Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dogs In The Storm

For years, when people would tell me about their dogs being driven nuts by thunderstorms I felt inwardly superior.  They must be doing something wrong.  Maybe they themselves were scared of storms, and the dogs caught their fear.  Or they made the mistake of petting and comforting the dogs at the first sign of nervousness, thus reinforcing the behavior.  Or maybe they just had wimpy dogs.

None of my dogs had ever been afraid of storms.

Pride, of course, goeth before a fall, and now I have not one but two dogs who are terrified of storms.  I used to have three.

This is how it happened.  My now-deceased German Shepherd, Lexi, as her eyes and ears and courage dimmed in the last year of her life, became afraid storms.  And big, black Wolfie and little, red Bisou, who considered Lexi the final authority on all matters of interest to dogs, decided that she knew something we obviously didn't--namely, that storms, as opposed to, say, porcupines or black bears or speeding cars, were truly dangerous, and the only appropriate response to them was panic.

Now Lexi has gone and left me with two storm wimps on my hands.  Or, more accurately, on my lap.

SinceVermont became a province of Brazil last month, we have had a thunderstorm almost every afternoon.  When Bisou gets that wide-eyed, orphaned-puppy look and tries to sandwich herself between me and the back of the chair, I know the daily storm is on its way.  When she tries to crawl under my shirt, I count the seconds until the first thunderclap.

Wolfie, ever the gentleman, doesn't actually climb on my lap.  Instead he paces, and he pants. Then, sounding exactly like a sack of potatoes, he drops his ninety pounds on the floor and drools on my toes. Then gets up and paces some more.  If the storm is especially severe, he takes refuge under my husband's legs (why not my legs, I wonder?).

I have never been afraid of storms.  In fact I always liked the drama, and the smell of the wet earth, and the sudden merciful cooling of the air.  But that daily panting and pacing and burrowing  are starting to get to me, so that at the first faraway rumble I put down my book, go to the window, sigh with irritation, wonder if we'll lose power, pick up the book again, put it down, worry that this storm will finally uproot the big ash tree behind the house...

Who says we can't learn from our dogs?

10 comments :

  1. i'm so sorry this has happened. my Toby didn't become afraid of storms until he was 5, and he and i spent a summer in Ohio where there were violent thunderstorms every night.

    Riley doesn't pace and drool, but he hides. sometimes he shakes.

    a thunder shirt helps some. Valeria root helps some. nothing helps completely.

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    1. I have friends who swear by thunder shirts. Or I could just wait for the weather to go away...

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  2. I swear, my house warmed up AFTER the storm this afternoon. Ugh. Province of Brazil indeed.

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    1. Is this the worst summer yet? And we just had overnight guests.

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  3. Barlow has been here - the Scottie/Jack Russel mix - her body trembles so violently during thunder storms that her teeth chatter. She pants so hard, I worry about hyperventilating, or a heart attack, or something. The other scared ones "just" crawl all over me and try to get between my back and the furniture. I only have just so much lap room. I have an Aussie who stays with me regularly. During the summer, he always arrives with his thunder shirt in his backpack. His people swear it works.

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    1. Poor Barlow--see Jaimie's thundershirt link below. Maybe you should keep several sizes in a closet for your thunder-fearing clients.

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  4. Bwhahahah, Province of Brazil! I love it. You are so clever. Maybe you could try these? My neighbor uses one and her dog remains so calm. Reminds me of Temple Grandin's invention for calming herself and cattle.

    http://www.amazon.com/Thundershirt-Anxiety-Treatment-Large-Heather/dp/B0028QK6EY

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    1. Yes! I've thought of Temple Grandin's squeeze contraption as well.
      I checked out your link and the shirts look pretty comfy. Why doesn't somebody make one for anxious/nervous humans? Sometimes I could use one myself, though not in this heat.

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  5. Tyke isn't afraid of thunderstorms yet, but has it in him to become so down the line when he hits old age. I will seriously look into a thundershirt when he does. My paternal grandmother was very much afraid of thunderstorms and crawled under the big heavy dining room table when they hit. She didn't have any pets to instill her fear into luckily.

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  6. I've never heard of a person having that kind of fear of storms. My grandmother's sister was terrified of the sound of fireworks, though.

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