March 4, 2010

The Jitters

Every dog is afraid of something. Really. I’m kind of afraid of tall men who wear hats though I’m slowly getting over it. I’m really scared of new noises and I show my fear by barking hysterically (much to Gretchen’s displeasure). The other night, for instance, I saw something big, round, and brightly white standing by the fence. I threw myself at the sliding glass door making everyone jump out of their skin.

Turns out it was a new wisteria plant Ann bought at the garden shop and the big, round white thingy was the plastic around the root ball.

Oh well. Better to err on the side of caution, I think.

Even Monty, who is the most laid back dog I know, has his jittery moments. Usually, it’s when the vacuum cleaner gets pulled out of the closet. He doesn’t bark, though. He just puts himself in the room farthest from the vacuum and waits.

All dogs do have the jitters, but they also respond in unique ways. I bark. Monty removes himself. Quillette, another friend, runs outside when she sees any cleaning supplies and shakes in the corner of the yard…oh, and drools.

Today started with Ollie and Gemma who both have their jittery moments. Ollie jitters (perhaps with excitement) when he sees any small animal — cat or squirrel — or senses any moment of needed caution — large man in hat. Then he barks, kind of like me. Gemma, she’s not afraid of anything. In fact, she stirs up the jitters in all of us when she decides to spin like a crazy woman at the end of her leash.

All of these jitters can be cured by a good romp with Saber, though. He can wear Gemma out faster than you can say Irish Terrier and that’s what he did today — wear out Gemma and Ollie.

Saber’s jitters? Well, since he’s still a puppy, his fears spring up at random. Once it was an umbrella — scared the pants off him. Another time it was a skateboard. He pulled toward home at the end of his leash. But now that he’s getting older, not much seems to give him the jitters. Of course, he does get jitters of excitement all the time — especially when Gemma comes to play with Ollie in tow.

Rosie has lots of jitters, but slowly they seem to be diminishing. Her biggest fear is loud trucks or even the trolley bus as it whizzes by. Today, Gretchen tells me, it was a truck backing up and rumbling. Rosie jumped out of the way and looked at Gretchen for some reassurance. The good thing is that Rosie is getting over her fears more quickly and always checks in with Gretchen to see if she can earn a treat for staying relatively calm.

The reason I bring all of this up — jitters and fears — was because today we saw a side of Alice we’ve never seen before. We’ve always known that Alice is super jittery, but slowly she’s been getting over it. Where she used to bark and cower in the corner when Gretchen first walked into the house, now she just barks once and then wags her tail and comes over for a treat.

But today, Alice was in her crate. She barked once and then refused to come out. She wouldn’t even take a treat. Okay, so this was going to be interesting. I usually wait outside while Gretchen fetches Alice, but since she was glued to the inside of her kennel and clearly stressed, I was needed. I came into the house, saw Alice in her crate refusing to eat the treats laid on the outside of her kennel, and so I walked up to her, ate the treats, and said, “What’s up, Alice?”

“What are all those noises, Rubin?”

Ah, now it made sense. On our way to Alice’s house, we passed four loud trucks and six guys. Two guys were hoisting themselves up to the tallest branches of some maple trees and with their very loud chainsaws, chopping off some branches. Two other guys were hauling the fallen branches away and throwing into the back of what I later learned are called “chipper” trucks — they make wood chips out of the branches. The other two guys were supervising, making sure no one fell, no one (like us) walked under the falling branches, and everything went okay.

Alice was right. It was really, really loud.

I tried to explain. “There are these guys sawing off branches and buzzing them up in this big, loud truck. We walked by them and yes, they’re loud, but it’s all okay. Really.”

Alice didn’t believe me. She was so jittery she couldn’t hear me. Luckily, after about 10 minutes of waiting for her to come out of her kennel (we sat on the porch with the front door open) the guys with the noisy trucks stopped working and drove off. Sure enough, Alice slinked out of her kennel with her tail between her legs and nuzzled Gretchen’s elbow as she passed on her way to see me.

“I’m so glad you’re still here,” she said. “I don’t know what came over me, but I sure didn’t want to miss my walk.”

“It’s okay. I understand,” I said and with that, we were off on our walk up to Woobie’s house.

Woobie might have jitters, but I haven’t seen any. I think she might get a bit jittery when she’s left alone, but basically, Woobie is happy-go-lucky all the time. It was a good thing, too, because that’s exactly what Alice needed to be around — Ms. Happy-go-lucky!

Of course, Woobie is a bit camera shy. Not sure she gets jittery about it, but she’d rather do something other than have her photo taken…like play in a big grassy field…

…or put her face into the wind (while we look for what caused the loud noise behind us)…

…though eventually, she’ll comply.

We walked both Alice and Woobie home (it’s kind of a big loop) and Alice thanked us for calming her down and we both said, “Not a problem.”

Then it was off for one more walk with Saber. We were hoping to romp it up at the tennis courts, but the weather was so nice and the afternoon upon us faster than expected that the high school tennis players infested the area before we even had a chance to romp. So we went on a nice walk through the park and then headed back to Saber’s house and that’s when Gretchen realized she hadn’t take a photo of us yet. We patiently waited on Saber’s porch while she fetched her camera and snapped a couple of photos.

Okay, Saber has jitters.  The Halti collar he must wear around his nose. He hates that thing. I’m just glad I don’t have to wear it. While Saber tries to claw it off or rub on the rosemary bush outside his house in hopes it will pop off, I’d bark at that silly thing. See, that’s difference in how we each deal with our jitters!

Until tomorrow,


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