A reflection on that other non-verbal mammal in my care

November 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

Addie's a strange dog. I know: everyone thinks their dog is exceptional, but the thing is, just when I've gotten used to Addie's idiosyncrasies she does something in a public place that draws laughter, shocked expressions, or general confusion. I'm constantly reminded that I've grown accustomed to weird.

Things Addie is afraid of (random order)

* birds of prey
* dogs bigger than her
* sailboats
* kites
* gunfire
* some of her toys
* feet
* flashlights (on)
* TV
* dalmatians

It's been said by more than one member of my family that she's high-strung. I don't think that's quite it, but it gets a bit at what's off about her. She's… sensitive. And intelligent. But also (technically) non-verbal. She's a lot like a horse in some ways, with cues and triggers for all kinds of weird behaviours. She has a couple obsessions. She comes off as crazy. "Crazy" is one of my nicknames for her.

Neither Allie nor I knew what to expect from our loopy coonhound when we found out late last winter that we'd be bringing a baby into the house.

Sidenote: we adopted Addie when she was 8 months old, which was about 3 years ago. We nursed her through spaying, kennel cough, eye infections, ear infections, and a gastrointestinal sensitivity that took almost a year to diagnose and stabilize. We now buy one brand of expensive food and she gets nothing else to eat, lest it upset the balance we achieved at great expense. Most people at the dog parks are considerate enough to ask if they can give a cookie. The ones that aren't get a stern reprimand. Occasionally the effect is immediate enough for Addie to demonstrate the cookie's ill-effect on-site.

Further sidenote: I do realize my wife and dog have eerily similar names. To explain: my wife's full name is Aleksandra. Her parents call her by the Polish diminutive, Ola. Friends from high school call her Alex. Our dog was named after Addie Bundren, the corpse hauled across Yoknapatawpha county by the Bundren clan in As I Lay Dying. When we were bringing our coonhound home from the Keswick animal shelter we knew only a little about her: she had southern roots, was skinny as death, and didn't have anything to say about where she was going or where she'd been.

When we brought home the car-seat and stroller Addie was extremely interested. Sniffed both thoroughly with ears laid back and tail wagging low, just as she's always done when approaching small children. For the first few days she'd check each one when she entered the room just in case. She's only ever met a few kids, but there was every indication, which we took to be confirmed by her behaviour around these various baby accoutrements, 

My in-laws returned Addie to us the day after we got home from the hospital with The Baby, and we began The Renegotiation. 

We were confident we could look after an infant because we'd looked after Addie. 6 weeks into parenthood I still believe that anyone who says raising a puppy to doghood isn't at all like raising a baby has done one of those things badly or not at all.

Of course there are differences. We can't leave Samson unattended. He doesn't respond to commands of any kind. He's completely immobile. His preference for where and when he poops are totally indiscernible.

If we were comparing them (and we're not) it would be hard to ignore the fact that the dog is way out ahead. A real champ.

Addie insists on attending most diaper changes. We discourage rooting in the diaper pail, but a stray hand or available cheek is fair play for a sniff or lick. She hasn't voiced any opinion about having to share the backseat. When Samson's on the floor in the front room (usually through some intention of his parents) Addie's a bit put off, but she's generally polite and patient. When speaking to Samson we refer to Addie as "your dog"; as yet this hasn't had any material effect on household operations.

I wouldn't say they "like" each other. You'd have to be deluded to see Addie growing "protective" over the tiny pink ape we brought home. She's getting over her mistrust of a mammal whose movements have nothing to do with what's going on around them. Samson's not easily stirred from sleep by a coonhound bawl. We don't ask for much, and we're pretty satisfied so far.

I'm sure I'll return to this subject later. Probably when Samson starts crawling and really freaking out the dog.


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