Friday 9 January 2009

Shaken, not stirred

"You know your dogs" - it's an expression many dog owners use between each other; the suggestion that humans are so close to we dogs (we are like their children) that they can immediately sense when we are not "normal". The smallest nuance, the tiniest flinch, a change of stance or gait which would be imperceptible to anyone else, gives a clue to the owner that the dog might be unwell, ill, in pain or just uncomfortable.

Big changes, then, are easy - "Problem" writ large, shouted from the rooftops. Hence Dad's instant concern at the vets when the H started shivering with (?) fear as soon as he was placed on the vets table for his exam, and how he relaxed as soon as he was taken off. As far as anyone knows, he's not had any traumas at the vets, not been hurt or upset in any way - Mum or Dad have always been there, so they'd know.

Once, as they say, is an accident.... twice is carelessness... and you know where it goes from there.

Tonight Dad is concerned at the bit of a limp Megan is showing, and picks her up to have a good poke about between her toes and pads, probing with gentle fingers looking for sore bits, the tops of embedded thorns, chunks of hard mud among the fur, bits of ice etc. She's 12 and a half and it's an action we've all been trained to accept since puppy hood - we get flipped on our backs and we have to accept human fingers between our toes, round our eyes and ears, in our mouths. Far easier to get a 9 week old pup to accept it than a fully grown, proud adult dog!

The dog-trainers call it the "alpha-roll". We must know our place. We must know that humans are "alpha" and we are at best "Beta" (2nd best). If a human wants to poke and prod us or roll us over and tickle our belly, just like if they take our bone away, we have to know they are boss, and accept it, trusting them not to hurt us, and/or to give the bone back when it suits them. We, all three have had this and it's part of life.

So, having done this to Meggie a thousand times in their 12+ years together, with no reaction, he is surprised when she suddenly starts shivering just like Haggis on the vet's table. She is most unhappy and upset and doesn't stop trembling till she's put back upright on the floor. Now he's really confused. What's changed? What's causing this?

Later, to reassure himself, he lies Meggie, on her back, on his lap, while we watch some TV, but this time he only strokes her belly and chin, doesn't go near her feet. She's cool with that, relaxes and falls asleep.

What human can understand what goes on in our heads? It's a worrying time.......


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