Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Dog Is Helping Me Fight the Signs of Aging

Since the holidays have sucked all my energy, I haven't been able to exercise much recently. In fact, just walking the dog down the block is so taxing and head triggering that I had to sit down for about six hours and write this post.

A picture of me (a woman with brown hair, a gray cap, oversized green sweatshirt and dark blue jeans) and my dog (a blonde, small chihuahua mix wearing a blue jacket) out for a stroll. We are walking away from the camera, and are both looking toward the right, at an intersection. It looks a little like she is helping me check for traffic, but she's not. She's looking for bunnies. ALWAYS.

We walked for a about a mile the other day, not far, but far enough for me to be getting really, really tired and woozy towards the end. But I had my camera in my pocket and I still wanted to get this cool shot of whatever, so I abruptly stopped walking just as the dog decided to enthusiastically lunge forward toward a patch of (presumably delightfully scented) grass. In the process, she yanked my arm so hard as to jar my shoulder, my back and, of course, my head. Everything went a little fuzzy and gray and without thinking, I sharply reprimanded her with, "I stop, you stop! I stop, you stop!" Then I realized I was sort of quoting Farscape at my dog and maybe I should sit down a spell.

My dog, leashed, outside, in front a wall with some climbing vines. She's looking off into the distance with vigilance. Probably she's still looking for bunnies.

My dog isn't an excessive barker, but she does get pretty insistent if someone's at the door or she thinks she hears something suspicious outside. One day she was just in a mood, barking at every other nothing noise and she just would. not. shut it. She let loose with a particularly hearty bout of woowoowoowoowooing when I turned to her and snapped her name. She stopped barking and looked at me. I spoke firmly but calmly, "Please stop barking right now. My head is really hurting." I looked at her and she looked at me. Then she laid down and didn't make another noise. I was hoping that this breakthrough meant that my lifelong ambition of making animals do my bidding (like a disney princess!) was finally within my grasp. It was all an illusion, though, because after a few hours she was back to her normal, very alert, only-half-listening-to-me state. But that moment was glorious.

A close-up of my dog's face. She's laying down, head on paws. She looks tired, or chastened, with her eyes downcast and her massive radar-dish ears relaxed. She's probably thinking about bunnies.

Having an animal around, minion or no, has been really good for my mental and physical health. She relies on me, she loves on me whenever needed, and she can make me smile no matter how bad a day I'm having. Ok, it may not always really be a smile, maybe more of a smize on my worst days, but still, that's so much better than the scowl that can take up residence on my forehead when I'm squinting and flinching and twitching and grimacing all over the place. Those verbs are doing nothing for my pretty, let me tell you. Aw, my dog is helping me fight the signs of aging. She's so multi-talented!

A picture of my dog at a dog park. She is chasing a ball, running toward the camera. The moment captured is of her in flight. Only one foot, her rear right, touches the ground. Her mouth is open, her eyes are wide, her huge mogwai ears are on the up-swing and the ball is about to get pounced upon. Like a bunny.

Another talent my dog has is as a hot water bottle. She's a small dog with a very fast metabolism and she puts off a good amount of heat, especially when she's sleeping.

My dog, sleeping on her right side, feet all tucked together and head lolling nearly upside down. The position of her head makes one of her flying-nun ears stand up straight, displaying its impressive square inchage. (They are nearly the size of her head.) Her black lips are parted and relaxed enough so just a peek of snaggletooth is visible. In all likelihood, she's dreaming of bunnies.

Then there's the agility portion of the competition. If ever I get my stamina back, I would like for us to learn how to run those courses. She'd love it.

(NOTE: This video has audio (whistling, a male voice, and background noises) that I have no idea how to delete! Make sure that your sound is off if this will bother you! Also, the camera is a little shaky.)
This video contains footage of my small blonde dog with a red leash going down a slide at a park. The dog waits at the top of the slide until called by my boyfriend, who is holding the camera. He says, "Come on, baby!" and whistles and the dog launches herself onto the slide, running and sliding confidently all the way down. She reaches the ground, shakes herself off and jumps on my boyfriend's legs. He pets her head and praises her repeatedly with "Good girl!" Just before the scene cuts, the dog suddenly turns to something off camera. Could have been a bunny.

Ok, FINE, I'll tell you the bunny story.

My boyfriend hurt his back badly two years ago. Bad enough that he had to have surgery and bad enough that one morning he woke me up yelling from the couch. He had lost his balance, or his leg gave out, I don't remember, but he was in so much pain that we decided to call an ambulance. I helped him get to the front porch, so he could lay flat on the cement until they arrived and as soon as I opened the front door to half carry him out, the dog bolted around us, down the steps, out the front gate and was sprinting for the street. "NO!" I screamed. I couldn't stop her, having my hands full of broken boyfriend, so I eased him down as gently as I could, as quickly as I could, then took off after her. I was in my pajamas, running across the (thankfully deserted) street and into an apartment complex I didn't live in, at 6 in the morning. I rounded the corner of a building and spotted my dog. I exhaled with relief, but stopped short when I realized what she was doing. In the middle of downtown metropolis, USA, my little dog had found a bunny.

She slowly crept closer, and closer. The bunny just side-eyed her. I had no idea what my adorable, precious dog would do to the bunny if she got close enough. She plays nicely with cats, but she also really likes to kill her toys. I didn't want to find out. My boyfriend was in pain on the porch, my socks were soaked from the grass and my feet were freezing and all I wanted to do was get ahold of my slippery little dog and get back home. Where the dry socks live.

So, while she snuck up on the bunny, I snuck up on her. Suddenly, the bunny jumped away and startled my dog, just enough so she ran back to me to rescue her from the big, mean, scary, fluffy bunny. I scooped her up and got back to our porch a moment before the paramedics arrived. In the hubbub, the bunny was mostly forgotten.

Then, a few months later, we were at my parents' house just hanging out. My mom stepped out front to throw something away in the outside bin, and didn't notice the small dog on her heels. We realized she was missing a few minutes later and panicked. The house is on a very busy street. She could have gone any direction. We ran outside, calling her name. To the left, nothing, to the right... holy crap she's on the neighbor's lawn sniffing a bunny. Again, in the middle of the city, my dog finds another bunny. (Possums we have, raccoons and rats and cockroaches and stray cats galore. But bunnies?? And it's not like we had an invasion or something. At least, not one that we've heard about.) So we called her and she abandoned the thoroughly-sniffed bunny immediately to gallop and skip back to us. She was as excited as she ever gets and joyfully leaped into my arms, all wiggly and kissy in celebration of finally having experienced the scent of a bunny.

Ok, one more photo for the ridiculous puppy post. Are you ready for this?

My dog, sitting on a green couch like she's people (upright, chest and belly exposed, forelegs in front of her loosely like arms). My boyfriend's arm is in the frame, offering her the phone. She looks at him as if to say, "This joke just isn't funny anymore." Oh yes, it is.


WinnyNinny PooPoo said...

She is precious. I need a bunny hunter at home because my dogs ignore them and I have lots of wild bunnies. Does she give lessons?

I think I'm going to smile the rest of the day. I can see where she keeps you active!!!

steph said...

Thanks Winny!

Heh, we could *try* a training session with your pups, but it looks like all they'll learn is how to sniff the bunnies. And run away from them. While this is entertaining, your rabbit population would be unaffected.

Anonymous said...

Yay for Baby pictures! She is very cute, and her ears easily rival Yoda's. Lily does the same wiggly/kissy thing when she gets excited over something BRAND NEW OMG, but then she tries to knock you down. I could do without that part.

steph said...

YOu know, now that you say that, I bet that adorable joyful leaping into arms that my dog does is actually her best attempt at knocking me down.

When we first got her, she'd get super excited whenever we laid down on the floor. So much so that she would joyfully leap onto our faces. That was great during yoga.

Migrainista said...

Oh my gosh! What a cute little dog you have! I can see how having someone so fabulous in your life would bring you much joy.

Heather said...

What a cute post! I keep trying to convince my husband to let me (us) have a dog, but he still says no. BUT for the first time ever, he's ok with us dog-sitting my sister's dog at our place this weekend instead of us going to her place. Baby steps. :)

steph said...

Migrainista and Heather, having a dog is the highlight of my life, some days. :)

Et merci, Daniel!

Jessica said...

I am SO glad you wrote those little captions with your pictures...otherwise I'd have been completely lost!


My puppies are alot like my boys ...they make me laugh and feel all warm & fuzzy...then I wanna throw them off my 2nd story balcony!

steph said...

Oh, I think we all get those homicidal impulses!

But we don't act on them, Jessica. Step away from the balcony. :)