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?