I don’t know if you subscribe to the anniversary reaction theory or even know about it. The theory is that feelings experienced on a certain date – and they are usually traumatic or very frightening feelings – are felt again on the anniversary, usually at a reduced level but still, obviously, disturbing. I am not sure whether Dog subscribes to the theory but he certainly has the reaction. When we took him in, he had been badly treated and, even worse for a dog, dumped. Kicked out of the pack he so desperately wanted to be part of, he was running wild for some time. We don’t know how long but when he was eventually caught and taken to Battersea (the Old Windsor site), he was emaciated, full of fleas and with a secondary infection in a wound on his bony little bottom. It was not a happy picture.
After a month in the doggy hospital, Dog is placed in the kennels where we see him and decide to rescue him. We bring him home at the end of October. There are already fireworks going off but they don’t seem to disturb him. Dog doesn’t know how to climb stairs. He looks at them and then at us and we have to place one paw after another to show him what to do. Dog has never been in a car. He has to be lifted into the car and lifted out. He clearly has a lot of learning to do.
The first year we have Dog is challenging. He eats everything. He eats Mr Mason’s passport. He eats a £20 note allowing me to complete the Bank of England form which asks where the remainder of the note is with the immortal words “In the dog”. He chews furniture, he eats shoes. He eats a book telling us how to train a dog. He becomes extremely anxious about other people coming into the house and shows his anxiety by hurling himself around the room, throwing himself on and off the furniture at speed. In our small sitting room, this is worrying. Dog is a big dog. He now weighs a healthy 26kg but I would not want to be hit by a leaping Dog. Dog does not like us going out. It takes over six months before we can leave him successfully at home without him crying desperately. Dog is always good in the car, though, and travels hundreds of miles without complaint. He can also be left in the car during cooler months while we go shopping, for example.
So, back to the anniversary reaction. The first year we have Dog, he starts to behave strangely around the anniversary. Always clean in the house, he starts to wee inside again, without asking to be taken outside. He gets very clingy and chews things. I believe in the first year we consulted a specialist who was not much help. Gradually, he stops doing the bad things. But each year, the behaviour returns, albeit in a milder way. On our sixth anniversary, he shows no reaction at all. I think he feels he is now part of the pack and that we will not be dumping him any time soon although he still worries when we leave the house. If we do not say “See you in a little while” – those exact words – he will cry and fret. Master Mason once left the house without saying it and we had to phone him so he could say it to Dog via his mobile. Dog was satisfied.
So this year we have no reaction but we find out something else about Dog. The smoke alarm beeps to tell us we need to change the battery. Dog is terrified. I have never seen him so frightened. He shakes visibly and cannot be calmed. The smoke alarm beeps once every half an hour but it is too much for Dog. He cannot handle it. We do not understand why he is so frightened – whether it is the pitch of the alarm or whether he has been in a fire before. He clearly is utterly terrified and is on high alert, together with a full-on trembling we have never witnessed. Taking the battery out allows him to relax but it is several hours before he is totally calm.
Dog has many interesting traits. For such a large dog, he is frightened of a number of things including the Psychotic cat. This morning, I come downstairs to witness a queue forming in the hall. This traffic tailback has not been mentioned on the radio although that is something I would very much like to hear. At the head of the queue is the Psychotic cat who has decided to go slow. Waiting patiently behind her is Dog who cannot bring himself to step over her nor move round her. I join the queue and try to persuade the Psychotic cat to move which she does, very slowly and very disdainfully. Inside, Dog and I high-five whenever the Psychotic cat falls off the a chair back due to careless relaxing. Dog likes to jam his head under a carelessly idle arm, blanket or cushion. For a dog with so many cares, he likes to hide his head away, possibly under the impression many toddlers have – if I can’t see you, you can’t see me. His other favourite activity is sleeping, preferably in the totally relaxed don’t-have-a-care-in-the-world pose called roaching. Sight hounds are known for it. When fully relaxed, they sleep on their backs with legs up in the air, possibly dreaming of surprising the Psychotic cat. Who knows? But I suspect he probably has his best dreams when in his pyjamas.