Downward facing dog

October 9, 2009

Havoc has found his passion.

Perhaps it was because he was old, but our last dog, Kaiju, was a much less complex animal. He was content to divide most of his day between his three favorite activities, eating, sleeping and shedding.

He was content to collapse unconsciousness on the floor where ever we were, never expending so much effort as to jump on the furniture.

He was what Chaucer might have called a hearty trencherman, frequently going for things found in the ditch that were too disgusting to try and take away from him. Things that were, when he could manage it, larger than his own head. He enjoyed a challenge.

And he shed as a sign of love, in big rolling clouds of gold hair that attached to or hid under everything in the house. Combing resulted in tumbleweeds of fur. Baths were a traumatic experience for everyone involved, and given seldom.

Havoc? Is different. I’ve already recorded his favorite sleeping position: head back, spine twisted, feet in the air. And always on a couch. If possible, he will use the arm as a pillow, as though exhausted by the effort of being a family pet.

He eats nothing but people food and a gourmet brand of diet food, and has an annoying tendency to projectile vomit that, without warning, looking slightly baffled at the chucks of science diet that have shot out of his mouth and stuck to your leg, as though he can’t figure out where they’ve come from.

And the amount of hair he drops is, as advertised with labradoodles, hardly enough to count as shedding. He also enjoys going to the groomer. He is pretty, and he knows it. For the groomer he is reported to be “A little angel”. At home, he is neither angelic, nor little.

It’s as if he’s not even trying to be a dog.

Until, that is, you produce a tennis ball.

After a difficult period in puppyhood when all tossed balls bounced off his empty head with no response other than a puzzled and indignant expression, he has figured out the game of catch.

And he thinks that it should be played several hours a day. He will lead any family member he can grab by the hand into the kitchen, to stare significantly up at the place the ball is stored. If there is no response, we will ‘make his own fun’.

This involves stealing anything that can be reached on table or floor, newspapers, shoes, bills, etc, and holding the item hostage, giving occasional destructive chews to it, until someone gets up to stop him.

If he is given the ball, and encouraged to play quietly, by himself?

This is what I think of as the dog yoga period of the day. I have an L shaped desk, which to the canine mind must look like a dog cave, or maybe a fort. Dog and ball disappear under the desk, circling my feet and bumping my knees. Then there is a sudden stop, to signify that the ball has been lost, either under the rolling file cabinet, behind the bookcase, or under the rolling computer cabinet.

I stop work, move chair slowly to avoid rolling over any paws. Move body slowly, because that is how I move. Crawl on the floor, head down to look under the furniture.

The dog stands behind me, staring intently. Breathing on my shoulder. Wagging his tail.

I roll the furniture around, find the ball, and get it back in play. Then I go back to work until the situation is repeated.

Sometimes, he does not allow me enough time to get back into the chair before losing the ball again.

As with regular, non-dog yoga, there are variations on this game, just to keep it exciting. There is the move where I hit my head under the desk. The move where he hits his head. The move where he hides the ball in his cheek and laughs at me, while I search for something that is not lost.

And the move where I get fed up and refuse to play, and he hits the powerstrip with his paw and shuts off the computer. This gives me enough time for several rounds of ball, while the computer reboots and I rescue my unsaved manuscript.

It is all very annoying.

But all in all, it is better, and less destructive than his other favorite game:

spin the cat on the desk chair.

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