Friday, May 30, 2008

The Puzzling Pooch

See that dog? My dog? He is what one would call a conundrum.  A puzzle in every sense of the word.

He has a tendency to want to bite people, which can prove problematic. I never knew he had a pension for biting until one day I answered the door and the mayor stood in the hallway. The mayor of our town happens to live in my condo building, and when I opened the door my sweet, adorable dog was resting quietly in my arms... until the mayor put out his hand and dear Riley LUNGED without provocation to bite at said fingers. I jumped back (well, as much as I can jump anyway) and the door I was propping open slammed in the mayor's face. So let's recap... my dog nearly bit him and I nearly smashed his face with the door. The mayor. And did I mention I had never got around to registering my pooch? The one that tried to bite the mayor?

Riley also has a tendency to cry or howl when I am not in his line of eyesight. If I ever want to feel loved and appreciated all I have to do is walk into the bathroom without him and shut the door. I soon hear his heavy breathing as he tries to root his nose underneath the door and begins crying at the thought of never seeing me again. It's pitiful. And kinda sweet. And because I think that's sweet it's clear I need to get out of the house more and find human contact.

And my least favorite quirk of my perfect pooch? He has been known to pee inappropriately. And I have been known to LOSE MY MIND over it. I can guarantee you I have spent more hours in my day obsessing over the habits and emotions of my dog in an attempt to make him feel comfortable and loved enough to stop marking his territory than any mother has ever worried over potty training her child.

All of the above issues have led to a remarkable solution... and I take no shame in admitting it... my dog is on antidepressants. My vet has suggested, and I have to agree, that Riley has developed anxiety over my illness. I have heard of dogs that can predict seizures or instinctively dial 911, but who knew one could love you so much they were simply nervous that you felt bad?

When the vet prescribed the medication (of which he is now on the maximum dose) he warned me that Riley may become subdued or lethargic. If you have been to my house and seen my 10 pound pup jump so high that you can catch him in midair as he greets you, you understand that this is not a side effect we had to worry about. He runs laps around the house, loves to go outside and even plays hide-and-seek with me on a nightly basis. Someone really needs to fill him in on the fact that he's not human, but I just can't bring myself to break it to him.

But Riley and I have found our groove. He hasn't been peeing (knock on wood for me, please), we have a routine when people come so no biting occurs and I let him follow me into the bathroom because some battles just aren't worth the fight. And my dog loves me so fiercely I sincerely don't know if I'd be sane without him. He lays with me on the couch when I don't have the energy to get up. He will stay in bed with me until noon without protest if I've had a difficult night. Before I even realized I had an infected picc line this spring he laid his head on my arm and whined in sympathy because he somehow knew how much it hurt. The last two days when I was sick with a migraine, he laid with me, licked my head and growled in the dark... I still can't decide if he was threatening the headache or just letting me know that he wasn't about to let anyone mess with me.

And the truth of the matter is, having him with me all the time feels as important to me as if he was my seeing-eye dog. He is my constant, my company. He makes me laugh, brings me joy and settles my soul. So what if I see signs that he's developing OCD? He puts up with my craziness, after all... the least I can do is put up with his.
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