The official website of Noelle Richman, the baby formerly known as Tuffy

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dog Psychology 101 (or, "Hello, Matisse. How Are We Doing Today?")

Jen's mom left yesterday afternoon after 2 1/2 weeks of diaper changing, cooking, laundering, playing fetch with Ooja, helping us figure out what to do and, most importantly, holding Noe for hours every day. We are incredibly grateful for her help. It's difficult for me to imagine those first days on our own.

Dori was actually a bit choked up when she left and made a quick exit without actually saying goodbye to Ooja, who was in the backyard.

So when Ooja didn't eat her dinner last night--in 5 years, I can't recall a single instance of Ooja leaving a bowl of kibble uneaten--I assumed it was because she was mad at grandma for not giving her a proper belly rub before departing.

But I think Jen hit upon the real reason. Ooja wasn't upset about Dori leaving. She was upset that Dori forgot to take Noe with her.

Since their arrival was more-or-less simultaneous a couple of weeks ago, I suspect Ooja had always assumed that eventually things would return to their normal, familiar, comfortable state: just the 3 of us with no grandma and no baby. Obviously, that ain't the case.

Dogs--at least our dog--seem to thrive on consistency. Ooja eats the same food every day. She gravitates toward the same spots in the house--behind the ficus, next to the bed, in the big, brown chair--over and over. She likes her daily walks. She expects Jen to be on the sofa eating a bowl of cereal when we return from our morning walk, and she instinctively runs straight there as soon as we come through the door. So change doesn't come easy.

I don't know whether Ooja didn't eat because she was experiencing gastric distress at learning that Noe is here to stay or because she was staging a hunger strike to protest this new reality. (As with Saddam, it's difficult to imagine the hunger strike lasting too long or producing any visible effects.)

But Ooja will adjust. Dogs are like some people, I think. They don't always like change, but they learn to deal with it. And in a couple of months, the new routine will seem just that--a routine--and the old one will be forgotten. And until then, we'll just have to continue making sure that Noe doesn't get all of our attention.


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