I learned a long time ago to pay attention to my dogs’ moods and behaviours. When the girls are sitting happily idle, or playing with their toys, or dozing (and snoring) I know there’s nothing to worry about—all’s right in our world.
However, when they go very quiet (suspicious in any instance) ears cocked and listening (usually followed by a sudden, explosive volley of wild barking and a mad headlong dash to either the front or back door)—then I know I need to pay attention. There is definitely something ‘out there’ . . .
Sometimes the girls are simply letting me know that the neighbours have visitors (they’re nosy, my girls, and they assume that I am too), or the postman’s delivered something for them, or (the nerve of it) next door’s cat is sitting in their front yard. But sometimes they are telling me, the only way they know how, that it could be time to take the washing off the line, close the doors and windows and batten down the hatches, because there is inclement weather on the way . . .
I pretty much know the ‘storm’s-a-comin’ signs now. When the girls start to pace, tense and on their tippy-toes, with ears’ pricked and noses’ twitching—it’s not visitors, or the neighbour’s cat, or the postman—it’s for sure there’s a storm approaching. (I swear they are more reliable than the BOM.) So with the turn of the season now upon us and a sudden onset of seemingly neverending rain-and-thunder storms over the past couple of weeks, you would be right to imagine that doggy-tempers in my household have been somewhat fraught . . .
I myself have never minded storms. I mean, I would really rather not be caught outside in the middle of one, but if I am inside at home, or at work, the boom of thunder and flash of lightning doesn’t bother me at all.
Because of this I have always assumed that if I remained calm and unruffled during a storm my dogs would pick up on that, realise there was nothing for them to worry about, and stay calm themselves. And this approach worked very effectively when I had my first dogs, Harry and Frank. They were never even slightly fazed by extreme weather. Harry would happily snore his way through a pounding thunderstorm, and Frankie used to like to sit, half inside and half outside his doggie-door (with his backside in the warm house, and his front feet and head outside in the wind and the rain) and watch the tempest rage around him.
That same approach has worked pretty well with Maudie and Molly. Although they still definitely don’t like storms I find that talking to them in normal tones or sitting quietly and reading (with both of them sitting on my lap of course) is usually enough to calm them enough to see the storm through.
Mabel has been harder to convince.
Since she was tiny Mabel was always the first to let me know when a storm was imminent. She would become whiney and agitated and snappy with her sister (who would, of course, respond in kind) and she would prowl the house, shaking and whining and panting. Like most doggy loving parents I tried everything (short of medication) over the years to try and ease her through these trying times and I eventually found that a Thundershirt did the most to help relieve her storm anxiety (although she always did look somewhat embarrassed when wearing it . . . ‘I’ll wear it but please don’t let anyone see me . . . ‘)
It has taken a couple of years but I am now happily able to report that we haven’t had to resort to the wearing of the humiliating thundershirt in quite a while now. (I hope saying that out loud hasn’t jinxed us). Although it has taken a lot longer than I had hoped I think my perseverance has finally started to pay off and my calm, quiet, relaxed approach to storms is finally working on Mabel. Don’t misunderstand me. Mabel will always be frightened of storms, and the first thundering boom will still send her flying across the room and on to my lap (momentarily scattering the already settled in occupants) but she gets nowhere near as terrified as she used to. I’ll take that. It’s a blessing. For all of us . . .
But, you know, when I left the house this morning my three little weather-trackers were all cuddled up together and sleeping soundly, so hopefully we might have at least a couple of hours respite before another ‘dark and stormy night’ sets in again.
We can but hope . . .