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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bone-Love: A Dog's Right

There’s something about watching a dog gnaw on a bone that reminds me of love. Maybe it’s the way she holds the bone between her paws, caressing it and getting a firmer grip on it at the same time. Maybe it’s the way she closes her eyes and cocks her head so that more of the bone can be wedged in her mouth. Or the way she works on it like a sculptor immersed in the art of creating. Or the way she smacks her jaws loudly with satisfaction as she chews bits of rawhide, softening it until she can swallow it where it becomes a part of her. I wonder what she thinks as she stops to chew the bits. Is she thinking how much she is enjoying her bone? Her eyes are unfocused and she appears to be in a bone-trance: nothing else exists for her but her bone between her paws and that intense flavor that is so obviously pleasurable. It’s quite a sight. The only thing, besides her walks when she catches sight of a bunny or squirrel, that seems to captivate her entire being.

The other image of note lately is Singer’s head resting lightly on the table, watching us eat. She’s been quite the challenging counter cruiser lately, never resting from her food scrap vigilance, hoping to snatch any morsel of falling food or crumb. But sometimes, I just like to watch her as she rests her head quietly watching Jeff eat. She focuses on him because she knows that I’m the kitchen witch who’s more likely to yell at her for trying to counter cruise. The kitchen is my domain, and she knows it. Jeff is there, like her, for the food. Afterwards, he does the dishes, and that’s when he might sweep a morsel or crumb her way when I’m not looking.

We’ve been focusing on Dakota lately. He had a sneezing type cold earlier this month, then a bad reaction to a vaccine. He just had a dental, too, and I worried a lot about it beforehand. True to Singer’s nature, she observed the extra attention we were giving to Dakota, and tried her best to offer her own form of healing:  licking. Whenever he strode by her, she would bend over and lovingly lick his head and ears. I don’t think it was perceived that way by him, but it sure was cute. She knew we were worried about him for some reason, and she tried to show her concern as well. Now his teeth are all clean and I’ve vowed to try to keep them that way. Tonight it’s pet teeth brushing night. Jeff gets to hold them, I will brush their teeth. Singer resisted the first time I tried, although she likes the flavored tooth paste for dogs. Dakota has always resisted, his head snaps back in total revulsion whenever I try to open his mouth. He is totally appalled whenever I try to brush his teeth. Typical cat.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Hidden Bone

Okay, so we know that our dogs (and cats) are proxy for our children. That’s been established, here and elsewhere. We love them like our children, spoil them even worse than our children, and wish for them a long life of good, happy experiences. Heck, we even knit them little coats in our favorite colors and cover them up with old baby blankets when sleeping. I could go on—should I mention the towel we place near the door to dry her fur when she comes in from the slushy weather? Okay, enough already!

But who told them they could begin to assert their own personalities? Who said they could develop their own hang ups, independent of what we believe is outside their scope of experience? Who allowed them this luxury of separating from their parents? God, you say? How do you know? Who really has the hang ups anyway?

Well, there is one thing I know for sure. I know that Singer has an urgent need to dig and hide her bones. Not the ordinary rawhides, but the expensive, tasty $5.99 bones that are flavored especially to entice dogs to chew and eat them. They are shaped like a giant toothbrush, to appease my sense of guilt for not brushing her teeth enough, but that’s another hang up that belongs to me, not her.

So anyway, Singer took her delicious, precious bone and trotted all around the house with it, looking for a special place to hide it. We laugh: is this a hoarding hang up? This is her second bone; the first one she ate right away, presumably finding it delicious, but who knows. Singer has now been given this second bone, days later, and she is trying to get into my closet to hide it, but I shut her down with that idea right away. She then trots over to Jeff’s study, which is barricaded by a baby gate to keep all animals out and looks longingly around. But she quickly understands she’s not going to get in there. Then, we have to go to work, and I kiss her quickly on the head and tell her to “go to your couch” and leave. I have no idea what she does after that door closes.

Zoom ahead to several weeks later. I started wondering about that bone, which we haven’t seen around anywhere. Singer’s “spoons” from feeding the cat, the ones she fishes out of the sink after we leave in the morning, lick clean and then leave around the house, we know about those. They occupy our minds for awhile, and Jeff and I idly chat about how to get her to stop leaving the spoons around the house. Then we decide that it’s kind of cute and decide not to do anything about it. Yes, we know it’s really because we can’t decide how to stop her, she is so sneaky about it and what harm does it do, anyway? Again, parallels to parenting come up.

Just to tease her one night, I ask her to go get her bone. She is curled up by my feet on the couch. She looks at me, then at her pile of toys and bones, and back at me. I tell her several times to go get her bone, and I get a feeling she knows exactly which bone I’m talking about. To make sure, I tell her, “You know, the one that looks like a toothbrush, the one I gave you several weeks ago?” She looks at me but doesn’t move. What is she thinking?

Several minutes pass. I return to reading my book. Singer puts her head on her paws again. Then she gets up and puts her nose in the corner of the couch and sniffs and starts digging. It’s a leather couch, so I ask her to stop. She doesn’t. Finally, I command her to stop and she jumps down. I see a little something in the corner: you guessed it, it’s her bone. She buried it that day and now wanted it back.

Singer took the bone once again from my hands and disappeared with it. Who knows where she buried it this time?