Monday, May 4, 2009

Fear Rules

Our back porch is partially enclosed and covered with a metal roof. There's a ledge where the roof meets the support beams. Years ago I put a pretty ceramic skull in each corner of that ledge, just as a little memento mori. At some point, and without my noticing, a bird decided to build a nest behind one of them and dislodged it from its secure spot. Yesterday Kobi and Nio were playing on the porch--"playing" in this case means that Kobi was chasing Nio around trying to mount and hump him, and he was playing hard to get. He made a clumsy evasive maneuver and slammed into the wall, which sent the displaced skull crashing down onto the concrete floor.

Now, of course this would startle any dog, but Kobi is the Chicken Little of the canine world. She went completely nuts--barking hysterically, trembling, frothing at the mouth, etc. I was busy with something in the kitchen, so I went to the door and told her to be quiet, hoping I could put off cleaning up the mess until later. The sound of my voice will usually interrupt Kobi's panic attacks, at least temporarily, but not this time. She just went right on barking and drooling, her body in a half-crouch. She looked at me while she carried on, eyes wide, as if to say Do something, for god's sake!

I got a broom and swept up the pieces of the skull, which actually freaked her out even more. I know from bitter experience that it's a bad idea to bring her inside when she's in such a state. She has been known to eat the walls. So I shut the sliding glass door and watched her progressive meltdown. Most dogs would eventually just get worn out, but not the Big Yellow Ball of Crazy. She stood on the other side of the door for a while, spattering it with drool in her frenzy.

When it finally became clear to her that I was not coming back out, she wheeled around and went after poor Nio. Mindless aggression is always part of Kobi's fear response, and the more intense her fear, the more vigorously she attacks any available innocent target. (Does that remind you of anything?) Nio has a good 40 pounds on Kobi, so I'm not really worried about her hurting him, but he is pretty pathetic when she beats up on him. He looks to me for rescue, just as she does. Can't you do something about her, Mom?

Eventually, she did settle down enough that I could bring her in last night. Today she has been calmer, but periodically some tiny event I can't even perceive will remind her of yesterday's catastrophe, and she'll go back into panic mode for a while. That should stop in the next day or two, and this whole episode will be filed away in Kobi's tiny brain along with along with all her other imaginary brushes with death. Unlike most dogs, whose interior lives revolve around food, Kobi's mind is largely devoted to Things That Could Kill Me. I've always thought being wired for fear caused her to suffer, but after years of observing her, I'm not sure it does. Indulging panic almost seems to be a diversion for her, a way of relieving boredom and drawing attention to herself.

Amazing how much our pets are like us, isn't it?

Mors Ultima Linea Rerum, Flemish copperplate print, c.1570. Image from Wikimedia Commons.


jmcleod76 said...

Cool art. And nice sly reference to the Swine Flu panic, there. If it weren't so sad - because of the racism, wasted resources and other stupdity - I'd think this hysteria was funny. My favorite was a CNN article noting that thousands of peeople die every year from regular flu (Or the Onion article about how 250,000 Americans die every day, but because they are for resaons as diverse as gunshot woulds and lung cancer, researchers don't know how to stop it)... in other words, people, death is coming for you, and she doesn't need a pandemic to do her work. We will all die, and if swine flu is what does me in, then so be it ... I love my life, and I don't want to die, but it's precisely because I love my life that I don't think I'll feel cheated when the time comes.

This rant was brought to you courtesy of ... blah blah blah.

Anyway, I'm sorry your dog is neurotic. How old is she? My older dog was neurotic when I got her, but she's mellowed a great deal over the years. I like to think it was my fierce mama love that made her sane, but I think she just doesn't have the attention span to be crazy anymore.

BitterGrace said...

Believe it or not, Kobi is a lot mellower than she used to be. She appeared here as a stray pup, about 9 weeks old, in the spring of 2000. For the first few years, she truly was The Dog From Hell. Around age 5 she started to calm down a little. She also developed epilepsy about that time, so the poor thing seems doomed to have a problem one way or another. She's actually a wonderful dog in her sane moments. I suppose I'm lucky to have 2 other perfectly normal dogs, both of whom had even tougher early lives than she did, so at least I don't have to blame myself for her craziness.

As for the flu scare, I'm with you. We are due for a plague of some kind, and there's only so much that can be done to prevent it or control it when it comes. It is distressing, though, to see how little it takes for some people to start going all "lord of the flies" on us. Reminds me of the early days of AIDS, or the weeks just after 9/11. What a nation of overprivileged cowards we are.

chayaruchama said...

Honey girls mine-
If it's my time-
Well, I've had a good run.

One can only 'cheat The Reaper" so many times...
[and I'm runnin' out of lives]

Poor Maddox / Brownings.

Belleview for Critters chez toi, my dear.
But that would suit me just fine.....

BitterGrace said...

Belleview for Critters--so true. We should hang a sign on the front door...