I want to begin this posting by expressing my thanks. Thanks for the stream of messages of condolence, by email, on Facebook and on Twitter. My friend and colleague Charles Adler forwarded messages he’s received. I’m grateful for the genuine and heartfelt expressions of sympathy. They help. A lot.
It’s night two for me without my wonderful wife in our home and with her presence very much reflected on each floor and in each corner. It was Lyana who turned a house into a home. It’s also night two for our dogs without her. Rocky, so named because whenever he trees a squirrel he hops on a specific porch bench and executes a noisy whirling dance. The canine version of Rocky Balboa’s triumphant speed wobble in Philadelphia in the original Rocky movie. Our Rocky is no doubt the only Bichon so-named. He’s not a bad scrapper though, particularly when matched against Sunny, or as Lyana formally dubbed him as a 10 week old pup, ”Sunshine.” Sunny is a Yorkshire terrier. Terriers, according to Dr. Stanley Coren, my friend and world renowned authority on dogs, as well as Professor Emeritus of psychology at UBC, are “born to bark.” In fact, Born to Bark is one of Stan’s best-selling books and details a 13 year war between a terrier who was simultaneously Stan’s best pal and Stan’s wife’s constant opponent.
Sunny truly is born to bark. He yips his displeasure at anything which enters his sightlines most days and sometimes the subject of his high pitched disaffection is Rocky. Rocky, not shy to exercise his vocal chords, lets it go 9 times of out 10. When Sunny though steps over Rocky’s line on the lawn, Rocky puts his 15 pounds up against Sunny’s six and, well, Sunny has yet to win one of those.
Tonight both dogs are silent. They’ve been that way, with one exception, since I came home from the hospital with Lyana’s clothing yesterday morning. Sunny, he was my wife’s shadow, stood on his hind paws, sniffed the bag which I’d placed on a low table, and let out a howl which startled Rocky and frankly, me too. Since that moment both dogs have been, with the one exception, soundless. When I came home mid-morning after running a few early errands I couldn’t take them on, I expected the usual cacophony at the door. Not a yip.
I’ve taken them out to play ball, something they absolutely love and while they did bark, the usual excitement level wasn’t there and then they did something I’ve not seen before. They both quit. Long before I would have expected them to be ready to stop the game, Sunny (he beats Rocky to the ball 95% of the time) retrieved, then dropped the ball, headed for the front door and sat down. Rocky who would normally leap on the trophy Sunny dropped, quietly followed his much smaller pal.
Since they’ve been in the house the two have eaten a little of their dinner but now are lying in the dog beds my wife bought and which usually go totally unoccupied.
“Hey guys…..” receives no response.
Lyana has been away from home as a hospital in-patient not infrequently over the past year-plus and the dogs adjusted quickly, always looking for her return, but being themselves nevertheless.
Not this time. Not yesterday and today.
Dogs “feel things” is the common denominator explanation I’ve received. This is different. I think these dogs are mourning, or at least sad. I believe Rocky and Sunny instinctively know it’s very different this time.
Are they picking up a vibe from me? Maybe. But enough of a vibe that their entire and generally totally predictable behaviour pattern has changed?
I have no answers and frankly, I wasn’t sure what I would write about in this space today. I’m so very sorry for the loss of life in Nepal. I know Mike Duffy’s trial continues. I’ve seen the headlines about Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer, but at the moment the loss of my wife is filling my horizon entirely.
Except for my two little buddies here. What could explain their complete switch in behaviour?
I wasn’t going to write about my wife’s death, although there is something gnawing at me and which I’ll address when I return to the show (my employers at Corus radio have very supportively told me to take as much time as I wish and need before coming back).
Then it just struck me. The only sound in the house is that of my fingers hitting the keyboard of my laptop.
The dogs are completely silent and virtually immobile. I’ve been trying to keep their world as predictable as possible.