24 March 2011

Dog Days

I don't want to be accused of cruelty to animals, so I will go public and say that I think my dog may be suicidal. She gives the impression of absolute contentment, eagerly licking Emmaline's face at every opportunity and then falling into a coma-like sleep, her body stretched out across the width of the whole sofa. She joyously chases balls, or sticks, or pine cones with wild abandon. She races along the boundary of our yard when neighboring dogs walk by with their owners, tongue slack and undulating in a breeze of her own creation. What else is there to define canine happiness but this?

Then, a little over a week ago she started throwing herself into oncoming traffic. This is a slight exaggeration, but I don't doubt that this would have been the case entirely were she not confined to the yard. She would certainly have been creamed by one of the landscaping trucks that come barreling by, yard equipment in tow on a trolley attached to the rear. As it is, she is limited in her opportunities to flirt with certain death to those moments when we pull our cars into the drive.

This takes a brief description at least to appreciate the scene. The house, in its former glory days as a multifamily residence had a wide swath of its front yard paved for extra parking. This lot gives the property the air of a group home or rehab facility and is probably why people took the liberty to park in it during our neighbor's Halloween party last fall. It is not a narrow lane we are dealing with, but a sprawling open space that allows a dog, such as Scout, to achieve considerable speed while running across it.

You turn off the main road and onto a small, idyllic side street like Wisteria Lane, where the houses are just as beautiful but fewer of the residents have committed murder or vehicular manslaughter (at least so I'm told). But before you get to these newer residences, you turn into our drive, pulling up in front of the ramshackle old estate with the rotting wooden gutters and peeling paint, the withered gardens composed almost entirely of poison ivy. You creep forward, travelling perhaps 5 miles an hour while taking in the building in front of you, wondering if perhaps the owners are indifferent to appearances or have fallen into financial ruin.

Then, thwack. You run into a dog. Or did she, perhaps, run into you? You stop, not seeing her, panicked at the thought that she is dead beneath the wheels of your car and only slowly gain the courage to inch forward. Thump. You hit her again. Or, you are beginning to become more convinced, maybe it's she who hit you?

When in this situation you might be tempted to lean on your horn, reasoning that the noise would have some hope of scaring her off. You do honk, several times, and find yourself disappointed at the lack of any appreciable impact. The woman pushing a stroller along the sidewalk starts to stare. You reassess the situation, leaing forward to get a better look. Scout taunts you, standing just inches away from your front bumper. You are afraid to drive forward.

Thinking on to the next step, I can tell you with absolute conviction that the appropriate thing to do is not to open your window to yell, try to reason, attempt to distract. Doing this will only result in a willful leap, one almost certainly made with the intention of strangling herself on the window's edge. Her head is thrust in through the narrow opening; her tongue makes a valiant effort to reach for your face. Her legs then scamble wildly in an attempt to pull her body up and in through the portal. So whatever else you decide in that moment, please keep your window rolled up.

It saddens me, of course. We have tried to make her feel welcomed and loved. We have fed her and pet her and cuddled her to no end. That she should prefer death to her life as part of our brood reflects poorly on our family as a whole. That she should doggedly collide with one car after another in her attempt to find one rolling at a high enough speed to put her out of her misery is, I think, tragic.

Or maybe, I am forced to reconsider as she chases her own tail, this behavior is evidence not of a malingering depression but only that she is truly and deeply stupid instead.

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