't like hearing this..." My wife Sue and I simultaneously said, "What?" "We all know about people like Michael Vick," he started. We nodded. "And judging from Roxy's chart, we don't know if she was raised in a puppy mill...?" I said, "So." "Well there's no indication that she is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome from surviving anything like that..." Sue said, "Then what are you saying?" Dr. Bombay said, "Do you believe in the supernatural?" I couldn't believe my ears. I tried not to laugh and said, "Heh?" And with a straight face he said, "Maybe your dog is possessed!"
Roxy had one of these incidents again last night. It happened when the house was quiet. I wish my girl could really talk and tell me what's disturbing her because I'd love to have a solution for her tortured soul. Think about it, she wasn't under any duress, she had been fed and enjoyed a lengthy walk an hour before. Nothing overtly negative was going on. So I turn it over to my sophisticated readership to solve this riddle...I look forward to your astute comments and we'll see which one of you tops Dr. Bombay's diabolical diagnosis.