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The BeeBee Dilemma

Posted Sep 22 2008 10:26am

So much as been going on that I haven’t had much time to write about BeeBee, although a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about her because she’s definitely made the shift to adulthood. With that chronological change has come the desire to take over, with her #1 priority being to claim me as her own. I can certainly understand why she would want to do that because it’s a paradox I see all the time with my patients: quite the contrary of what occurs in the wild, companion animals who feel the most vulnerable will put more energy into claiming the choicest resource (i.e the owner) than those animals who are more physically and mentally fit. The reason for this is obvious: they have the most to lose if they relinquish claim of that person.


The solution is simple enough: Relative to me, all the dogs are equal in my eyes and all rank below me. They’re free to work out their pack structure among themselves any way they want and change it any time they want because that’s normal canine behavior. What none of them can do is view me as the prize for whoever emerges at the top of their canine social structure. Until Bee matured, there seemed to be canine acceptance of this.

But now BeeBee is challenging this human-canine social structure and this has resulted in a behavioral-bond dilemma for me. She now resists when I put her in the belly-up position to check her over and massage her feet, a ritual she used to love as a pup. The once equally loved daily grooming sessions are now more apt to include periods of canine resistance. Because her upper jaw has continued to grow and her lower one is more crooked than ever, I could easily tell myself that this is occurring because these positions are physically uncomfortable for her. But I also know that these activities communicate my higher status and that she could very well be more behaviorally uncomfortable than physically so.

So what to do? Do I play behavioral-bond hardball and gently but firmly do what needs to be done no matter how long it takes? Or should I let her play the disability card and call the shots? My gut feeling about where the little scamp is coming from fights with my desire to practice interspecies political correctness. Plus there’s always the unknown with Bee. God only knows what’s physically going on in that wonky head of hers that could blow any minute.

Fortunately, I’m blessed with two other dogs and a cat whose perception is so much greater than mine that my reality is only a fraction of theirs. All of them, even BeeBee, could be poster animals to illustrate Henry Beston’s insightful  passage in The Outermost House because all of them are “gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, hearing voices we shall never hear.” Call it a cop-out, but for now I’m going to use Fric, Ollie, and Whit as a guide when it comes to  dealing with Bee’s “I am the queen.”  attitude.

When I started observing them all in this light, the first thing I noticed is that Fric, Ollie, Whit,  and Bee are much more interested in what BeeBee can do than what she can’t. They’ve also figured out that there is nothing mentally slow about Bee and that she can, in fact, be quite the crafty little demon so there’s no use feeling sorry for her because it will only get you cornered someplace where you’re probably not supposed to be where you could get caught by She With the Infernal Camera.


When this occurs, there is nothing at all wrong with one of you distracting Bee while the other makes a leap to freedom.


And disappears into the office, leaving Bee to wonder where you went


while the other dog relaxes.


As Beston also pointed, compared to us, animals are other nations who are caught up in the same world that we are. Just because they’re different doesn’t mean they’re lesser. Just because they’re different, doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  And in this particular case, just because Bee’s different doesn’t mean that I should allow her to assume a position relative to me that’s beyond her capacity just because I feel sorry for her.

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