Percy has been going through a rather difficult phase lately – staying out all night, snarling at her best pal Froby, refusing to come when called . . . I'm not sure whether it's teenage angst or a midlife crisis. Yes, I am aware that it's generally an easy question to discern– age of onset gives the clue - but that's for humans, not dogs. What does middle age look like in dog years? In Great Dane years? In Great Dane with Wobbler’s Syndrome years? There is an unfortunate correlation between the size of a dog and its expected longevity: the smaller the dog, the longer it lives. Thus the demise of our faithful, 130-lb Newfie, Phoenix, from lymph node cancer at the tender age of 8; of our glorious, medium-size Portuguese water dog, Enkidu, of an enlarged heart at only 12. Meanwhile the tiniest Yorkies and Chihuahuas yap their way through as many as twenty-plus years. But I digress. Back to Percy . . .
It all started with the kitchen door. Now, bear in mind she had used this door multiple times a day for as long as she’s been with us, about six years. Considering the number of times she asks to go out every day purely in order to bark a request for re-entry, I estimate her “kitchen door events” at approx. eleven thousand and fifty-seven . Despite this, I say, she simply refused the kitchen door, going instead to the dining room’s French doors where she sat on a small rug conveniently placed, and waited expectantly for me to open it.
Many years of living with Froby’s sporadic, prolific and entirely unpredictable incontinence meant that I took her urgent request to go outside seriously. l hurtled over - “hurtling” being for me a relative term these days, implying not so much speed of movement as "with a mounting fear of the ghastly repercussions should I not get there in time". I decided to engage in warfare with her: she would return to using the kitchen door!
All the dog training experts tell you never to begin a battle unless you know you can win it; I chose to ignore them all, and next morning, unleashed my opening salvo.
“Other door”, I commanded when she went to the dining room door. “Go to the Other Door.” Percy smiled at me, wagged her tail, and budged not an inch. I tried again, my words a little slower and louder (rather in the manner of a tourist in foreign lands convinced that the natives will understand proper English if only it is spoken loudly and slowly enough: “OTHER DOOR!!” Her smile morphed into a grin, Robin proffered his help, to no avail. My fundamental error of logic struck me full force: true, I had her breakfast held hostage, but she had a weapon infinitely more menacing – after a full nine hours in the house, her bladder was FULL (and who knows what else besides?)
As they say at Wimbledon, Game, Set and Match! Hastily I told her, “You can go out of any door you like, just as long as you Go Outside NOW! “
And. She. Went!
She has returned to her old, sweet, goofy self. True, she still insists on only using the dining-room door, but I have perceived a method to her madness: the red tiles of the dining room are smaller and less smooth than the pale ones in the kitchen.
And thus less slippery!
So what appeared to me to be nothing more than arbitrary caprice on her part turns out to be nothing less than the far more laudable Instinct for Self Preservation: she knows that, with her Wobbler’s Syndrome worsening, walking into the kitchen has become a Very Bad Idea indeed. Her legs slide out from under her and her poor, bony elbows, ribs and knees hit the hard tile floor with a bang that makes my teeth curl.
Forgive me, Percy, for doubting the moral integrity of your actions.
Wow, but it’s hard to second-guess the mind of a Dane!