Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Maybe It's Something In The Water?

Like N, my dog, Snug, is...quirky. Different. Edibly adorable, but just not your average bear. Or dog. Or whatever. You know what I mean.

His fear of thunder isn't anything especially unusual, I suppose. There are a lot of high-strung dogs out there. And while his fear of the dark might not be quite as common, I assume there are other dogs with similar concerns. But his fear of the back-left-corner of the couch and thus his refusal to walk around the back of the couch, forcing him to climb through our recyclables bin to get to the front door? His fear of the heater grate and thus his refusal to walk down the kids' hallway (which would mean walking IN FRONT OF THE SCARY GRATE) to get from one room to the other, forcing him to instead go through the kitchen, through the dining room, through the living room and THEN through the recycling bin to get from N's room to Em's? That's just weird.

He's also a creature of habit. And I mean that in the most most classic, OCD form of the word. And that was brought home to me last night in no uncertain terms.

Snug's evening tends to go something like this: He hangs out in the living room with whoever is watching TV there until I go to put N to bed, when he comes and lays down on the rug while N and I read. He then checks in on Em when it's her turn to go to sleep, returning afterward to the living room, where he lays on the couch with Baroy until Baroy comes up to bed, usually quite some time after I've retired for the night. At that point, Snug goes out the dog door to pee in the yard, does a full perimeter search of the property, comes back into the house, and goes directly to N's room to lay at the foot of his bed until morning, guarding him.

Snug takes his job VERY seriously. If anything seems amiss, he lets us know. If the door to N's room is closed, say, or the nightlight off in the bathroom? He lets us know. If one of the kids isn't where they're supposed to be? He lets us know, over and over and over, until we prove to him that we're aware of it, that it's OK.

A little obsessive, I'll admit. But I didn't realize just how deep it went.

Last night, Baroy--having had a rough time staying asleep the night before--came up to bed early. Several hours early. I was up reading (a heartwrenching and beautiful book by my friend Vicki Forman), so the light stayed on for a while, and we chatted back and forth. As Baroy was drifting off, I heard Snug crying softly, then louder and louder, by the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs leading up to our loft-ish bedroom. (The stairs are gated because there's no door on our bedroom, which is the only room upstairs, and we've made it the cats' dog-free sanctuary, since they never got used to having Snug in the house. So Snug can't come upstairs, which is fine by him. Except when things are somehow WRONG.)

"Is the door to N's room closed?" I asked Baroy. "Did you accidentally turn off the night light?"

"I don't think so," he mumbled. But when Snug didn't stop crying, I went downstairs to check. All was as it should be: Doors open that should be open, doors locked that should be locked. I showed Snug that it was OK Em wasn't in her room, just in case that was the the problem (though she's been in NY for two weeks, so he's pretty much over it), gave him some more water, and went back upstairs.

Second later, the crying resumed, louder, more insistent, somehow sadder, even.

"What could it BE?" I said to Baroy, trying to decide whether to be annoyed or concerned. "I can't figure out what is bugging him."

Baroy opened one tired eye. "I have no idea," he said. "He never does this when I'm downstairs, though."

And then it hit me. "It's only 10:00," I said. "You don't ever come up before midnight. Do you think he could just be upset that you went to bed early?"

"I can't imagine he's THAT cra..." Baroy stopped. "Yeah. Probably."

And so I took my book downstairs, turned on the lights in the living room again, and settled down on the couch. My tush had barely hit the cushions when Snug turned around once and lay down on the floor at my feet. He didn't open his eyes again until, after midnight, I finished the book and put it down, stared into space for a few minutes (because it's the kind of book that requires quiet digestion at the end...and time for the tears to dry), and went through the light-turning-off, door-lock-checking rituals another time.

As I headed up the stairs, I heard Snug head out the dog door for his appointed rounds, and as I got into bed I heard him return, his nails scratching the tile kitchen floor as he headed directly to N's room, satisfied that everyone was now in their designated place AT THE DESIGNATED TIME, thank you very much.

Frickin' nutty dog.

God, I love him.


Meg said...

It amazes me that you can write a great post about your dog's OCD tendencies! Thanks.

kristenspina said...

I am so glad that Snug found his way to the right family, one that totally gets his offbeat-ness and loves him for it!!

Great photo, by the way!!

nwhiker said...


What a sweetie, though!

Roni said...

He is definitely into routine! Sounds like a sweetie. Our dog hates it when one of us is not home for a night. Give him a hug from us! We can relate. :-)

Niksmom said...

Awww. That has to be the sweetest and funniest thing I've ever read about an animal! I think I love Snug even though I've never met him!

topo said...

You have no idea how much better this post made me feel! One of my dogs makes shoe-pyramids when we leave the house. Perfectly balanced shoe-pyramids. And if I take them down and put all the shoes away before bed, there's a new one built by morning. It's like a shoe miracle. Maybe he and Snug could hook up sometime and do strange OCDoggie things together.

TC said...

OK. The shoe pyramids? Laugh of the day!

AB said...

Snug may be the only "person" in your environment that has a schedule!

He IS one of the sweetest dogs I have ever known.