It was a dark and stormy night… That’s how Snoopy started (and I think ended) all of the stories he tried belting out of his typewriter. Last night, that’s just how my story began and it didn’t end until this dark and stormy morning. It was 11:38 PM the first time she alarmed me awake with her wails. I was only able to semi-soothe her by rubbing her soft, fuzzy head. Since I can’t figure out how to swaddle her properly, I gave her a dose of Benadryl which Dr. Canine recommended for these “episodes.”
Five hours later, it was a darker and stormier night – I mean morning – and my girl Italia was losing a grip again. When a second round of thunder shook our house like a cup of Yahtzee dice, our ten-year-old golden-years-retriever leapt into our bed and pounced on my head. Italia pierced the slumbering silence with her storm phobia cries and erratic movements. She circled our bed like a track star, a dog chasing her own feathery tail. After my husband got a mouthful of said tail, I took her out of our bedroom to try to console her and let one of us sleep.
Today’s episode lasted a laundry load on the quick cycle, twenty-eight minutes. Yes, if I’m going to be up at that early, why not squeeze in a chore? I spied a basketful of dirty clothes and threw them in the washer while Italia stood up against the washing machine as if she would dive right in. I know enclosed spaces give her some relief, like when she wedges herself behind the toilet or jumps in the bathtub (a place she usually detests), but I have never seen her eye up the washing machine like that before.
Since I couldn’t sedate her again, we had to ride out the storm together. We went downstairs to the family room where she jumped all over our leather furniture then into my lap, then back to the couch, into my lap, onto the recliner, lap, floor, lap, couch, lap… She’s far from a lapdog and isn’t allowed on the furniture, but a 106 pound furry frantic Frogger is hard to tame.
Just when I thought the storm abated and my leather was safe from her unmanicured nails, she started nervously tap dancing on the couch. Grand Finale: Thundercrack! Lightning flash! Sammy Davis Jr. in the house – Tap-tap-tap, sit, turn around, bark, tap-tap-tap, leap down, jump back up, howl, tap-tap-tap! This routine might actually have been cute if she were performing (on the floor) without terror in those big brown eyes.
She needed my full attention, so I got down on the floor and pulled her into a tight hug, feeling helpless as she shivered, yelped, and panted through her full-blown panic attack.
Thankfully, Mother Nature intervened. She’s gotta be the queen of dog lovers, right? Beep-beep-beep! Was that Mother Nature chiming in? Beep-beep-beep! Could it be? Could it really be her? Beep-beep-beep! Was that her waving a sun spritzing wand over our storm cloud? Nah. It was just the laundry sensor reminding my sleep deprived self to put the clothes in the dryer. But right after that, all echoes and rumblings of thunder halted.
Phew! Italia fell fast asleep on my lap. She was heavy, but I didn’t dare disturb her and was comforted by the peaceful rhythm of her snores. Ripples of raindrops gently cracked the house like a long round of applause for the sleeping pooch.
I used to love a good thunderstorm until Italia started freaking out over them just a year ago. Before then, she showed no signs of being a storm dog. Perhaps her double-digit age has made her hypersensitive.
Last spring, I bought her a calming coat for dogs, but I’ve yet to master how to put it on properly. She and I both get stressed trying to fit it on her, but after this morning’s intense and prolonged anxiety, I will try to figure it out again. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Send me your own tips on how to calm the canine on a dark and stormy night.