Sunday, August 29, 2010

Attitude is Everything: Lessons from a Dumb Dog

We have two dogs, a Border Collie named Cleo and a Pomeranian named Harry.  I have always loved and owned dogs.  When I say always, I'm not exaggerating.  From cradle to grave, I expect to live with a dog or two. 

When we decided to purchase our small dog, Harry, it was a turning point in my dog-owning life.  I never thought of myself as a small dog person. I grew up with larger dogs, typically of the hunting variety, but always a part of our family. 

Cleo was my first non-hunter, and I adore her.  She is the daughter I never had and a sister in this house full of men.  She is the one who is thrilled to "go get the paper!" and has even been known to pick up after herself when she has her occasional midnight Kleenex shredding party. If told to "get it...pick it up" she does just that.  When she is outside and ready to come in, she knocks.  When scolded for licking dishes in the dishwasher, she never went near them again.  Of the two, Cleo is the one who would easily be a candidate for GT.

And then there is Harry.  Harry would, very likely, ride the short bus.  We dare not let him in the front yard unattended, as his brain shifts to go-mode and he does just that.  He is the dog who cannot remember that he is NOT supposed to lick the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  When asked to sit, he tries, really tries, but it is oh so hard to hold that sit.  His entire body shakes.  But Harry has qualities I admire and sometimes envy. 

Last week the entire family unit, dogs included, enjoyed a photo session with a talented local photographer.  In preparation for this, my son, Sean, treated Harry to a bath with gentle doggie oatmeal shampoo, made for sensitive skin.  Apparently it was not gentle enough for Harry.  Several days after this, we noticed he was acting strange, rubbing along the side of the sofa like a cat, and spending a lot of time gnawing on his backside.  This was the weekend of my chemo induced nausea, so I wasn't noticing much of anything, but knew something wasn't right with Harry. 

When we got up Monday morning, a large patch of skin on his hip was bald and raw.  It looked like he'd fallen off his bike and had some serious road rash, only, of course, that could never happen.  David thought he'd been attacked by something in our backyard.  Thankfully, the vet had an opening and Sean hauled him to their office that morning.

Harry returned with two prescription bottles full of pills and wearing an Elizabethan collar.  Now, most of you know that this is really a plastic cone shaped torture device for dogs.  It looks like Harry's head is in a big white funnel...all the time.  He now has zero peripheral vision and needs about three times the space to get through doors.  And he has to wear this thing for two weeks.  When I heard that, I thought there was NO WAY he could go two weeks with this thing. 

This is where Harry is special.

He has worn it like a trooper.  If Cleo had this device on her neck, she would drive herself and everyone else crazy trying to figure out how to remove it...asap.  Harry acts like he was born with this thing.   Though maybe that's not accurate, because if he'd been born with it, he wouldn't run into the wall, the door, the sofa, table legs, chair legs, and our legs almost constantly.  But, special guy that he is, he does these things, literally (and I do mean literally) bounces back, and keeps on going.  A game of fetch the ball is much more challenging than it used to be (and can be pretty hilarious, from our perspective).  He has smiled (yes, he can smile) through the whole ordeal and has continued to enjoy his happy life.  If he could pray, I know he would always be giving thanks for his blessings and letting the negative things fade to the background.

Harry, the tailless pom.

So, I've watched Harry this past week and grown to admire him all the more.  He has shown me that, no matter our circumstance, attitude is everything.  If he chose to spend all day trying to escape his new appendage, he would be miserable.  He has adapted, in some ways.  He now leaps higher when coming up the step into the back door, and he waits until we have that door open plenty wide before even attempting that leap.  He has figured out how to get the food out of his bowl comfortably and how to sleep in equal comfort.  I know he will do a happy dance when we take the collar off in another week, but, until then, no worries.  What good would that do, anyway?

David with a bowl of Harry.


  1. Harry can teach us all a lesson! I love that dog's spirit!! Love you too Patti! Praying for you everyday!

  2. I love that you learned this from your dog. What a good lesson for all of us! Remind me of this the next time I am trying to claw my way out of my "collar" when life is a bit uncomfortable for me!

  3. I agree that attitude is everything. When I broke my leg in Slovenia, had surgery, and was laid up in a Russian Cold War era hospital for 4 days, I just kept could be worse! I am not normally a good attitude person, but I decided that there was nothing I could do about it and should just treat it as an adventure, and it would make lots of good conversation for the rest of my life.
    Good for Harry! He is a good example for all of us!

  4. That is such a great story! It is truly amazing what we can learn from our furry best friends :)