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Why My Dog Hates Me

Thursday 12/08/2005 8:34 PM

Chauncey was never crazy about getting his ears washed out, but he tolerated it pretty well. About once every 18 months or so, his ears would have a bunch of black crud in them, smell funny and/or he'd be scratching at them a lot. Seems someone may mentioned to us that setters are prone to ear infections, but I might be wrong about that. We'd take Q-Tips to his ears about every month or so, just to keep them clean, but still, after a while, we'd have to pull out the ear wash. He'd wait patiently, knowing that after he got the squishy stuff in his ears that his dad would take a couple pieces of paper towel and dry them out as good as possible. Then he'd make a beeline for the couch and start rubbing each side of his head back and forth across the once pristine black and brown striped fabric. After a few minutes of that, he'd be satisfied that he wasn't going to get anymore out and he'd settle down on the floor with a loud harrumph.

Sheriff is a little different when it comes to ear stuff. For him, even lightly squeezing his ears is grounds for the ASPCA to be called in to initiate some type of modern day Nuremberg trial for his owners. Of course, he always has a hard time making it to the phone to alert the authorities with all the whining, whimpering and generalized over reaction to even the slightest trauma his ears suffer. So he ends up suffering in a way that would almost make Mel Gibson want to make a movie about it.

Then there is Argus.

Remember when I mentioned that Argus has an ear infection? Well, let me tell ya, that dog don't like his ears messed with. He doesn't tolerate it with indignation like The Red Dog and he doesn't cry like a little girl like The Black and Tan. He fights. And, no, I don't mean resists. He does just about everything he can short of biting me or trying to disembowel me with his claws.

I could write several pages about the nightly battles we've endured, but I'll save you that by just telling you what the routine is now. We have to put some ear medicine in his right ear in the morning and that's generally not too bad. It's when we have to wash his ears out at night that I am reminded what a very strong dog I've acquired.

I just did a quick scan of my previous Argus posts and it looks like I haven't really talked about strong he is. Remember how I told you about his bad hips? Well, it's my own pet theory that since he's been that way since birth, that his upper body has become somewhat over-developed in order to compensate for his hips. You can see it when he jumps into the back of the car. Well, maybe you could see it. It depends on how much time you've spent around dogs.

After spending my entire life with them, I can tell you how most dogs jump into a car. As they approach the open door, they speed up a little bit about two full steps short of the car. They then leap into the backseat. Remember that a dog's front legs are structurally different from their hind legs. More than half a dog's weight in supported by its front legs, while the rear legs are more spring-loaded for leaping and clawing into their prey when they're in the thick of battle (like a kangaroo, but not as exteme). That's why a dog can lose a hind leg and get by pretty well. Take away a front leg, though, and you've got a dog with a remaining life of frustration and difficulty. I once met a three-legged dog named Tippy that was missing a front one. A car accident caused the amputation when the poor thing was just a stray, and one of the techs at the vet that treated him couldn't bear to see him put down. So the three-legged dog got a new home with a loving owner and was christened every so appropriately Tippy.

Getting back to our dog leaping into the car. Those spring-loaded legs propel it through the air and into the car. The front legs stick it like a gymnast coming off the uneven bars while the back legs scramble up the rest of the way in.

If you watch Sheriff jump into the back of the car, you can see how this typical routine has been disrupted by his arthritic (and I suspect somewhat atrophied) hips. First of all, he can't get a good leap to start with, so he practically never makes it onto the backseat. Second, he struggles to scramble up into the backseat, but, so far, he always manages to make it up. I help him sometimes, but he doesn't seem to like it either because my pushing/lifitng under his back hips hurts him or, more likely, he doesn't expect to be touched right then and it kind of freaks him out (see his overreaction to ear touching above).

Argus, though, is completely different when he jumps into the car. The first time he did it, I didn't even consciusly realize what I just saw. All I knew was that my brain was telling me something isn't right about how that dog jumps into the car. By the third or fourth time, I had figured it out.

Argus leaps with all four legs into the car, and, when he sticks his front legs into the seat, his back legs don't do much more than keep him up. His center of mass every-so-subtley shifts forward as his front shoulders pull the rest of him into the car. It is truly an amazing thing to see and I doubt if my friend Lou (who has never had a dog) could even notice the difference unless you showed him what to watch for.

So as a result of this learned behavior, Argus is not just a very strong dog, but he is also very front heavy (muscle weighs more than fat). I discovered just how front heavy a couple of weeks ago when I had him at the vet. There were three kittens up for a adoption that were on in display in a cage. This was a three story jobber — it kinda looked like three cages had been stacked on top of one another and then welded together. The bottom two were empty, so all three kittens (plus one lethargic, uninterested adult cat) were in the penthouse. Argus hasn't really shown much interest in cats so far, so I figured it would be safe to let him have some close-up time. Because the top high roller cage was at about my shoulder height, I had to lift Argus about three or four off the ground so he could be nose-to-nose with the little ones.

The first time I picked him up, I anticipated his weight being evenly distirbuted across his frame and lifted accordingly. Imagine my surprise when the two of us toppled over to the left as his head and shoulders pulled me down off angle. I tried again and almost got it. By the third time, I was over-exaggerating my lift to his front side and was able to get him up. I'd wager that his bulldog-like frame has about 65% of his weight on the front half, with the rest below his ribcage.

So here we are, almost 1,000 words later, and I can finally finish up with the ear cleaning story. Argus is heavy, strong dog and he's not too crazy about getting his ears cleaned. One of the tricks is to prepare his dinner. It gets him excited and makes him more approachable with the ear wash bottle (see the picture accompanying this post). The best way is to pin him in a corner or back him up against a wall, as it limits his escape routes. Candy usually tries to help, but with his strength, her tender neck and her trepidation with the bottle, she honestly isn't much help most of the time.

The thing he really hates is that I straddle his back and press my legs into his side, below his ribcage but above his hips. Once I've got a good position on him, he isn't going anywhere. I need at least four strong hands to do it right, but I usually manage with two. I grab his nose and pull it down, and then, with my other hand, I pull up the flap of his ear while holding the bottle pointing business end down and try to squeeze the stream of DermaPet MalAcetic Otic Ear/Skin Cleanser for Pets down into his ear canal.

His first reaction is always the same: An immediate bronco-like bucking of the head, directly followed by tremors and gyrations of the rest of his body as he struggles with all his considerable might to break free and get away from me. Rarely is is that I get the juice in his ear the first time. So I let go of his head and he immediately tries to kick it into third gear (bolt) only to discover he can't go anywhere because I have him pinched around the midsection with my legs. Still he tries, though, and yanks hard once or twice before I grab his head again and repeat the process. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Then it's time for the other ear. I start with the infected right just in case things get so out of hand that we can't do the other. You'd think it might be a little easier with the clean, healthy ear, but no, he has to struggle like Jacob wrestling the angel in the middle of the night. And just like that prophet of old, Argus refuses to let up.

Once we're done, I run to the kitchen for his silver bowl of dog food, all the while calling out, "Who's hungry?" Still, though, The Black and Brown always avoids me for the next hour or so, as if he'll never forgive me for man-handling him the way I did.

It's turned out to not be quite as simple as I hoped to show you that amazing punt from the FSU-VT game last weekend, but I'll have it up soon.

Draw poker has been good to me over the last month or so. I've made my first purchase with poker winnings and you, Dear Reader, shall directly benefit. I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival my Panasonic DMC-LX1K (Black) 8.4 Megapixel Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom (purchased from BuyDig), the first real digital camera I've ever owned. Once I get it , I'll be using extensively for Ye Olde Blog, so stay tuned.

File Under: Argus; Chauncey; Football, College; Football, Penn State; Panasonic DMC-LX1K Lumix Digital Camera; Poker; Sheriff
Music: Various Artists "I Dreamed of Africa"

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