Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of course I’m number one

Lucky for the couch Bear never turned her frustrations on it. If she had, the couch would have been stripped, the springs mangled and the wooden frame splintered and spit all over the floor before the cats ever had a chance to stick even one tiny little needle claw into the fabric in search of the white cottony stuffing beneath.

Bear focused her ire mainly on her own toys and any stray tennis balls that had the great misfortune to roll past her nose. She developed her art so completely during her frustrated period that she can now strip a tennis ball of all its yellow fuzz and have the hollow rubber orb that’s left behind split in half in a matter of about 15 minutes.

She used to relish those things, take her time, make it last - sometimes for days. Now she switches to demolition mode the minute she catches a whiff of rubbery vinyl or hears the distant thwack of a tennis ball bouncing off the ground.

Actually, she becomes kind of obsessive about it. No longer does she contemplate these things, she gorges. We’re not sure if it’s mainly because of the extra stress we forced on her with the avalanche of animals after Quincy or because she suddenly had some competition and if she didn’t get her jollies from tearing something to shreds almost instantly, someone else was bound to get there first.

Bear’s life was forever changed when this parade of animals began and Morgan and I have both been determined to make it up to her in some fashion. Mostly we try to make her feel like number one amidst the rabble, which she is, but sometimes she doesn’t believe us.

The minute we moved into our new house we made it clear that she had free rein of all four levels, while Murdoch was relegated to the entryway and Max could go as far as the kitchen on the second level. Of course, if Max could have made it up all the stairs to the livingroom he would have joined us too. Only once did he manage to drag himself up those fourteen steps. I’m really not sure how he did it, he just appeared in the livingroom one afternoon, exhausted, and with a look of sheer determination on his face. His back legs still worked then, but they were becoming a burden to haul around behind him and weren’t much use in propelling his weight anywhere, let alone up. I think he did it just to prove that he could. He never tried again.

The very top floor of our house poses an interesting problem for Bear. The day we moved in, two of our good friends came to help and as we walked them through their first tour of the house, Bear marched right along beside us, not wanting to miss a thing. She plodded up the stairs from one level to the next amidst a small crowd of human legs and poked her nose into every nook and cranny we pointed out, plus a few more. When we reached the flight that led up to the bedroom on the top floor, everyone stopped to ponder the interesting configuration of steps.

The flight of stairs was designed to take up as little space as possible. Each riser is about half the width of a regular stair and slightly offset so there is a step for each foot on its own level, then placed in such a way that you can climb the same height as a regular flight of stairs in half the space.

It gives the impression of climbing a steep hill and looks as though a pile of boxes are stacked somewhat haphazardly against the wall, one on top of the other, until disappearing into a hole in the livingroom ceiling. It is very much like climbing a boxy ladder up to an attic. I suppose it could be considered one step up from a ladder, though it’s mildly reminiscent of one of those rickety metal spiral staircases found in old libraries.

We really didn’t think Bear would even attempt to climb them. But as we led our friends up to the last level of the house, Bear clambered right along behind us. She didn’t even hesitate. It wasn’t until we all climbed back down that she realized there was a problem. She couldn’t understand that the stairs were offset and as she looked down, processing only one side of the stairs, she realized each step was twice the height of a regular step and clearly were made for giants.

She took one step down, then backed up. She tried again, and backed up again, then she knelt down on her front legs and craned her neck over the side of the top step, stretching out a tentative paw. I tried to show her where to put her paws on the offset stairs, first one side, then the other. But she didn’t seem to see that and wanted to take a straight line down. After she’d tried for about the tenth time and it was clear she wasn’t getting it, we had to lift her down the stairs, all 80lbs of her; a harrowing experience on the tiny steps with a dog on the verge of panic. But once she was back in the livingroom, faced with stairs she could understand, she was the happiest dog in the world.

So, Bear doesn’t go up to the bedroom with us, she prefers to sleep in the livingroom, on the couch. It’s our new couch, the one we bought with the house, the one that is supposed to be animal friendly, easy to clean, the one that is now covered in little black hairs and dried spots of slobber.

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