Sunday Thunder

thunderI woke early to the sound of thunder this morning. It was hot enough earlier in the week to force me back to enclosed air conditioning. Friday I realized it had cooled off enough to open the windows again. I very much prefer breezes blowing through my place. The weather witches mis-predicted rain Friday and Saturday, but got it right Sunday morning.

I lay in bed sleepily thinking how much I enjoy the sound of rain and thunder. That thought was immediately followed by the realization that I needed to wake up and go close some windows!  As the rain continued, I began to wonder if the Twins game today would be rained out, but now it’s just partly cloudy, so no problem.

I thundered yesterday, but on Sundays I try to be sunny (or just partly cloudy).

scared dog 1Speaking of thunder, for you dog owners, here’s a trick for raising a dog that isn’t scared of thunder.  If you’ve known, or had, a dog that was terrified of it, you’ll both appreciate this trick and understand why it’s so useful.  I knew a dog, Molly, long ago with such fear. The poor thing would shake and hide between your legs or in some other small space.

Other than that fear, Molly was one of the better dogs I’ve known. She was a black lab who’d enjoyed constant contact with her mistress during her puppyhood.  Dogs that spend most of their time with their owners seem to turn out better.  I made a point of working at home as much as possible (to the point of getting in hot water at work) when Sam was a puppy, and she turned out pretty great.

Here’s how great Molly was: if she wanted to get on the couch, she’d walk over to the couch and then turn and look at you waiting for your permission.  Not even Sam was that gracious.

scared dog 2The trick is this: When your dog is a pup, and thunder (or anything scary you’re trying to de-scarify) happens, react like that noise was cool and awesome. Dogs (and children) look to adults for clues on how to react and behave.  If you love the thunder, they will see it as non-threatening. When thunder happened, I’d act delighted, “Hey, Sam! That was a great one, wasn’t it!”

It worked great. As an adult dog, Sam hardly reacted to even the loudest thunder. The only sign she even really noticed was that you could see her ears twitch a bit (given their hearing, I’ve always wondered what loud sounds or music is like for them… but on the other hand, they also have phenomenal noses, and they love smelling shit).

I mentioned the (god-awful) movie Ted yesterday (and I hate that I’m giving it more space here, but there’s a tie-in).  One of the “character points” is that Wahlberg’s character is terrified of thunder. A grown 35-year-old man has debilitating panic attacks due to… thunder.  Just one of many reasons the movie sucked.

waspI don’t really understand debilitating phobias. The dark, heights, small spaces, thunder, public speaking, taking tests, flying, spiders,… none of them shut me down (some of them I actually like). I don’t even seem to have that reflexive wince when seeing someone take a shot to the nards. But I will confess that I’m not big on bees and wasps (especially wasps… nasty critters, wasps). That’s related to the one phobia I do have: needles.

I used to be phobic about getting injections, but it wasn’t debilitating.  I just really hated it.  (And then I got into skydiving and realized that being afraid of a medical professional doing a routine procedure was pretty silly considering I was jumping out of “perfectly good” airplanes.  Poof, no more needle phobia. Granted, a needle does sting a bit, but I’ve hurt myself worse trying to pop a deep zit.  But at the dentist… taking one to the gums… that’s still hard!)

Dogs DecodedSpeaking of dogs, I recently watched a NOVA episode about our canine friends. Science has begun to really examine dogs, and they (the dogs, not the scientists) turn out to be even more amazing than dog owners have said all these years. Their capacity for vocabulary rivals very young humans, and they understand pointing! No other animal does; even infant humans don’t.

Their ability to recognize human facial expression is highly advanced, and it appears they use specially evolved parts of their brains when interacting with humans.

Genetics finally answered an old question: dogs—all dogs—are descended from gray wolves. Domestication with humans may go back to our earliest days. (Long-term studies in Russia demonstrated that domesticated traits can be bred into silver foxes in only handfuls of generations.)

Canis lupus familiaris

Ol’ Blue Eyes

There is no other animal so interactive and devoted to humans. They have been our companions, our guards and our hard workers.

Some scientists believe that the human advance into agriculture would not have been possible without the help of dogs.  They guarded crops,  herded sheep and goats, and defended their masters. Without them, the proverbial “life as we know it” might not exist (it would certainly be a lot emptier and less joyful).

Bravo Canis lupus familiaris!

It’s Sunday afternoon now. The Twins played (and lost badly to the Cleveland Indians). The skies are almost entirely blue, it’s a comfortable balmy 77 and there’s a gentle breeze flowing through the house (well,… condo).

The thought I’m having now is, “What the hell am I doing sitting at the computer?!”

So I’ll leave you with a little something I’ve been saving. It’s the text from the sundial donated to the University of Virginia by the Class of ’68. It’s about time. And love.

UniVirginia sundial

[click for big]

Too slow for those who wait;
Too swift for those who fear;
To long for those who grieve;
Too short for those who rejoice;
But for those who love time is
Hours fly
Flowers die
New days, new ways pass by
Love stays

I don’t quite recall how I stumbled across this, but it’s rather nice, isn’t it. You can reflect on these words while Jackson Browne plays you out:

Stay timeless, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

8 responses to “Sunday Thunder

  • heysugarsugar

    Hello my friend 🙂 I really enjoyed this post…is the second doggy pic Sam as a pup? How have the first couple of retirement weeks gone? Btw Maddie is scared of traffic and loud noises (leash training and road walking is a bit of a drama…..she is a free running in the paddock sorta pup) anyway I am going to try out your tip here..will let you know her progress. Love C. Maddie and Yogi xxx

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Hey Amiga! Liked all that talk about dogs, yes? Both pup pics are from the ‘net; Sam never looked like that, she was pretty adventurous. (There was one time as a very young pup that the refused to walk past a house where a guy with a power mower was doing his lawn. Poor thing turned the other way and was very insistent on retreat. When they’re very young, it’s not surprising behavior.) Good luck with your pups; I’m sure they’ll turn out wonderfully!

  • Alex Autin

    While I’m fairly certain ‘life as we know it’ would be different had we never domesticated dogs, you know – man’s best friend, and all that. However, from what I’ve read dogs are far more dependent on us humans then we on them, and wouldn’t do well at all without us. This leads me to appreciate cats over dogs, in an independence trumps dependance kind of way.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Sure, I’d say there can even be a mutual dependence between humans and dogs. Parts of the world still depend on sled dogs and herd dogs and guard dogs. It’s a work partnership that seems to go back a long ways! And, yeah, the whole companionship thing is nice, too.

      That independence you admire in cats is due to their being feral and not giving a shit about us (exactly why they’d do so well on their own). That does make them fascinating to watch and interact with, and many do admire them for it, but—strictly for me, just my take on things, not trying to step on anyone’s toes—it makes them impossible to love. I think they’re cool, and I like them, but I’d never own one. Honestly,… they scare me a little (due to the whole feral thing and all those sharp pointy bits).

  • reocochran

    Loved the clue about dogs being like children, they look to us for our reactions! Glad it worked! Will pass that “trick” on and a great lesson for dog owners! I also, didn’t like “Ted” but thought the Flash Gordon part funny, it triggered a few silly memories of those far fetched super heroes like in Batman with Adam West and crew…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I learned with children that, when they inevitably get a little hurt as children will when playing, if you react with huge concern or panic, they pick up on that and react. If you react like it’s no big deal, they pick up on that, too. I’ve watched it happen with other peoples’ kids. The kid stumbles, falls down, they’re startled and not sure how to react… they look at mom (or dad)… see them over-reacting… then they start crying. Of course, you have to gauge the level of hurt; serious injury is a different matter. (But even there, an appropriate level of reaction really helps keep things on an even keel.) Children—and dogs—learn how to behave from the adults around them!

      You’re right, the Flash Gordon bit was cute, but they really spoiled it (for me, anyway) with the Mark Wahlberg character’s infantile fawning over him, especially at that important dinner for his girl friend. (The massive cocaine use bit seemed tacked on, too. The whole thing was terribly cliche.)

  • reocochran

    Oh, my youngest daughter forced me to go, definitely tried to relax and laugh without turning on my buttons that usually “review” so much of life! Thanks for your many nice comments on my blog.

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