Early this morning, I did what I always do second (making coffee is first) and fixed Ozzie’s breakfast. Not an arduous task by any means-- kibble in a bowl with a topping of anti-inflammatory meds and he’s good to go. This is a routine we have been following for most of the eleven years of his life on this planet, a task requiring very little in the way of actual sentience on my part. But after he ate, I did something new. Well, relatively new. I donned my robe, leashed him up and walked him around the side of the house to the backyard.
That probably doesn’t sound odd to you so let me explain. This is not a large house. There is a door leading from my bedroom at the back of the house to the fenced-in yard. Ozzie’s feeding area is in the foyer near the front door. It’s not been that long since I could say, “Let’s go potty now,” and he would happily hustle his doggie butt down the hallway to my bedroom and the back door. Not anymore. About three months ago, the hallway mysteriously became a one-way route, only permitting canines to travel from the back of the house to the front and not from front to back.
“Oh, c’mon!” I can hear you saying it. Surely you could have found a way to get Ozzie to walk down that hallway. I tried. I really tried. Cookies didn’t work as a bribe. Chicken didn’t work. Okay, chicken did cause him to stand in the living room and drool while gazing down the hall but it didn’t get him to put one paw on the hallway floor. Going to the back of the house, calling him and trying to wait him out didn’t work either; if too much time elapsed, he gave me the figurative finger by peeing in the foyer by the front door. Nothing induced him to go down the hallway from the front of the house to the back, nothing except…
Yep. That’s right. If it’s thundering outside, he glues his nose to the back of my knee and follows me anywhere. Literally anywhere. You can probably guess where my mind wandered next. I went to Amazon and found a CD called “The Best of Mother Nature: Thunder and Light Rain.” I figured that would be perfect. I could play the CD whenever I needed him to traverse the hallway from front to back and he would immediately become my personal doggie leech. I had the CD in my shopping cart. My finger was poised to complete the sale. I developed doubts.
There is that pesky thing known as The Law of Unintended Consequences. From the Wikipedia article:
…the law of unintended consequences has come to be used as an adage or idiomatic warning that an intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. Akin to Murphy's law, it is commonly used as a wry or humorous warning against the hubristic belief that humans can fully control the world around them.
Ozzie is certainly a complex system, one with a thought process I cannot claim to fathom. He might associate thunder with going outside and refuse to leave the house at all. He might associate thunder with the inside of the house and refuse to re-enter it after going outside. He might associate thunder with alpha-me and become psychotic. Anything could happen. I gave up on the CD idea.
So this is where we are today. Morning, evening and whenever else he needs to go potty, I leash him up and walk him around the side of the house to the backyard. I do this in the driving rain when I have to put on grubby shoes and carry an umbrella. I do this in the dark when neither of us can see where we are going and I have to carry a flashlight to guide us. I do this all day long until we retire to the bedroom and prepare ourselves for sleep.
Do I understand why, in his doggie brain, the hallway has become one-way? Not really. He’s old. He’s mostly blind and unsteady on his feet. Something happened on some previous journey down the hallway in that direction. Something traumatized him. But it doesn’t really matter. I love him. Sometimes we serve those we love better by adapting to the inexplicable than by trying to exert control.