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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Old Dog

My Old Dog

Mikki doesn't know that she is an old dog and really doesn't care from what I can tell. She also doesn't seem to hold my being an old human against me. We just meander through life a little slower than we used to and it's all good.

You can learn a lot from an old dog if you pay attention. She never, ever misses an opportunity to take a nap and is especially fond of movie time. We spend many hours together with Charlie Chan or Nick Charles solving "who-done-its" on the big screen.

She waits until I am settled into my recliner for sure and not going to pull a surprise trip to the bathroom or kitchen, and then plops down on her cushioned doggie bed with a big sigh. Mikki can snore through the longest movie that I own without a problem.

This is not to imply that she is lazy, but just that she has her priorities straight.

If anyone or anything dares to enter her domain she will race to repel all boarders. Her fierce defense of her property is well known to all dogs, cats, birds, leaves and other floatie things (like plastic bags) which might violate the perimeter. Nary an adjoining neighbor may enter their own backyard without being announced by her majesty.

During the years that I produced the Desert Home Companion her militaristic attitudes earned her the title of Colour Sergeant Mikki of the Highland Regiment of Border Collies. Her conduct has never wavered and her behavior has always been exemplary.

Early on in her canine teenage years (1 & 2) she had to deal with a couple of other dogs living at her house and it didn't work out well. They were both rescued German Shepherds with emotional and physical problems and conflict ensued regularly. Both ended up being put down for unsolvable health problems.

Later we tried to provide another same species companion, this time with a Border Collie. Jessie was a hyper active looney-tune from the start. There was a reason that she was the last puppy to be chosen and leave her mother; she was nuts!

Mikki was stressed to the max. At times she would just go outside and bark at nothing to voice her frustration. The younger dog would pick at her and pester her constantly. The puppy was a dedicated chewer and destroyed everything that she came into contact with.

Finally after many months of trying to make it work we contacted a Border Collie rescue specialist and found Jessie a new home. She is now a working sheep herder and as happy as can be. It was constant hard physical activity that she needed and now she gets it.

Mikki slept nearly twenty-four hours straight without moving and was her old happy self again, once the pest was gone. She can tolerate other dogs for a short period of time but they have to be willing to leave her alone when she is done visiting with them.

I can totally relate to that. I can tolerate people for a short period of time and then I want them to leave me alone. Why can't humans get that?

Anna and I travel as often as we can given that we still have responsibilities regarding parental care and the other commitments we have taken on. Mikki is happy to stay home and guard the house.

Early on in our association we tried taking her to a boarding kennel recommended by trusted friends when we had to travel. They described the place as a sort of doggie day-care or camp where their animals got to romp and play with other dogs. For Mikki it was more like doggie Hell.

We tried the place, which was clean and appeared to be well run, twice. Both times Mikki would uncharacteristically attempt to bolt past us when we picked her up, in her haste to get to our car and leave. She was shaking so badly that it took hours for her to calm down.

The third time that we used the facility I went back into the kennel area to collect her and she was huddled against the side away from the other dogs trembling in fear. I never took her back again. What we thought was the best option for her care turned out to be the worst for her.

Since that time we have either had someone stay at the house with her while we are gone (best option), or at least visit her each day to check her food and water and be with her for a few minutes of human contact. There have been no more terrified shaking episodes. Being in her own environment alone was preferable to her to the overwhelming presence of other dogs in a strange place. I do understand.

Mikki's happiest times are when she can physically touch both of her humans at the same time and be the center of attention. She gets jealous if we pay more attention to each other than her and will try to get in the middle.

When other humans come to visit she greets them at the front door by sitting in the middle of the entryway where you can't possibly come in without petting her. She does not jump up on people or behave aggressively in any way but never misses an opportunity to be in the right spot to be touched.

She is especially fond of our grandchildren and will wear herself out trying to herd them into a tight little group where she can touch all of them at the same time. It can be comical to watch. The kids and grandkids quite often look after Mikki when we travel.

Mikki has learned the sound of the mail truck and the UPS truck and will go sit at the front door when they are in front of our house to let me know that we have a delivery. As my hearing began to fail it was a helpful thing to have the extra ears on duty.

The old girl has a pretty good command of human speak and will help us old people find each other when asked to. She does know exactly where both of us are at all times.

It is very nearly impossible to go to the bathroom without her escorting you there. She extends this courtesy service to any human who visits, much to the consternation of some who are more sensitive about being watched.

If I had any complaint about her it would be her need to bring her dry dog food to wherever I am to eat it. She crunches loudly and leaves bits of the food for us to step on. This is a common behavior among pack animals and involves a need to be safe while vulnerable, as in with their head down eating. It doesn't seem to bother her that I don't like it.

Mikki's second favorite things are dog biscuits, which have become "cookies" in our communications. They were used to train her in basic obedience and then to reward specific activities.

She has graciously allowed us to think that we have control over the whole process while she taught us when to give her what she wanted. Thanks, your Dogness!

In the currently accepted equivalency formula (15 years for the first human year and then 5 for each succeeding year) Mikki at twelve human years of age, is seventy in "dog years."  She is pretty spry and agile for a senior citizen!

It is apparent that she is not done teaching us how to be an equal sentient being yet and strives to communicate each day that we must live in the now and appreciate what we have around us.

She harbors no grudges and lets each night wash away anything negative that may have happened. She treats every person she meets as a friend until they prove otherwise. She doesn't kill everything that she encounters just because she can, preferring to check it out and learn what it is instead.

This old dog greets me at the door with the same enthusiasm and love whether I have been in the garage for sixty seconds, or out of town for weeks.

There is much to be learned from her about accepting life as we find it and enjoying it as we go. I am glad that she hasn't given up on teaching me.