I like to think that I understand dogs, Max and Lulu especially. I want to believe that the hours spent watching Animal Planet, and reading dog training advice (not to mention talking to the Trainers) during my breaks when I was working at PetSmart weren’t for nothing. I’m quietly smug when I see other people struggling with doggy issues that I know all about. I want to think of myself as a competent dog owner.
The past three years with Max and Lulu, though, have showed me that for all that I though I knew, there’s a million things that I didn’t know. And just when I think that I’m getting the hang of things, they throw me for a loop, and I’m left struggling in the dark.
For instance, a couple of nights ago I was going to bed at about 2 am. This isn’t as bad as it sounds–I had fallen asleep while reading earlier, and this just happened to be when I woke up, and had time to brush my teeth and put on pajamas and do all of those other little annoying things that a decent person does before going to bed.
As I was settling down, Max started looking for a toy. This isn’t unusual, because you never know, but I might just wake up in the middle of the night and decide to play with him. Plus, it gives Max a distraction if he’s awake and I’m not. The problem was where he was looking for the toy. He kept pawing at the wall next to the bed, like the toy he wanted had fallen between the bed and the wall.
I thought this was a little strange, but gamely moved the bed away from the wall to try and find the toy he wanted–shih tzu‘s are stubborn, and it’s hard to distract Max from a toy he wants. The problem was, there was nothing there. Max crawled under the bed and looked around, all the while growling and chuffing at me like he wanted to play, and I was hiding a toy from him. He got back up on the bed, and started digging at the bedding–that was really odd, because when I made the bed in the morning I make sure that any toys that spent the night with the dogs end up on the floor. Still, I pulled back the blankets and sheets, examining each layer to see if I’d somehow missed a thin toy or something.
I hadn’t, so I put the bed back together, and pushed it back up against the wall, and tried to settle down again, but Max was having none of that–he still kept digging at the wall. I wondered if a walk would distract him from whatever it was he was looking for. Upon putting on shoes–the universally recognized symbol that Cori is about to go outside at our house–Lulu perked up and followed me to the front door. Max kept digging at the mattress and wall. I was able to call him to go on the walk, and we were able to get things taken care of, and we headed back upstairs. Upon re-entering the house, Max, my velcro dog, the one who doesn’t like to be more than 10 feet away from me at any given time, made a beeline for the bed, and started digging and growling and huffing again–still playfully, though with a tinge of irritation.
It had been about forty-five minutes since this whole thing started, and I wanted to go to sleep–and it obviously wasn’t going to happen until Max had figured out that there was nothing there, so I grabbed a blanket and pillow, and went to sleep on the couch–cussing all the time. Here I’m supposed to be at least a quasi dog expert, and I just let my dog chase me out of my bed. As I lay on the couch, I pondered what could have caused Max to behave in such a manner–did we have mice? Possible, but we live on a third floor, and the wall he was digging at is an inside wall–it didn’t face the exterior and isn’t connected to a neighbor’s wall at all. Besides, it would be a weird place for mice to show up, I’d expect them in the kitchen or the bathroom, not the bedroom where the dogs spend most of their day. Something from the utilities, perhaps? We-e-e-l-l…that wall has electricity, and I THINK it’s where the dryer vent exits, but there isn’t gas or water running through that wall. And as for the dryer vent–we have had starlings nesting in it, but there nest had been cleared out, and a cage put over the exterior hole so they couldn’t build a new one there. And besides, even where there were birds living inside that wall, Max never showed them any interest.
Finally, I convinced myself that it was something from downstairs that Max was smelling, that it just happened to come up along that wall. I wasn’t terribly satisfied with that explanation, but it was an explanation. Explanations are important. Especially when it’s nearing 3am and I want to sleep.
I heard Max in the bedroom for perhaps another 15 minutes, then he decided that whatever it was he wasn’t finding wasn’t worth spending the night away from his person, so he came out to join me on the couch. I took that as a sign that it was okay to move back into the bedroom, and did so with the resolve that if Max’s adventure were to continue, he’d spend the rest of the night locked in the crate.
Fortunately, he had calmed down to the point where his half-hearted growls could be quieted with a heavy hand on the shoulders, and I was able to get some sleep, and even make it to class on time the next day, throughly puzzled about what had happened, and why it had happened.
The next night, I went to bed at a much more decent time, and Max settled down quickly, the way he normally does. While I was going to sleep, I was thinking about the dream I had had the night before, trying to figure out if I could frame it into a story (the answer is no, at least not at this time) and I wondered if what Max was did the night before was the result of being woken up from a dream.
The way I figure it, Max sees me opening up parts of the wall all day long, in the form of doors, windows, cupboards and drawers. If he had been dreaming that I (or someone else) opened up the wall by the bed and hid something there, then I woke him up by coming to bed, would he know the difference between dreams and reality? And, if in his dream, it was a really good toy or treat or whatever, than of course he’d keep going after it.
I don’t know if the dream explanation makes any sense, after all, I can’t exactly ask Max what he dreams about (well, I can, I just don’t get an answer). As long as it means that I don’t have mice.
So, a few months back, I re-arranged my bedroom. Before that time, the dog crate was at the foot of my bed, and I had taught the dogs that they could jump from the floor to the top of the crate, then from the crate to the bed, thus, saving me from having to completely wake up in the middle of the night when Lulu goes investigating, then comes back and wants to get back in the bed, but is too lazy/thinks she can’t get all the way up herself.
Lately, Lu has been waking me up in the middle of the night. A lot. So I decided that however awkward and weird it looks, I needed to put the crate somewhere where the dogs could use it to get on the bed.
Funny thing, when you don’t ask a dog to do something for five months, they forget how to do it.
So, all day, we’ve been working on re-learning how to use the crate to get on the bed. Like the first time around, Max got it in one go. Lulu… not so much…
And just when I was congratulating Max on his cleverness, he started growling at the video of himself.
It’s a good thing they’re cute.
Lulu just came up to me, looked at me with her big, doe eyes, scratched my knee to get my attention, and then, oh so delicately, farted. All with a look of perfect dignity on her face.
I think she thinks the laughter is a sign of affection.