Saturday, October 4, 2014
Searching For One's Cave
Duffy at our bedside
It’s hard for us to even comprehend, but our sheepdogs, age twelve and a half, are now the equivalent of 87 in human years. That seems inconceivable. Mike and Duffy are doing well for their age, and passersby are always surprised to learn that they’re twelve, though Katja and I are more aware of their miscellaneous signs of aging. Never canine dynamos, the dogs are less energetic than they used to be. They probably sleep eighteen hours a day. Mike is almost stone deaf, and both he and his brother have trouble climbing stairs or getting up off the hardwood floor. Their personalities have also changed. Duffy, always the alpha dog in his yunger years, has become more mellow and less pushy. Mike, in contrast, has become more assertive. He barks at Duffy at the top of his voice for no apparent reason, though Duffy, unintimidated, pays only slight attention.
Occasionally I worry that the dogs might also be losing their minds. This came up most recently when I woke one morning to find Duffy missing. We keep the bedroom door closed at night, and he’s always either in the bed or right next to it on the floor. Thinking we must have left the door ajar, I went downstairs to find him. I checked the kitchen, the dining room, the sun room, the living room, the foyer, but he was nowhere to be found. That was disturbing and scary. I wondered if Katja or I had been sleepwalking and let him out the front door. Just then Katja called from upstairs. She’d heard a soft yelp and found Duffy. It turned out that he was completely wedged underneath our heavy four-poster bed. You couldn’t see any part of him till you bent over and looked underneath. How he could even get under there was a mystery. The bed’s height from the floor to the bottom of its wooden frame is a mere eight inches. Duffy, when lying flat on his stomach, is at least nine inches high. I reached under, grabbed him by his rear hips, and started pulling, but he was stuck tightly, and I couldn’t budge him a bit. Then I tried to lift up the bed frame while Katja pulled on Duffy’s shoulders. The bed was very heavy, and I couldn’t lift it more an inch, but apparently that was enough because Katja was finally able to drag him out. You never saw a happier and more relieved dog (not to mention the human beings). I looked under the bed and saw one of Duffy’s rubber kongs there. I took a yardstick and maneuvered it out, hoping that that would take care of any future burrowing desires.
Katja reassured me that Duffy is a very smart dog who would never make the same mistake twice. Two days later, however, I woke up at eight o’clock, only to find Duffy stuck under the bed again. It wasn’t as bad as the first time. This time he’d gone in rear end first, and his head and front paws were sticking out. I reached around to his hindquarters and was able to pull him out. I checked under the bed, but there seemed to be nothing there that would attract a curious sheepdog. Later in the day I brought down a bunch of camping gear from the attic – sleeping bags, blankets, air mattresses – and barricaded the spaces underneath the bed on all sides. We tried to figure out Duffy’s strange behavior. Katja thought he might be searching for his own private space, sort of like a cave. I can relate to that. I like to retreat into my own cave as well. Dogs and people share many of the same inclinations. But we can’t allow any of us to get stuck in dangerous, inescapable places.
-Phyllis S-S (10-4): Dear Dave, What a story. I hope your barricade works. I remember when our beloved cat, Teufela, was 17 (84 in human years) she seemed fine. It every once in awhile during the day or night she would be somewhere in the house and start howling very loudly. We found over time that if we called to her so she could locate us, she stopped howling. I always thought it was a form of dementia. Momentary dislocation, poor thing. Hope they continue to do ok. Phyllis