Monday Musings…. The Quirks of a Cowardly Canine

I have a dog. His name is Watson. I should clarify – he is my husband’s dog.

I know most people love animals. There’s hardly a child that doesn’t try to wear their parents down with the lament that they really, really want a dog, or a cat, or a fish, or a gerbil. But I’ve never been a fan of pets.

I think it stems from my childhood growing up with a cat that was the prized possession of the home and got more love and affection than I ever did. Or my indifference may come from my observation of people who excessively pamper their pets. They get their pet’s nails done, then put booties on their feet in the winter, or a red ribbon in their fur (or hair as I have been instructed about those hypoallergenic breeds?). I’ve even seen animals pushed around in a stroller. Really?? The very fact that humans have to pick up the waste from their pets, makes me wonder who is serving who? Sorry, but I don’t see any of those activities as something I need to add in to my life, or something I would derive pleasure from.

Regardless of my stance, we did get a dog 6 years ago. As the kids quickly informed us, we waited until they all moved out, and then got a dog.

My husband picked him out. He chose him specifically, because he was cowering in the corner of the litter, all by himself. “He looked lonely” sighed my husband, as his heart-strings were plucked to the tune of “Git Along Little Doggies”.

I acknowledged the dog’s existence, but that was all. My husband willingly embraced all of the other ‘training’ duties and clean-up. Of course, the dog had to be named. Apparently, the dog appeared intelligent to my husband, and so he named him Watson, after Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick.

Watson went through the typical puppy phase with chewing and tons of energy. It didn’t help that I have a lot of energy and I guess, the dog could read my vibe, and so he was quite uncontainable at times. So, off he went to obedience school. Well, my husband came home, and looking rather dejected, declared that Watson had failed out, on the very first night. Apparently, the teacher tried to use him as an example of her training skills, and he would not cooperate. I thought maybe this warranted a name change, but no, he remains Watson.

Being an educator, it pains me that Watson is a school drop out. And because he has played hooky all these years, he has developed some interesting habits, that, quite frankly, I haven’t heard or seen of in too many other dogs.

Watson’s first quirk is that he never greets anyone in the morning. Granted, I am an early riser and I'm up before the sun, but no matter how much noise I make, he never acknowledges my presence. I thought it was just me, believing he sensed I was not a canine fan, and so to punish me, he willfully chose to ignore me. But no, he doesn’t acknowledge my husband either. He simply wakes up on his own time. After all, it’s a dog’s life.

I’ve discovered that Watson lives for only three things: food, affection, and going for a walk. Now, if he does not receive any one of those things when he wants it, particularly the walk, he’ll use an interesting tactic to scold us. When you call him to come in, he’ll remain in his doghouse, with his head sulkily hanging out its door. Or better yet, he will yelp at the door to be let in, only to remain standing there when you open it. Then when you go out to physically encourage him in, he runs away.

When we do take him for a walk, he does not walk beside you, in a straight line. He prefers to zig zag, or as in the case of his walk yesterday, he saunters sideways. Maybe it’s his way of extending the walk time, but it sure is odd to look at.

Watson is not a therapy dog. He’s a dog that needs therapy.

This indeed is true because it’s very obvious that he struggles with anxiety. Like most dogs, he hates storms. But his fear extends to otherwise innocuous events, like sneezing. He’s absolutely terrified of sneezing. If anyone let’s out an ‘achoo!’ he runs for the hills. But it’s not only loud sounds, it’s also his depth perception and certain textures that cause him to panic. Watson won’t go down the stairs in our home, and, until a year ago, he would not walk on laminate floor. I called him “2 Paws” because he would stand with his front feet on the floor but go no further, until one day, I think it was during a storm, when he was desperate for comfort, and he came down the hall to find us.

Watson is a lovable dog though, or rather, he loves to love people. Like most lab/retriever mixes I’m told, he likes to brush up against you and will put his nose under your arm to have you pet him. He absolutely loves the grandchildren and regularly photobombs any picture we take of them. He also thinks he is a lap dog. And at 75 pounds, he’s like having a pre-teen sit on your knees. Let me tell you, he really obstructs your television watching angle.

But he started doing the most bizarre thing lately. I’ve been working from home since March, like many people, and I think he's got quite accustomed to having someone always in the house during the day. In fact, it’s hard to get him to go outside, unless it's for that walk. I think he’s afraid he’ll be alone. But about 2 weeks ago, he would come to my office and just lie there by my feet. Or he’d wait just outside the office door, hoping I’d stop and spend time with him. At night, he’d come down that laminate hallway and lie outside the bedroom door. And then it escalated to when I went into the bedroom, he’d follow me in, and lie beside the bed. I could not figure it out. He wasn’t encouraged to do that; he just did it on his own.

I have heard that dogs, therapy dogs, sense things about humans, but I haven’t been unusually stressed. Then I read that dogs sense if someone is going to die. Ok, now I’m stressed! Just kidding. I’m a pretty healthy person. But for some reason he has become my shadow. Again, I think he is the one in need of therapy, he's just trying to convince me that I am! 😊

Watson is middle aged now, just like my husband and I. And I guess what he’s taught me, is that we all have the same fundamental needs: food, affection, and exercise. But better yet, we are all quirky in our own ways. I guess, that's what makes pets and people lovable.

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