Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fear of Frying

Our dog Jake has a fear of frying. No, he's not afraid of heat (actually, he loves lying in the hot sun on the stone sidewalk). But rather, he's afraid of the sound of sizzling from a pan on the stove. I'll give you a little Jake history shortly, but first, here's a couple of disclaimers: Don't worry about getting out the tissues. At the time of this writing, the Jakester is alive and well. Let's face it. He's probably the healthiest dog around. Furthermore, let it be known that we have never hit, kicked, burned, abandoned, or otherwise inflicted any manner of cruelty on this dog.

We're not sure what breeds combined to sire this fine mix, but when we found him at the kennel as an 8 week old pup, his tag listed him as a lab/shepherd. I believe that was simply to make him more appealing to the general population and therefore more adoptable. Once we got to know him, however, we found not a molecule of lab or shepherd in this crazy mutt. He's white with brown and black spots. He's tall and skinny. He hates the water. He loves to run, leap, and chase. He does not drool. Did I say he loves to chase? And he always smells wonderful - like a new puppy. His attitude (and attention span) is terrier and hound from the end of his wet, black nose to the tip of his whippet tail. My dad says he's part goat. What other animal could reduce an aluminum soda can into a pile of metal filings without injury or stomach upset? Or, scratch and gnaw a door frame down to the studs, nails poking through and a heap of wood kindling on the floor?

These incidents should have been a sign. There is this problem. Jake's sensitive, the vet says, and anxious. Afraid we will abandon him (no way!) and never return (we ALWAYS return, doesn't he know that by now?). He's tried to scratch his way out of the kitchen to find us, and has broken all four canine teeth in the process. He's chewed a door frame down to the stud, exposing nails and leaving splinters of wood in a pile. Was he hearing ghosts? Was it a sound in a pitch undetectable to the human ear? We see the immediate change in demeanor when a perceived threat is in his space. He cowers, tail between his legs, and slowly creeps to the nearest door, or hides under a table, or tries to climb onto your lap to get away from whatever it is. Threats include the sound of sizzling. Or a buzzing fly (he's afraid of the flyswatter). Or from a clip binder (it's the snapping sound). And now, for his own safety, for the comfort of our guests, and for our peace of mind, he may no longer be left alone in the house. Either he goes with us for a ride (oh boy--RIDE!) or is locked-down in an undisclosed location. Sometimes he goes to Paws & Whiskers Boarding Kennel, where he is showered with love and exercised three times a day. Or he gets a mid-week indulgence: A visit to doggy-day-care at a horse farm, and a chance to play all day in the mud, and just be a dog with a dozen or so of his kind.

Anxieties aside, he is one gentle companion who is always on his best behavior for guests. Tail wagging, he greets new arrivals with a run onto the porch, and a charge back into the house to find his favorite toy, often a mangled stuffed animal or a joint compound bucket lid, rough from gnawing. While we are making breakfast, he whines at the door until we let him into the dining room where he waits patiently and expectantly for his new friends, always hopeful for a handout. He's even garnered a few personal notes in the guest book.

Jake turns 11 years old next month, but he's still as spry and playful as a puppy. During a game of Kong-Frisbee (a toy advertised as indestructible but Jake managed to chew a hole in it), he runs with abandon, leaps and stretches for the prize, his ears extended like wings and all four paws are off the ground. Our neighbor's little boy laughed until he fell over when he saw this stunt for the first time. Oh, the joy of a happy dog, doing what he loves the most. Running. Chasing. Leaping. He's not afraid to fly. What style! What technique! Fly, Jakey, fly!


  1. Poor, poor Jakey. Life's tough for a nervous little fellow...

    And it's amazing what they can chew (and digest) isn't it?

  2. Is he seriously 11 years old? I thought he was still a young thing! He's got so much energy.

  3. What a great description of Jake! He is so lucky to have you two. A lot of folks would just have him committed to the dog asylum.