A MIND OF HER OWN

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Dogs are not supposed to have a mind of their own! They are supposed to think, want and feel what their owner thinks, wants and feels. Their will should not only be pliable to their human’s will, it should anticipate it most of the time. Well, someone forgot to inform Salomé of the rules. She not only thinks for herself, she has a very definite opinion about the whats, wheres, whos and hows of her existence. Let it be said and held in my favor, that I have no problem with that… as long as it does not interfere with what I think, feel and want at the same time. The problem is that very often it does.

For instance, when I decided to wake up early (6:30 most days) in order to work on my genealogical project before the day’s interruptions and busyness begins, Salomé decided that any time before the sun rises is an ungodly hour to circulate, so she stays in bed. Now that is fine with me, because I am not ready to take her out for her morning wee until around 9:45, so if she sleeps until 9, there is no problem. She not only sleeps, mind you, but snores loudly enough so that I can hear her all the way in the living room where I am working. She does not snore at night -as far as I know- nor does she snore in the morning when I have opened my eyes but before I begin to stir. No. It is only when she finds herself queen of the whole wide bed that her sleep becomes as that of the free and innocent and she loudly lets me know that she sleeps much better when I leave the bed to her. No problem. I can live with that.

It is a little more difficult to weather the fact that she believes she has the right to sleep smack in the middle of the bed. My bed is only 1m40cm wide and she is not only in the middle every night when I arrive to get in, but sleeping crosswise. She measures 50cm so that leaves exactly 45cm on either end of her. Of course, she does not get her way in this matter even if only by question of size: I measure 1m62cm long when stretched out and, even though I have not recently measured the width, it must be at least 60cm at the hips when lying on my back. So each night I have to drag a limp, uncooperative, dead-to-the-world hound up and over to the other side of the bed while I rapidly occupy my place before she can shift. Needless to say that by morning she has managed to snuggle her way almost into the middle again and I am lying on my side, very close to tumbling over the edge.

Then, of course, there is the it-is-time-to-play ploy. Even though she spends quite a bit of time napping on one or the other of my two Image

big black armchairs there is a moment when she decides that enough is enough. At that time, she’ll begin bringing me her toys: the black sock with a ball in it, the small blue mouse that squeaks, the tennis ball and anything else in the toy basket that meets the fancy of her jaws. Each toy will be carefully deposited close to one of my feet so that I might appreciate how fascinating it is and be irresistably tempted to leave my uninteresting occupation and roll around on the floor with her or chase her as she runs with the ball in her mouth.

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Furthermore, Salomé’s inner clock is infallible. It is never more than two minutes before noon or before 6pm when I will suddenly be extracted from my concentration by a muzzle between my knees and a pair of sharp black eyes looking hopefully up at me: feeding time. One would expect that after I have dutifully performed my nuturing obligations, she would allow me to return to my work, but no. After she has consumed everything in her dish and licked umpteen times to make sure not even a nano-morsel is left, she’ll trot over to wherever I am and look sternly at me until I follow her into the kitchen, gaze at her dish and exclaim in my most admiring voice: “Oh, Salomé! You have eaten everything!” 

Five minutes later, as soon as I have settled down once more to continue whatever I was doing on the computer, I will once more be interrupted by the presence of a canine mammal gazing up at me from between my knees and gently knudging the side of my leg with her snout. I know damn well what she is trying to tell me: it is time for me to go to lunch, so I should get moving because she might have finished everything in her plate but she is far from full and wants all those tasty morsels that I pass down to her from my own luncheon plate.

Going up and down stairs is another way for Salomé to impose her way of doing things. We live on the second (top) floor of a building that has no elevator, so we are obliged to go up and down the stairs several times a day, which is -by the way- considered almost as good an exercise as making love (something I do not do very frequently… umm… never, as of several years ago so thank goodness for the stairs). Salomé, however, has a very definite opinion as to what stairs are for and it has nothing to do with exercise. Going down stairs is her favorite game, or rather, that I should go downstairs first is her favorite game. As I descend, she waits at the top of the stairs peering through the bars of the banister. I am supposed to stop and look up every once on a while as part of the game, and say: “Come on, Salomé, come down;hurry up, run, let’s go…” and all my other verbal encouragements which she proceeds to ignore.

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When I arrive at the bottom, it doesn’t matter how much I plead, or beseach or scold, she doesn’t budge until she hears the door open and then she races down as fast as her little feet will carry her, past me and out the door that I stand holding open for my dog. We play this game every single day; she never tires of it.

Up until now, that was all I had to put up with and to tell the truth I enjoyed the communication and playfulness of our relationship. But recently, Salomé has decided that she wants what she wants and she is going to let me know about it every time. For instance, when I leave the restaurant where I have lunch almost every day and turn to head for home, she will stop dead in her tracks and look at me, her ears cocked to attention.

“Come on, Salomé” I’ll coax, “we’re going home now.”  She won’t budge, looking at me with that very determined angle of her head. “What?” I’ll insist. “You don’t want to go this way?” Still she stands like a statue. She is obviously not going to follow me, so I turn and as I walk towards her, she also turns and begins to walk in the opposite direction. She does not want to go home; she wants to take a stroll around town, smelling every dog pee along the way and receiving the salutations and caresses of all the Saliesiens who know her.

Or, we will start home after my morning coffee and, upon reaching the fork in the road where I always take the right hand one to go straight home, she will stop, perk up her ears and stare at me until I understand that she wants to take the left fork because the smells on that street are different than the ones she already smelled on her way to the Café. 

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The determination in her expression is such that most times, I accomodate her wishes and we take the long way around, or the other way home; but occasionally, I have something I need to do at home and then I must drag the unwilling dog the way she does not want to go. But, afterall, who told her she has the right to an opinion on where we go, when we go, what way we go and all those things that are supposed to be up to the human being in CHARGE of the situation? I suppose soon some animal psychologist will be accusing us of traumatizing our pets when we make them do things they absolutely don’t want to do, but until then… well, sometimes Salomé gets her way and sometimes I do. That is only fair, right Salomé? And, anyway, as I recently read on an internet cartoon: “Life without a dog is a mistake”.

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