This Side Up

Sometimes it’s best to wake sleeping dogs


“Maybe you should take him out before the fireworks.”

I hadn’t thought about it, but Carol was right. Ollie needed to get out before it turned dark and the neighborhood rockets common at this time of year took to the air. I’ve never understood the appeal of setting off a couple of giant firecrackers – they must be M-80s – and several fireworks rockets night after night. Perhaps they are coming from different parties, a sort of competition. They aren’t close by, but nonetheless the noise is enough for Ollie.

As soon as he’s heard one boom, no matter the coaxing and the pulling on his collar there’s no way he’s going out. And if he doesn’t go out, then we can expect to be awoken in the early morning hours as he paces from room to room, or worse, we step barefooted onto a wet rug.

“Come-on, Ollie, it’s time to go pee.”

He didn’t as much as twitch as he lay stretched out on our bed. I tried it again, but this time with gusto like we were going on an adventure. He opened an eye and with a groan took a deep breath. He was content. He didn’t want to go anyplace.

We both sat on the bed and started stroking him. He liked this. He straightened his hind legs, exposing his stomach, which, obviously he expected we would rub. He rolled on his back, ears flopping to either side, his lip sliding back to expose a few teeth. He wasn’t any closer to getting outside.

We adopted Ollie four years ago and we figure he was three at that time, which makes him middle aged in dog years. He’s changed dramatically. Middle age suits him, or maybe better put, is more our speed. A spotted coonhound, Ollie’s urge to hunt can’t be suppressed. He still strains on his leash to follow a scent and will whine from the back seat of the car when he spots just about any form of critter from cats and dogs to horses and cows. Deer really set him off. But he’s stopped the window-to-window search with occasional commentary, having learned that by standing on the console between the front seats he’ll see what coming up next. It’s a job he takes seriously that thankfully keeps him quiet for extended periods on long drives.

Even better, he’s taken to sleeping on trips.

In fact, sleeping has become a big part of his life. That’s not a surprise, as dogs spend a lot of time sleeping. Now in middle age, Ollie is doing a good deal more of it.

Yet middle age hasn’t changed his fear of fireworks or thunderstorms. Either have him quaking, nervously panting and looking at us with beseeching eyes.

Carol thinks his fear of fireworks, and by transformation to firearms, is the reason he ended up in a kill shelter in North Carolina. He was bred as a hunting dog and he’s bound to track a scent, but what good would he be when reduced to quivering with the first shot?

There’s no comforting him during thunderstorms. He crawls under the bed, the one positioned in the corner of a room and the closest he can get to being in a hole. From there he anxiously waits for the storm or the pyrotechnics to stop.

Naturally, he loved all the attention lying on our bed, but we knew he would need to get out.

I tried my enthusiastic best to get him up. Begrudgingly, he stood, shook and jumped from the bed. I led him to his pen where he performed. Then it was back to the house before the first of any fireworks…ready for more sleep.


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