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R&R: Respite and Regrouping

Posted Jul 22 2008 8:22pm

This has been a week of ups and downs. Until noon today, I could have reported that Whit was doing well, showing sufficient enthusiasm for life that I felt encouraged. But then today he showed no interest in his lunch. It’s a miserable hot and humid day here and, had he skipped a meal when he was younger–or if any of the dogs skipped one now–it wouldn’t bother me. But now he’s OLD, and that changes everything.

Part of me wants to race down to the basement and dig out the empty cat food cans from the recycling bucket and read the labels. Did I miss something important in my quest to get him to eat? Another part wants me to try a different food, while a third part thinks I should cook him something from scratch. A fourth part reminds me it’s only been one meal and he does have dry food available at all times. A fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth murmur, “Yeah, but what if ___ or ____ or _____ or _____.”

While I’m trying to figure out what to do, when, and how to regain the delicate balance that’s become Whit’s life, BeeBee has entered adulthood like a fur-covered bulldozer. I wish I could figure out why some dogs, like some people, enter new life stages–adolescence, adulthood, maturity–in great leaps rather than as the result of a progression of gradual changes. One day they’re adolescents and the next, young adults who think they know everything. The behavioral changes can happen so suddenly, I can see why some people think their pets must have brain tumors when this occurs because there’s nothing subtle about it.

In Bee’s case, someone got into her brain and turned on the CAP–Corgi American Princess–switch when I wasn’t looking. One day she was my staggering little clown; the next she was a demanding, pushy pooch with an attitude: “Come? Are you telling ME to come? Me? Her royal highness BeeBee? Now? When I can eat all these little green apples that have fallen off the tree? Surely you jest!”  If I call Frica or Ollie in the house, she now charges over and uses her elongated nose like a shovel to flip them out of the way. And she’s gotten much more barky. So I’ve added a few canine attitude readjustment exercises to my daily routine along with everything else.

To someone who isn’t an animal person, all of these adaptations must seem excessive and even foolish in the overall scheme of things. Such people inevitably point to a list of human sufferings or wrongs that should to be righted before we even give any energy to such animal concerns. But what those folks miss is that it’s not an either/or proposition. Although I don’t think I was ever an misanthrope, I do know that my knowledge of animal behavior has made me more understanding of and concerned about human behavior.

I also believe that many of us use our companion animals to dry run certain human events so that we can better cope with our fellow humans. For all I know, our animals use us to dry run animal events, too. At least I hope so. In the years that Whit’s been here, I’ve lost both human and animal loved ones. Maybe he learned as much from that as I did. During that time, I’ve also made the transition from married to single,  limit-setting mother to doting grandmother. And maybe that’s had something to do with BeeBee’s behavior, too.

But regardless what’s happened to me, neither of them needs a doting best friend or unrealistic dreamer right now. Both of them need a reliable reference they can count on. Whether I like it or not, that would be me.

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