Monday 19 October.
After having spent a wonderful week together, it was time for Juli and Magpie to go. Tiamo and I waved until we couldn’t see their car anymore. Tiamo was frantic when we went back inside. She kept running in a big circle all around the house. She’d been through this routine before and it seemed as if her wild inability to be consoled was a symptom of PTSD. After all, she had been through five major life changes since June. I kept telling her I understood, it was okay, I missed Juli and Mags too. I also told her that she could settle in for good. This was Home, and I was her Person. But it was a hard day.
That night, we slept in the guest bedroom so that Tiamo could sleep in the same place where she had spent each night with Juli and Mags.
I woke when Tiamo jumped off the bed and trotted, sprightly and cute, out of the room. I stretched for a couple of minutes but wasn’t far behind her. When I stepped from the bed I was surprised that my moccasins were not where I had left them. Mystery solved when I found one moccasin in the music room, the other between Tiamo’s front paws. Both were gooey and wet but otherwise undamaged.
True to her Covid Canine instincts, I also found one roll of toilet paper in the music room and one in the front foyer. I wondered how a Texas backyard dog could have perceived the value of this stuff. How does she know?
Later, Tiamo plucked her new Orvis jacket from the tall basket by the door. Yes, she has a low basket filled with her toys, but this particular one was meant for my convenience. It’s where I drop her leash, harness, and jacket. Apparently, Tiamo decided that a basket is a basket, and that her new jacket made for a very nice chewing toy. Luckily, the sounds of snap/crinkle/pop pierced my bubble of concentration. I came to investigate just in time. The jacket was gooey and wet but otherwise undamaged.
After breakfast, we ventured forth into the wild world. I followed her lead as she took tiny baby steps from the front door to the street. We turned left. We walked perhaps twenty yards before Tiamo planted her paws and stood at attention. I followed her gaze. Ah. Halloween decorations. Ghosts. Spider webs. Pumpkins. Things swaying in the gusty wind.
She stared until she could not stand it one more moment. She turned her head away. She blinked.
Without moving a paw her eyes and ears returned to the scary tableau. She didn’t even flinch when a car drove by.
I explained what all this nonsense was and told her yes, it was scary but that it wouldn’t hurt her. I asked her if it was possible for us to walk on by. Would she like to try walking past this scary stuff? She did not respond to my voice because she seemed to be in a state of plegia. Thank goodness it was temporary. After a couple of minutes, she made a u-turn and headed for home. This girl wasn’t having nuthin’ to do with that weird house.
Tuesday evening: same. Ditto all the way. Same walk, same balk at same spot.
That afternoon, Tiamo and I spent five hours in my study while I edited a manuscript. Sprawled out across one of her dog beds, she fell so deeply asleep she snored just the teensiest bit. She has the makings of a good writer. She handled the long hours of isolation very well.
We wrapped it up at 5:00. I needed to shake it off, move, go somewhere. I tried to put her in the car to run quick errands but before I could even shut the car door she slithered from the puppy car seat in the back up into the passenger seat and, SuperDog paws stretched out in front of her, dove down onto the driveway. Quick as a flash she sprinted through the garage straight to the back door. Her route was as traceable as a plumb line. She sat prim as a princess on the step and stared up at the back door as if mental telepathy and her pretty-please-face would make it open.
I got the message.
Okay, okay, I told her, I understand.
I took her inside. Got a chewable something from the doggie cupboard. She crawled into Jail, where she pounced on the treat, happy to masticate in an environment she can trust.
That night after dinner, I dressed her in harness and leash and we headed for the golf course. I was thinking that because she had exhibited a significant number of fearful behaviors throughout the day, perhaps revisiting the place where we had walked with Juli and Magpie would be a good idea. She’d recognize the route and be comforted by the echo of Juli and Magpie.
I was wrong. She was hesitant. I let her take her time. She stopped to study the leaves as they floated through the air. Soooo many leaves. But she wasn’t sure about them; she studied them as if they could be explosives in disguise. She was timid and yet also fascinated. All I could think of was what a great video it would make but I didn’t pull out my phone because I decided it was more important to be fully present as she struggled with this new world. Maybe, even, her sense of aloneness in it.
We walked a short distance. Suddenly, she went rigid in a critter-crazy kind of way. I followed her gaze as she stared into a copse of trees and saw nothing. She overruled my human eyesight. She must go get it, whatever it was. She bolted for the copse. She was so determined, she somehow wriggled free of the harness and just like that I realized I was holding a limp leash, at the end of which was dangling an empty harness. Little Houdini.
There in that little cluster of trees she lost all sense of time and place. In fact, I think that she lost herself. And, as we know from popular culture and clichés, when in losing herself, she found herself.
She turned into a dancer.
Her long little body went all fluid and graceful. Lithe and leaping, she made her way from where I was standing off stage into the very center of the copse where a shaft of sunlight beamed down through the treetops. Joyfully, unabashedly, ecstatically, looking every bit like Snoopy at an outdoor rave, she twirled and pirouetted. She executes a beautiful sauter. Her élancer is first rate. Her tourner is quite lovely. Although I was conscious of my terror at the possibility that she could bolt at any moment, mostly I was mesmerized. What a performance.
I wondered for a moment if anyone else had seen this in her. Did anyone know that she is a ballerina? She’s a natural. Clearly, her inner child wears pink tutus and loves the spotlight.
I snapped to it and realized I had to get her back on leash. I called her while crouching down low, making it seem like a big game, and after a couple of fake-outs she finally thundered like a thoroughbred in the homestretch straight into my outstretched arms. I clipped the leash to her collar, slipped the useless harness over my arm, and headed for home. So much for the walk.
All my life, I’ve been one of those people who come home and immediately hang up my coat and put everything in its proper place. I could tell I was shaken by the way I tossed leashes and harnesses and scattered my phone and coat and gloves every whichaway. Yeah, I was shaken. And so a few minutes had passed before I noticed that Tiamo’s face looked different. Odd. What was it? I got down on the floor and took a closer look.
Omg. Tiny burrs. Everywhere.
Ev. Ree. Where.
For the next half hour or week or year I brushed and picked, brushed and picked, brushed and picked the burrs from her coat.
The interesting thing was that she allowed me to do this. She plopped down on the rug and lay very still, as if she knew what I had to do. Call me crazy but she seemed grateful for the help.
Finally, the long day ended when I found my reading glasses on the floor in my bedroom. Obviously, I was mistaken. She had a better idea. They were meant to be a doggie bone. I picked them up and my heart sank. They were gooey and wet and . . . no longer wearable.
See: before and after pictures.
But as we tucked ourselves into bed, I reminded her that everything was going to be okay, that she was learning, and I was learning, and the only thing that mattered right now was that she came to trust that I am her Person, and this is Home.