Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Pet Bull & The Invaders from Mars

Well…technically there are no Invaders from Mars…but try telling that to the Pet Bull.
In Veronica’s mind the Invaders are lurking just behind every really loud noise or really bright light…and they like pet bulls…allot…possibly for dinner with a nice Chianti.

In order to relate the events of the previous night and the triggering of Veronica’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…I have to provide some back story. It all started on Christmas night of 2007. We were having a lovely holiday visiting relatives deep in the New Hampshire woods. Veronica was lounging by the fire, after a busy day of hiking and sampling hors d’oevers. My brother-in-law announced that he has planning on setting off a lovely firework display after dark. “What a wonderful opportunity for Veronica”!, I thought. Seeing as I made it a point to try and socialize her as much as possible, I thought a brilliant fireworks display would be a nice addition to her education.

Now I can see some of you rolling your eyes. “What was I thinking” you ask? Taking a dog to see fireworks when dogs universally fear and dislike them. Well…yeah. But how was I supposed to know this? In my adult life I have had only 1 previous dog. I enjoyed a glorious 14 years with my precious Basset Hound Frances Abigail…and Frannie…didn’t mind fireworks. In fact for all of Frannie’s life, my mother-in-law was also alive. And that meant that our presence was required every 4th of July for the Lighting of the Lake and the Town of Sutton fireworks display: 2 nights of loud noises and brilliant colors in the sky. All Frannie cared about was who brought the snacks. In her later years she expressed a desire to remain in the car with the air conditioning on…but other than that she could not possibly have been more underwhelmed with the whole situation.

So on that fateful night 2 years ago…I marched Veronica outside to further her education. We were not outside for very long at all. The first display sparkled in the sky and I was lost in my own train of thought: “How pretty! Hmmm…I wonder if that’s a little close to the house…I wonder how much my brother-in-law had to drink and if he really knows what he’s doing, I wonder how the volunteer fire system works…I wonder if any of the volunteer fire fighters are sober, being as it is Christmas night – or maybe they’re really groggy from the intoxicating effects of too much turkey…I sure would hate to burn to a crisp in the middle of nowhere…” And at that precise moment I looked down at Veronica. I have to say I’ve never before (or since for that matter) seen a dog look quite so scared. She was scrunched up like a Halloween cat and her tail was so far underneath her it looked like it was sticking in her mouth. Her eyes were big as saucers. (Writer’s seem to be very fond of that phrase “eyes as big as saucers”…but let me say…if you’ve ever actually seen anyone – person or animal- whose eyes…were “big as saucers”…you know how completely apt the description really is.)

So, upon realizing that Veronica was not having a good time; we immediately went inside…but the damage was done. Veronica was acting like a Vietnam vet who’d just returned stateside. Suddenly the fire she had previously been enjoying…was terrifying. The snap & crackle of burning embers sent her flying into her crate. When we got home she began generalizing her fear to all loud noises and bright lights. Watching her suddenly fixate on overhead lights with a look of trepidation and near panic…was heartbreaking. I thought I broke my dog.

There was nothing to be done…but deal with it. We tried very hard to be comforting while at the same time not reinforcing her fears. When possible we named the objects she was afraid of and clicked and treated and eventually Veronica returned to “normal” with the exception of some greatly reduced, but nonetheless residual fears.

Fast forwarding 2 years…the Invaders returned last night…and they were hungry for pet bull. They came around 1:00 in the morning in the form of a malfunctioning fire alarm. Veronica shot straight up from a deep sleep at the sound of the first shrill beep and froze. I attempted to reassure her that all was well as her Poppa worked on the uncooperative alarm…but she wasn’t having it. She made it to the edge of the bed and pondered the wisdom of escape. I implored her to return and protect her Momma; thinking to tap into the fierce gamebred blood of her distant ancestors…but sadly the decision was made to turn tail and run. One minute she was poised on the edge of the bed; the next she was off the ramp, down the hallway, through the kitchen, across the living room and into her crate.

Thirty minutes later after much banging and cursing and lots of beeping, my dear husband finally admitted defeat and returned to bed. But now…there was a problem. I was supposed to go back to sleep and I had no dog. Well…I had a dog…just at the other end of the house, cowering in a crate. Now I’m sure some would be fine with this arrangement, minus the cowering part of course…but for me, it simply would not do. I believe I mentioned in a previous blog that pet bulls generally speaking have responsibilities, expectations, jobs to do. Veronica’s job is to attend to my emotional needs, keep me company and snuggle with me at night – in short, keep me off Prozac and Xanax. So obviously the current situation was unacceptable.

Nothing to do but fetch my errant dog. Think of it this way…if you obtained a dog to guard your sheep…you couldn’t just have the dog slinking off to sleep in the barn, right? Working dogs must work; so Veronica was coming back to bed. Luckily getting her out of her crate proved to be quite easy, thanks to a more successful educational endeavor. About 1 year ago when her dermatologist recommended weekly baths, Veronica became acquainted with the work of Gandhi and thought to implement the art of peaceful resistance (i.e. drop in her crate like a sack of very heavy potatoes). Of course me being a responsible fur Momma; took this as an opportunity to teach a lesson in basic Physics: 2 matters containing mass cannot occupy in the same space and time. Oh I hear some of you scoffing that this is too complicated and esoteric a lesson for a mere dog to comprehend; however I can assure you that with the aid of a simple demonstration…Veronica grasped the concept after only a handful of lessons. It goes like this: One fur mommy stuffed completely into a crate that is currently occupied by one fur baby, serves to dislodge and effectively eject one fur baby completely out of said crate.

So when I went to collect my cowering pup she came quite willingly out of her crate. She did attempt to defect twice before reaching the bedroom by trying to hide first behind the dining room table; then in the hall bathroom (smart dog; no one would ever think to look for her in a room with a tub in it). But eventually we reached the bed and up she went; and I thought I could finally get some sleep. Veronica on the other hand, wasn’t so certain. There she stood surveying her surroundings waiting for the next whooping war cry from the Invaders. I coaxed her to my side and gave her a smooshing hug. I felt her settle her head on my tummy…but something felt “off”. I opened my eyes and propped my head up. Veronica did indeed have her head settled on my tummy…but the rest of her was standing straight up at rigid attention. Working off the theory that eventually Veronica would get tired of “waiting” and that when nothing happened she would get tired and settle down and go to sleep; I tried to relax and not let the knowledge that I had to get up in 3 hours for work keep me up the remainder of the night.

I wasn’t particularly successful with the relaxing and sleeping; but I did feel Veronica relax and eventually she settled down and snuggled in closer and drifted off to sleep. All was right with the world. I was warm and cozy and I had a big Pet Bull head resting on my stomach so I finally drifted off. Only to be awoken by a near lethal strike to my kidneys. (Or where I, with my limited knowledge of human anatomy, imagine my kidneys to be.) As I took a moment to catch my breath and clear my head, I was treated to a sharp smack in the boob, followed by another accompanied by a high pitched yelping, growly, snuffling sound. It seems the Divine Ms. V. had not entirely recovered from the night’s excitement and was having herself a bit of a nightmare. What could I do except wake her up and tell her she was fine and safe and to go back to sleep. Which I did, and she did; which I know because she slept and I didn’t and the morning came fast and furious anyway. Just another night in Pet Bull land

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