Herding the humans

Our family dog Nittany laid glassy-eyed on the sofa cushion next to me. When I got up to go into the kitchen, she lay still. When I opened up the refrigerator, she barely even registered a look. 

Now normally in our house, Nittany, a 12-year-old Lhasa Apsa – Bichon Frise mix, knows where everyone is at all hours of the day. She’s a sentinel on guard duty letting us know of any possible foreign intruders, that’s short for Fed-Ex delivery drivers, garbage men and, God forbid, neighbors walking outside. She takes her job seriously. It may be our home, but she tackles her job like it’s a Buddhist Monastery or palace high up in the Himalayan Mountains like her forefathers. 

If serving guard duty wasn’t enough, Nittany has a hidden tracker on the entire family. If someone happens to walk to the kitchen, she follows them in the off-chance she’ll get an extra scrap or two. Plus, to her way of thinking, you never know when an UPS driver may show up in the dining room, so it’s best to always be on guard. 

Out of sorts

On this day, though, she sat with a sad, melancholy look on her face. You could tell that she wasn’t feeling well. I knew right away that she was going through withdrawal. Our son, who had been away for a year, had recently come home for a two-week stay. While he was home, Nittany had followed him everywhere, to the kitchen, to his bedroom, wherever he went. Now that he was gone again, she missed him.

I tried to calm Nittany, telling her that everything was going to be fine, but she just stared back at me. I even sat next to her in the living room and rubbed her head, but she wanted no part of it. In fact, she got up and walked to another chair to get away from me. 

No, Nittany wanted to mope. 

A K-9 friend

It’s moments like these that I often joke with my wife that Nittany needs a friend and that we should think about getting another dog. On this occasion, I tell her about the rescue dog I saw online. My wife always waves her arms at me like I’ve lost my mind and tells me that is the worst idea imaginable. My wife worries about potty training and taking care of another dog, which are legitimate worries, but she also points out a key fact that always seems to go over my head: Nittany hates other animals, especially dogs, more than she hates humans.  

When my wife says that, I always take a step back and say, “yea, you’re right. What in the hell was I thinking.”

While it’s a nice thought, getting a friend for Nittany, the idea just won’t work in practice. So Nittany mopes with her herd now gone and I worry about her, but the worry is short-lived — come dinnertime Nittany has her appetite back and chows down her dinner like there’s no tomorrow. 

Later, she’s even back to her old tricks begging for more treats and licking her lips, before finally deciding to curl up next to me on the sofa. I’m not my son or one of the other two kids, but, in Nittany’s book, I’ll do for the moment.

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