Our dog is mentally ill. Crazy. Insane. Without his faculties. Nuttier than a fruitcake. Truly and undeniably insane.
This is not to make light of mental illness. Some of my best friends are mentally ill. Many more are on the verge. I teeter close to the edge myself from time-to-time.
But canine insanity is another matter altogether. And, I fear it raises the question of born or bred? My own view is that Snickerdoodle Doke was crazy from the start. He’s a golden doodle named by his human sister because his coloring could not be more snickerdoodle in appearance if he had cinnamon and sugar sprinkled up and down his coat. I’m now starting to think he did, and that some of it seeped into his ears and attacked his brain.
Let’s Blame the Breeders
Snicker came into the world in rather unfortunate circumstances, entering our lives at 4 months after his breeder died and her family was not quite sure what to do with this last, unclaimed pup. Since the owners also were mentally ill, they chained him to a tree outside during the first four months of his life. He lived outside through storms that came flying at him from the Oklahoma sky, something would induce some serious instability in man or beast. As the tree to which he chained became his closest friend, he began to eat bark, twigs that fell from the branches above and dirt. He had a particularly insatiable appetite for bark, twigs and dirt when he came to live with us.
We call him a rescue dog — although he also is a designer dog, so it cost about $1,000 for the privilege of rescuing his mentally ill self from the neglect of people who clearly were clueless, and quite likely mentally ill.
Bark, Snicker, Bark…But Leave the Trees Alone
Snicker was always quite a novelty and a source of great entertainment at cocktail hour on the deck of our home. Friends would delight at his flying leaps from the top step to the ground, where he would make a bee-line for his favorite tree, from which a ring of bark was missing precisely at the height he could comfortably gnaw away on it. He would typically finish his bark entree with a few gobs of dirt and a twig or two, I suppose as some sort of dessert.
Since we had no trees, twigs or bark inside the house, he took to paper and socks. The good news is he didn’t chew up shoes or furniture or anything that might suggest he was a normal dog. But, he loved paper. We would hide everything, and when we left the house, he would open my wife’s desk drawer and pull out a couple of envelopes for a quick nibble. I suspect he is the only dog on record to down a complete roll of paper towels. But, among his more noteworthy indoor snacks were our socks. Not everyone’s socks. Mine got spared for the most part, but socks previously attached to female adolescent feet are, I suppose, some sort of delicacy for mentally ill dogs.
We frankly lost track of the number of socks that he eliminated at the end of his digestive process, if you catch my drift, not to mention the rather large amounts of paper that came out the same way. These strange eating rituals led to many anxious trips to the vet, long multi-day stays while they waited, hoping that whatever was wrapped around his intestine would manage to free itself of its own accord. They kept Snicker alive — no doubt thinking, but not telling us, “this dog is seriously mentally ill.”
The Latency of Canine Insanity
In time, Snicker lost his taste for bark, twigs, dirt, paper and socks and took up a diet that vaguely resembled normal dog food. But latent insanity clearly lurked in his brain, waiting to fully develop into the certified six-year-old nut-case who now again ravages our home and yard for the inedible delights of paper, dirt and bark. When he goes out to the yard to decompost himself, we have to watch carefully because our stack of firewood is like a candy store and the potted plants, and especially the dirt in which they are planted, are simply irresistable.
Clearly, this unusual diet doesn’t work terribly well in all those portions of Snicker’s body south of his brain. Just this week we spent another two days, including an overnight in-patient stay, with the vet. We now have paid for the entire vet practice to have Olympic sized pools in their backyards. The aggregate bills could most certainly have paid for the beach house we want on the Big Island.
Finally this week, my wife had a serious heart-to-heart with the vet who admitted that Snicker’s issues were not physical. We have a mentally ill dog.
We are treating his mental illness using the paper, sticks, bark and dirt deprivation method, which means barricading him in the kitchen whenever we leave the house. He makes such irritating noises at night and produces such offensive wafts of gas that are not at all unlike the noxious odors that come from a pulp mill, so we have banished him from his comfortable down bed in our bedroom. He repays us the favor by barking from his kitchen jail compound, giving me the opportunity to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday that had sleeping late written all over it. I unbarricaded him and he just sat there looking at me, as if saying, “What? What? What’s your problem?” MY PROBLEM! “You are a mentally ill dog. That’s my problem.”
The trouble with mental illness in dogs, unlike humans, is that it is contagious. I feel my own fragile sanity slowly slipping away.
My wife suggests it’s not that slow.