He’s my Plotthound. He was bred to hunt wild cat, wild boar, and bear. He came to us seven years ago as a one-year-old untrained, clueless bull-in-a-china-closet. And with a lot of commitment, resourceful reading, boot camp, and crying (that was me), he turned into a cupcake. A pretty (handsome), smart, strong, sleek, sugary pastry. A mama’s boy. A steadfast brother to his Whippet/Beagle sister, Averill. A loving and entertaining member of our family.
In his training with us, he endured take-downs that didn’t faze him, bitter apple on the tip of his tongue (that worked), and a whole lot of ignoring from me until he realized that I was top dog, not him. I know this all may sound a little harsh, but this guy was on a list to be euthanized in a dog prison barn in South Carolina likely because of his untrained, puppyish, and hunting soul of messed up, unbridled, and unfocused behavior.
But as luck would have it (for him and us), a brave woman who goes into these sad places with lists of particular dogs that are scheduled to be pulled because they are good-natured and deserve a second chance (not that most or all don’t deserve this, but the world cannot absorb all that are born) came out with Merlin even though his name (or number) was nowhere to be found on her list.
This is a tale of a tail. Every time she walked by his cage, he ferociously wagged his tail. She decided that she wasn’t leaving without him. She instantly saw in him what we eventually learned: He was just a nice dog.
We trained him. We knew he was smart. It worked.
Though through all of the training and kissing and hugging of him, it seems we stripped him of his complete and unwavering bravery.
This became evident when we figured out just recently that he is jittery, panicky, and just aflutter when I cook.
I scoured my memory in an effort to figure out what triggered this behavior. It hit me. One day last fall when I had a house and yard full of guests, I was cooking on the stove and using the oven. Like it had a thousand times before, the smoke detector began beeping and yelling: “Fire! Fire! Fire!” As a thousand times before, I yanked the thing off the wall, flicked out the batteries, and then noticed that my brave Plotthound was shaking uncontrollably next to a cabinet. He looked like he was going to sink into oblivion from a primal fear, all caused by my cooking.
Several months later, a 20 minute, $220 vet-behaviorist appointment, and a prescription for Xanax, we’re still working on convincing Merlin that although my cooking may not always be great, I wouldn’t put it in the category of scary.
So we continue on, supplementing the Xanax with hot dogs and cheese while the stove-top sizzles or the oven bakes, while I learn to move very slowly when cooking. The slower I move, the less he reacts.
So this is really a “tail” of how my dog taught me to slow down. Something I needed a teacher for.
And this teacher insists that I stop the fur-raising antics in the kitchen.