My dog Shadow is on her way to being 12 years old. I found her on Labor Day of 1994 at Lake Balboa where she had been abandoned. She was perhaps eight weeks old. I was eight weeks past my near-fatal motorcycle accident and still in the midst of being put back together again. Physically a lot of work was being done. Mentally the going was much slower. Yet despite being in such a very dark and angry place psychologically, into my life was dropped this handful of black muttpuppy.

I can remember rejecting her initially. “I don’t need you,” I said as she crawled adorably up into my lap on the grass beside the lake. “All you’re going to do is die someday and then I’m going to be heartbroken.” But not being so stone-hearted as to walk away from such a helpless creature I brought her home and she’s figured out how to live with me (no easy thing) most ever since.

As such, she’s not without her quirks, one of which she so unsubtlely just exhibited but a few minutes ago. See, she has this thing about certain noises — not the sudden jarring kind like the screeching of tires or the blaring of sirens or barking of other dogs, which she’ll meet with her trademark grumble and powerful bark. Instead she goes all weird and meek at much milder sounds. Most recently it’s been when our cat Pepper hops up into the window behind me and starts up with this strange meow. He’ll look straight up at nothing in particular and start with this soft kind of gurgly purr that finishes with a very inquisitive-sounding “Now?” as if asking if it’s time for who nows what, perhaps a cuddle or a treat or to be let outside.

Well, Shadow just hates when Pepper does this (and I think Pepper senses this and does it just to bother the dog and to a lesser degree me) and literally crawls under my chair trying to get away from the sound. In more severe reactions, such as the one just now she will literally jump into my lap and huddle as close to me as possible as if she’s terrified. Lke so:

Lap Dog
Lap Dog

There she stayed for more than 20 minutes. In fact, she was in my lap through this post up until just now when she deemed it safe to jump down because Pepper left the room. Makes it much easier to type now.

Another noise that sends her running for cover would be when cat Jiggy would push on the latched front screen door in an effort to get out. The screen would hit a few times back against the frame and Shadow would be outta there. Trouble is I know why Shadow freaks at that. It’s because one day I finally got sick and tired of it and presented an outburst disguised as negative reinforcement that sent the word out across the floorplan that I wouldn’t be tolerating Jig’s screen thumpa-thumpa’ing anymore. This, of course, was obeyed by everyone but Jiggy. So now whenever he does it, Shadow could be in the library with me but heads straight for the safety under the bed.

As a disclaimer, while I’ve told Pep to shut up a couple times I’ve had no similar outburst to his little episodes, so I can’t explain Shadow’s reaction to that.
Nor can I come up with the direct connection to the last noise I found that Shadow gets stressed over. On several of her recent regular walks at night before turning in, I’ve carried this collapsible steel baton that I’ve had for years. Closed up it’s about eight inches long. Fully telescoped it’s about 21 inches. I’ve carried it occasionally of late because, well frankly, there have been times I’ve encountered some rather unsavory looking characters either passing me or loitering or coming up behind me on the sidewalk, and while I persist in extending the benefit of the doubt, I have opted to pocket this item in accordance with the “better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it” school of thought. As such, should I chance to come up against someone wishing to take advantage of my generosity in not snapjudging them a crime junkie needing a fix, a quick flick of my wrist might persuade someone from pursuing any antagonism they might wish to instigate upon my person.

So what is it that freaks Shadow out about it? Well, when fully collapsed, the two internal extendable sections will sometimes clink-clack together — nothing loud, mind you. I’d liken it to the sound made lightly tapping two coins together. But when they make contact Shadow will stop in her tracks and turn and look over her shoulder at me with these huge eyes and a dropped tail that make me feel hella guilty. Last night for example she actually turned around after hearing it and started to head back home walking all the way to the end of her 16-foot retractable lead. From her shaming reaction you’d think I was carrying a gun! It’s happened enough times that I’m not carrying it as much and when I do I keep a hand in the pocket it’s in just to try to stop it from clink-clacking.

Perhaps there’s a method to her madness?