There are dogs that rip up the sofa cushions or chew the furniture when a thunderstorm hits, dogs that stand in the middle of the room and howl until the noise ends, dogs that tremble and quiver, no matter how much stroking they receive. A Penn State University study found that trying to cuddle and soothe a dog suffering from thunderstorm anxiety doesn’t help much. http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2006/0601-help_for_thunderphobic_dogs.htm
What they really want their humans to do is make the booming stop. The thing about being a dog is that you don’t have to wonder whether a divine power exists. Your gods are right there with you, performing small miracles every day. They can make food appear without the necessity of catching and killing it. When darkness falls, they turn on little suns in every room. They have caves on wheels that take you to far places, farther than a dog could run in a day, or a week.
But even when a dog is hiding under the bed, pleading for the awful noise to go away, her gods don’t turn it off. That must be confusing to a dog. Is it possible the gods actually like the roar and rumble? Or are they not so powerful, after all, if they can’t make thunder go away?
Thunder scares Greta . She doesn’t destroy furniture or howl without stopping until the storm moves on, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t frightened. Her ears go flat against her head. Her proud tail sinks between her legs. She trembles, and no amount of reassurance on my part makes it easier for her. She refuses to go outside, even when the thunder is distant and I have calculated that we could finish our evening walk and be back before the storm hits. She’s not buying.
Greta waits out storms in her own cave, the long, narrow interior bathroom with no windows. There is a skylight, but the bathroom is the closest thing to a cave the house has to offer. She lies on the cool tile floor of her cave, starting at each roaring clash of clouds, occasionally trembling, until the storm passes.
I’ve tried to tell her it’s the lightning we should be worried about, not the noise. She does not see the logic of my view, apparently because she not affected by electromagnetic radiation produced by lightning strikes, as some dogs are reported to be. http://www.petmd.com/blogs/dailyvet/2009/June/09
I can see her, born into another time: a big, rangy red dog, her six-year-old body scarred by clashes within the pack. It’s a hot summer day in, say, 1670. The pack killed a deer last night, ate and then slept through most of the day. Afternoon, on the horizon, dark clouds emerge. The clouds grow, adding, until they form a towering mass, white against the sun. As the mass approaches the area where the pack has been sleeping, the sky darkens and far away, lightning flashes. Faint rumbles alert the pack. Dogs stand up, ears forward, listening.
Greta begins to whimper as the sound grows. Would she abandon her puppies in the face of a storm? Probably. She fed them some regurgitated venison from the prior night’s kill, but they are still too young to keep up with a terrified, racing pack of dogs. Now, Greta is frightened. The noise of the thunder grows louder. The whole pack is stirring, edging, milling.
At last the leader begins to run and the others follow, racing away from the noise. Greta runs near the front of the pack. She is lean and strong and built for speed. The dogs run on and on, pursued by the thunder. Some stumble; some lag. Greta does not.
More than two hours after they began running, the leader halts. Thunder recedes in the distance. Dogs stand, flanks heaving. They will find water and get some rest before moving on.
(c) 2011 by Donna Engle