I’ve been reminded lately that “Dogs are People,Too.” Not only by Gregory Berns’ piece in The Times about his research on “how dogs’ brains work and, even more important, what they think of us humans,” but by my 10-year-old Border Collie mix, Tela, who not only doesn’t think much of me lately, but whose brain has been working much like that of a terrible-two-year-old child.
For six weeks now, she’s been barking, and barking some more, whenever I leave.
Our recent move from a house to an apartment has been an adjustment for her. But I know her. It’s not that she misses me. I think she misses her inveterate, mom’s-leaving routine:
A head-tilt. Then a walk to, and a plop under, her favorite hallway bench. Once the all-glass back door closed, she would sit at it – our gatekeeper. She had a full view of her favorite pee spot, her favorite step, her sun spot on the driveway, and all the comings and goings at her house.
So I thought I had figured out how to help her adjust to the move. I brought her there for a month, almost every day, before we moved in. My new hallway is a carpet of knarled doggie toys. I put her favorite bench in full view of the apartment door. Not enough. She can’t see out. She’s stressed. And she’s giving me a (dog) run for my money.
After a quick chat with the resident dog whisperer, and a mini-onslaught of notes slipped under my door from my neighbors – and then my neighbors on the floors below and above – I took, and put into action, the reams of advice:
- A low-dose static-pulse, no-bark collar (made her bark more).
- A citronella-spray, no-bark collar (apparently she likes citronella – it made her bark more).
- Sneak out.
- Give her a toy filled with peanut butter every time you leave.
- Give her real bacon from the pan smothered in peanut butter, stuffed in her favorite toy, and stashed under her favorite bench before you leave (regurgitated on my living room rug).
- And “just tell her not to bark.”
Almost six weeks in, and hundreds of dollars later, she was still barking.
So, since dogs are people, Tela and I now do what many people do when they are stressed – we get down on a mat and pose in twists, turns, bends, inversions and downward dogs. We do yoga together.
I get up extra early. I roll out my mat in the living room, and do an hour of Yoga Burn with Tela. She loves to lay on the pink rubber mat. She rubs her nose all over it. Then she does her butt-in-the-air stretch, and stays by my side until I’m done. In her new sangfroid state, she then reposes herself at her new favorite spot on the couch by the window. She stays there as I, in my new, daily state of composedness, make my way out the door.
Dog before she discovered yoga:
Dog in post-yoga, sun-soaked Zen:
So as of three days ago, we went three days with no barking. (I’m pretending there was no relapse last night, because I’m calm.) My dog seems to be getting it down.