No, seriously! Well, OK, I’m half-kidding. I am watching my Pug mix dog,”Zinnie,” bounce off the walls. It’s sunny and warm today, and consequently she is losing her mind. She hates the cold and spends the winter lying around in front of the heater, usually rousing herself only for the briefest of walks and of course, food. But at the first sign of good weather, she races around the house like her tail is on fire and proclaims her unappeasable joy by barking at things that don’t even exist. She also seems to have trouble with the concept that not every person walking by with their dog is an ax murderer coming to kill us, or that the deer that frolic on our front lawn are not alien beings from another universe.
You laugh, but this little hound’s behaviors parallel mine rather uncannily. Loud noises make her irritable and prone to yap annoyingly until we have to have a discussion, which follows along the general lines of “Zin, shut UP!!” to which she’ll respond with a defiant “woof!” I say it again; she woofs again but in a quieter voice. At this point I say “NO” and she turns it down to a low growl…..until I look away, which is when she starts the cycle all over again.
She also has a major case of canine mania that manifests itself whenever we have company. The primary symptoms include prancing on her back feet and doing what we call “doggie donuts”—she gets herself wound up like a coil and spins out into multiple 360s until she gets dizzy and falls onto her side. Meanwhile, she’s hitting the high notes, which hurt the humans’ ears and cause us to wince while the object of her attention tries to make his/her way past the welcoming committee of one.
But it’s the way Zin does winter which pretty much convinces me that while animals probably DON’T suffer from psychiatric illness, they are incredibly attuned to their owners’ quirks and behaviors. She looks—and acts—depressed. She’s lazy, and even having no idea what the outside temperature is, she has to be dragged out in gloomy weather to do her “business”. Then she can’t get back in the house fast enough. Like me, she can almost always be found near a heat source or under fleece blankets, and she moves so infrequently that she could be dead for a week before anyone would notice. Hmmm. Maybe we were bears in a past life…..hibernation does have its attractions, you know.
That’s what makes me wonder if she actually knows what’s going on with me when I have my mood episodes. When I am unwell, she refuses to let me out of her sight and will follow me back and forth throughout the house like a little black shadow. She whimpers when I cry and barks her head off when I raise my voice. She waits for me patiently outside the bathroom door when I’m in there, and sleeps between my knees whenever I nap in the La-Z-Boy. Then just like me, she reverts to normal and resumes her appointed rounds…..until the next time I come unspooled and rock her little world.
You know, this is the reason why I often prefer the company of animals to people. Pets—especially dogs—give us their all and serve us without thought of reward (except they do have a way of guilting us into giving them the last few bites of steak). They don’t care what kind of day we’ve had, or whether we’re the world’s biggest loser. Humans sometimes stop loving and leave one. Dogs never do.