Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lord of the Flies

I often have thought that the life of a dog would not really be so bad, except for the fact that you are highly dependent on your caregiver for food, shelter, medical care, and release to the great outdoors when the need arises. However, a situation occurred last week which has forced me to rethink this position.

Our small dog Payday, a Boston Terrier-Dachshund mix, spotted two large flies in a downstairs room of our house. These were no ordinary flies -- owing partly to the hot, humid summer we've been having, these were veritable beasts, each about 3/4 inch in length. Each fly was in and of itself large enough to occupy a seat on a commuter train. It is rare that we have even one fly in the house, so the appearance of two soon garnered Payday's full attention.

Payday typically looks at you dead on; that is, he rarely looks up or down, but instead prefers to look straight ahead -- in fact, he exhibits remarkably good posture for a small dog and, had he been born human, most likely could have been accepted to flight school owing to his steady gaze. But in this case, the flies soon caused Payday to begin wandering from room to room, peering up at the ceiling for hours on end. Both flies were sent to the great Entomological Beyond in short order, but not before one of them temporarily disappeared into a small hole in the ceiling of our finished basement. This untoward event caused the dog to go insane. He began barking hysterically, running around the basement, and generally exhausting himself.

The next day, it was more of the same. Payday walked from room to room, staring obsessively at the ceiling to see if he could spot more flies. He would sit on the floor, and as you spoke to him, he would first look at you, and then uncontrollably, without a second thought, he would begin to scan the ceiling looking for more flies. This continued for three straight days, until finally, probably in need of a chiropractor or a behavioral therapist, his gaze once again returned to normal, just in time for us to adopt a new cat. You can only imagine what then ensued.

And here is where I believe it does not pay to be a dog. In this situation, Payday had no idea that he was exhibiting marked obsessive-compulsive behavioral symptoms, nor could he communicate this to anyone. He was in need of help but unable to express the severity of his condition. Then, to top it off, a new creature, not of his own choosing, was introduced into his environment, a stimulus which almost without exception upsets the apple cart of canine life.

Poor dog. At least he no longer cranes his neck incessantly upwards. But given his limited ascension of the phylogenetic scale, he is perhaps unable to differentiate the cat from a very large fly. It's fortunate that the cat stays on the ground...most of the time.