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October 26, 2014: Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

The last few days have been extremely quiet around here, even more so than usual. The overall mood has been somber. For the past few days, Pete and I have alternated keeping an eye on Rainbow, who has been convalescing. Rainbow, who will be 14 on Halloween, has matured into an independent and very serious dog. In her youth she was independent but also playful, with a very devil may care attitude.

Her dark brown eyes now radiate incomprehension. She’s in pain and doesn’t know why. She does not want to be messed with, so we are (as best we can) honoring her wishes. There are, however, things that must be done in order for healing to take place. We have to periodically check her two drains, administer medication, keep her from chewing on herself, and monitor her food and water intake.

The chewing – this necessitates the use of what used to be called an Elizabethan collar but is now called an E-collar. She hates having it put on or taken off. We put it on her when we go out. How do you explain to a dog that you’re doing something for its own good? I have yet to figure this out. Today was a better day for her than yesterday, and tomorrow will be a better day for her than today.

I am thinking that we are now Rainbow’s service humans. We’re tending to her in her time of need in the same way that service dogs attend to their humans in their time of need. We’re also Jenna’s service humans. Actually, this seems like a more apt statement, for Jenna, unlike Rainbow, is psychologically dependent upon us in a way that Rainbow is not. She’s this way because her former owners abandoned her – hers is a deep seated emotional trauma. Whenever we leave her alone, she starts to bark. Her bark isn’t a warning, alarm, or an I’m here bark; but rather, it’s a come and get me right now bark. It’s the equivalent of a drippy tap. Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof – a monotone bark with evenly spaced pauses in-between. There’s no behavioral remedy – the problem is that her brain is atrophying. So we are learning to keep her close. When we go upstairs, we bring her with. When we go downstairs, we bring her with.

I quell impatience by reminding myself that when we took her on, that the caretaking aspect was to be two way. And this is the way it’s been. First of all, for many years she accompanied me on trail rides, and in the process she let me know when predators were around. Now, I accompany her on her jaunts around the house and let her know that I’m around.

The other day I took Jenna to the groomer’s. Before exiting, I turned and looked back at her. Big mistake. She gave me a look of complete disbelief. It was as if she was saying, how in the world could you do this to me? I told her that I’d be back shortly – and I was.

Now Ryder is the up and coming trail dog companion. Her personality is in between that of Jenna and Rainbow – she’s not overly independent, nor is she overly dependent. She is striking a nice balance. Not that I mind Rainbow and Jenna being the way they are, but it’s nice to have the third dog strike a middle ground.

I’m glad that we have all three. I would not have things around her to be any different than they already are The exception is Jenna – it would do us all wonders if she would just once in a while, cool her jets.

Next: 286. 10/26/14: The Writing Life: Big Ideas