Pavlov's Dog

George loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m sure of it. I have been working my way through the complete box set and every time the theme music plays, George bounds into the living room barking and spitting so violently that his front paws lift off the floor. He bares his teeth and continues to bark and spit until the last guitar stroke fades. And while the casual observer may interpret his behavior as a sign of deep hatred for the show, George’s stubby black and white tail wags during this display. A sure sign of dog happiness and it is completely my fault.

Once upon a time, George had no opinion of Buffy. He did not concern himself with vampires either. He would sleep soundly in his bed while I indulged in my guilty pleasure of watching a TV show from beginning to end. Somewhere in the middle of Season One, I started doing a crazy dance to the rocking guitar music that signaled the start of the show. George did not approve of the crazy dance and barked madly at me. Around the start of Season Two, as soon as the theme music started, I called out softly, “George….” and he would leap into the living room, barking and snarling until the music stopped. During the middle of Season Three, as soon as the music started, George would rush into the living room and sit in front of me, barking along with the music.

I realized that I had recreated my own version of Pavlov’s Dog from Psychology 101. I also discovered that I had created a nuisance by conditioning my dog. No longer did I need to do a crazy arm-waving, fist pumping Buffy the Vampire Slayer dance around my living room (which George would still express his disapproval over), all I needed to do was watch an episode and the barking would commence. I know that I could skip the introduction or even press mute, but this is my special time with George. He is the sole canine companion that joins in the quick dance-a-thon with such enthusiasm and its all because of Buffy.


Farewell to Layla

I know every inch of my dogs. The texture of their noses, the way the hair grows in a different direction on the snout, a freckle above the eye, the favorite scratching spot at the base of an ear, the rough pads of the paws and each silky floppy ear. I know the color of their eyes. I know how each one feels when I hug him or her. I recognize their barks, or in the case of George, his howl.

It was with great sadness that I received the phone call from Jeanelle about how ill her Great Dane had become, but I was glad to have the opportunity to say goodbye to the elderly dog that had been her companion for a number of years.

 It was obvious when I saw Layla that she wasn’t her normal regal self. She barked at me when I entered the house, not relinquishing that doggy duty, but she remained on her dog bed in front of the fireplace. While Jeanelle and I chatted, I noticed that Layla had curled into a ball, placing one paw over her eyes to shield them from the light and was softly snoring. Before I left, I stroked her large, floppy ears, gave her a gentle kiss on the bridge of her nose and whispered goodbye.

The next time I visited, I brought Chase along for Patton’s amusement. Layla’s bed remained in front of the fireplace with an assortment of half-finished dog bones scattered nearby. Patton was happy to see Chase, but the feeling didn’t appear to be mutual. Chase sniffed Layla’s bed and peered into the hallway as if searching for her. He looked in each bedroom and nudged the bathroom door open. Layla had been his outside friend. Inside, Chase had been on guard, always insisting on being the bigger dog which required him to perch on the back of the couch in order to be taller than the massive Great Dane.

As we drove home, with Chase curled up next to me in the front seat of the truck, I again thought of all of my dogs and what each brought to my life. I have my own personal fan club greeting me at the door no matter how long I’ve been gone. I have a soft warm body to curl up next to me by the fire and a four-dog alarm system when I’m alone. I have company in the back yard and companions who will walk with me without fail and without complaint. I have four dogs to cherish for however long that may be.

If It Should Be
If it be I grow frail and weak,
And pain should wake me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle can’t be won.

You will be sad, I’ll understand,
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand,
For this day more than all the rest,
Your love and friendship stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years,
What is to come will hold no fears,
You’ll not want me to suffer, so,
When the time comes, please let me go.

I know in time, you too will see,
It is a kindness you do me,
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering, I’ve been saved.

Do not grieve that it should be you,
Who has to decide this thing to do
We’ve been so close, we two, these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

- Author Unknown