The other day Bryn wandered through the secret garden taking in the perfumed oriental lilies, before relaxing into her ‘sphinx’ position on the grass. Only her eyes moved as she inspected the sky and then, Mother Earth. What does she scan for? Raucous gulls and jets certainly fascinate her as they move effortlessly through summer’s scented air.
When she assumes this position in the front garden and stares straight ahead at nothing, people driving by sometimes stop and stare. Is that a statue? They might drive around the block, just to see if it moves. It hasn’t. So they’ll roll down their windows and yell, laughing-“Hey, that statue- It’s a dog, isn’t it? A live dog!”
So I just holler back, “ Yeah, she likes to meditate...” They shake their heads, believers.
Today, relaxed on the lawn, she listened as I chatted about nothing in particular and gazed ahead. But then, without warning, she leaped straight up into the air, to land hopping on three paws. The right front one was held high; she licked it frantically, her mouth forming an ‘O’ of surprise and pain when she looked up at me.
Through it all, she’d made no sound.
I peered hard into the long grass where she’d been. Something moved deep between the long blades- a ground bee, or a spider...The scoundrel disappeared underground before I could determine which.
Next to me Bryn shook her paw, much like people shake out a lit match, peered closely at it, then licked frantically. That didn’t help, so she grabbed her ankle in her jaws and shook the paw over and over. Still, no relief! I felt so helpless! When she finally concentrated her tongue on one spot I memorized the place and ran into the house to grab my tube of cortisone cream. It’s the best stuff! I rubbed it into the place, then told her not to tongue it away. She obeyed, but I sat right there to wait. She’d forget, and lick it soon enough.
She remembered -for about two minutes, then, miserable, tried to ease the ache by tonguing the area; a quiet “No,” immediately stopped her ministrations. A minute later the cortisone had kicked in. She continued to peer at her paw closely, but her tongue stayed home.
“Can I look?” She offered it to me. I felt around- no discernable swelling. Odd...There should be some indicator that she’d been bitten or stung, shouldn’t there?
When I called her into the house she limped a few steps before hopping on three legs to the stairs, which were climbed very reluctantly. She still hurt.
Inside, I checked again- no swelling. She went to her kitchen bed, hung the bum paw over its soft cloth side, shook it occasionally, then went to sleep.
If she still showed distress when she woke up, I’d slip her an 81 mg (baby) aspirin...
But then I had an idea. Sometimes displacing a brain’s pain or worry by introducing a new thing to think about, can help.
30 minutes later her eyes opened. She rose from her bed and limped to me for a back scratch, head down, eyes closed.
After a bit, casually, testing, I said, ‘Well, are you up for a trot to Hannah Park?”
Her head snapped up. Oh, yes Boss! She trotted toward the front hall so I could put on her gear. The limp was less discernable. As we descended the front porch stairs I barely noticed it.
She looked up at me just one time while still moving a bit tentatively along the sidewalk. Was I still concerned? Pretending not to see I hummed a tune as we walked briskly across the street to the lovely expanse of green, treed park. Down the 15 steep steps she went, searching for rabbit sign. We jogged along the riverbank; there were no traces of bee/spider trauma now. Limbered up, she’d pretty much worked it through.
I grinned. Well, we’re over that hump, whatever it was...
Dogs are empathic creatures, acutely sensitive to their human’s moods. Bryn is inextricably linked to me: I think she knew we wouldn’t be running like this if I were worried. So she relaxed into the moment, trotting, and then running, with a light heart.
But, at bedtime she offered her paw once more. I felt it carefully, smiled and said, with quiet authority, “Your paw’s just fine, Bryn. All better.”
She sighed, thumped her tail once -just checkin’ Boss- closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
My God. A dog sees the human it loves as a Great and Powerful Oz, and so trusts him or her absolutely. Humans know about Things That Matter.
They make food and water happen, light the darkness instantly, move superfast in huge machines, operate carpet ‘roar machines’ with perfect confidence...
They fix things.
So-When a dog’s human says a thing is fine, Then It’s Fine.
Bryn’s trust is a gift. I hope I never let her down.