b Papa Dog's Blog: On the Fourth of July, Twenty Hundred and Five

Papa Dog's Blog

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

On the Fourth of July, Twenty Hundred and Five

I vividly recollect 4 July 1986, my first summer residing in the United States. I was up in our room on the top floor of the house on Haste St., typing* away at something or other when I started to hear explosions from the south. Being new to the area and still harbouring the conventional Canadian view of Americans as nation of savages who like to shoot guns at each other all the time,** I naturally assumed that some sort of riot was in progress and that perhaps Oakland was in flames. It took a while to realise that this was simply what Americans do for fun – set off explosives. Something about commemorating the time when England finally decided it was too busy fighting France to be bothered putting down skirmishes in the colonies. Hip hip hurrah, what?

Having been here for nineteen subsequent fourths of July (or, as we always called it back home, “Mike’s birthday”), I’ve grown used to the belligerent spectacle. Unfortunately, not all members of my family are able to make the same adjustment. As it happens, Your American Independence Day is probably the worst day of the year for Doggy Dog. He’s terribly sensitive about sudden loud noises, and no matter how many times that I explain to him that it’s all just another crude manifestation of a culture that rather too strenuously insists upon its manhood, he always ends up tweaking about and trying to hide under my feet.

Last year, with Baby Dog less than a week out of the hospital, I forgot all about the 4 July hoo-raw and took Doggy Dog for a walk at his usual hour, just as dusk was falling. We were barely across the street when the explosions started, and Doggy Dog went madly zigging and zagging, trying to escape from sounds that were coming from all sides. I should have turned around and gone straight back to the house, but I was still trying to stick rigidly to the three-walk-a-day routine, and I knew he needed to move his bowels. I pressed on for about six blocks, choking up the leash and holding tight every time he tried to bolt. His panic reactions were coming closer and closer together (like contractions!), and after a while I had to give up. It was like trying to walk a rodeo bull. It was also clear that there was no real point in the walk; the poor dog was scared shitless.

This year, remembering that unfortunate night, Mama Dog and I took Doggy Dog out before the sun went down. He was skittish already, because there was the odd firecracker going off around the neighbourhood, but we managed to make it through the entire mailbox walk, albeit without a faecal payoff. It was just about to get dark by the time we got home. He bolted to the back door, whining, tongue lolling, darting spastically from side to side. The booms and bangs were beginning in earnest.

Halmonie had bathed Baby Dog while we were out, and Mama Dog sat down for a bedtime nursing. What with all the row and ruction of the American nativity, sleep was not to be easily achieved. While Halmonie and Mama Dog sat up looking at photos from a year before, I sat down with Baby Dog in the rocker and endeavoured to sing her to sleep. I closed the doors in her room, turned out the lights, pulled the blinds. There’s just enough light from the night light to see when she’s asleep. The fireworks noise didn’t seem to be disturbing her, and all was dark and still enough in the room that it seemed possible to lull her without too much difficulty. Then Doggy Dog went berserk. Apparently, he didn’t like being separated from The Man in this time of crisis. He stood outside Baby Dog’s door, whining to be let in. When nobody complied, he pushed the door open with his paws. This is a dog, mind you, who whines to be let in when the back door is a third of the way open. Under normal circumstances, he requires permission to cross a threshold (kind of like a vampire), regardless of how minimal the barrier. So far, we’ve found three ways to get him to push a door open himself: by cooking meat, by placing a cat on the other side of the door, and by turning the calendar page to 4 July.

I had just about gotten Baby Dog to sleep when Doggy Dog burst in a second time. Deciding that nothing could be accomplished without a change in tactics, I passed the baby off to Mama Dog for another round of nursing and dragged Doggy Dog into the kitchen with me. I sat down to check my pretend stocks (I’m a multi-trillionaire, thanks), and Doggy Dog huddled at my feet under the desk. Normally he’s not allowed down there because his big doggy bum is wont to disconnect the keyboard from the CPU, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. I made him lie down, and had to keep repeating the command every time a nationalist flare went off. I spoke soothing words and scratched his ears, but eventually I had to grab his collar and physically restrain him. It was, to recycle a recent simile, like trying to type while sitting on a rodeo bull.

After Baby Dog was asleep and Halmonie retired to the basement suite, Mama Dog and I sat down to watch the end of Soylent Green.*** The explosions continued, but Doggy Dog was at least content to lie at our feet, snug against the bottom of the couch. I guess as long as he could be close to both of us at the same time, he felt secure enough to overcome his anxiety.

We turned in around eleven. Normally, Doggy Dog curls up at the foot of the bed or sometimes on one side or the other. Tonight, driven insane by the fireworks, he chose instead to stand on my side of the bed, staring at me, doggy eyes reflecting the shine of my alarm clock, panting relentlessly on my arm. The explosions weren’t even that close or frequent any more, but the dog had been driven plumb loco. I think he wanted to come up on the bed with us. Mama Dog asked if we should let him. I was too hot with the blanket on us. I sure didn’t want to add a hundred pounds of dog.

Finally Doggy Dog cleared a space for himself under the bed and went to sleep there among the accumulated balls of his old fur. The odd explosion snapped off in the dark, but he must have felt safe where he was because he didn’t bother me again all night. It was a fitful night for all of us. I’m still in the grip of an annoying cold, so I woke up every hour on the hour because of my runny nose or the consequences of the plenty of liquids, or from the sounds of the dog’s nails clacking nervously under the bed. And thus the end of Baby Dog’s second 4 July. Next year we must take ourselves away to Sheep Dung Estates.
*With an actual “typewriter!” We really had such things back then!
**After living here for twenty years, I’ve been able to revise that to “a nation that includes some savages who like to shoot gun at each other all the time.
***Not to give it away or anything, but it’s made out of people.


Blogger Judy said...

We actually used puppy valium on our beagle back in our old home - it was way out of the city limits where firecrackers are aplenty. At our new home, however, we rarely hear a thing - being in the city in TX has its rare advantage - no fireworks allowed!

7:57 PM  

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