Questions I can’t answer often awaken me during the night. Trying to resume sleep while thinking about such matters can be frustrating. Here’s an example: Sometimes I wonder if a dog would be embarrassed to be described as catatonic.
The research department at Joiner’s Corner says the word catatonic evolved from an unconventional treatment for anxiety in the early part of the 20th century. The concept literally fell into the lap of a professor who taught psychiatry at a prestigious institution in Alabama.
He maintained that certain patients could benefit from feline therapy. “Prescribe for them a cat,” he implored his young charges. “The comfort of a cat in one’s lap is often better than a tonic.” An astute sophomore reportedly wrote “cat – a tonic” in his study notes, then shared his clever memory trick with several cute freshman girls. They took it from there.
Our research team is admittedly understaffed, poorly funded, and has a questionable commitment to accuracy. Their explanation of catatonic’s origin, however, seems highly creditable.
This particular nighttime pondering refers only to English speaking dogs and perhaps should include those with a background in Latin. Reputable studies have documented dogs’ ability to understand up to 250 words. Whether that’s factual I don’t know. It may be the work of another research group also having a stellar reputation of unreliability.
It’s a challenge for me to accept the possibility of such an expansive canine vocabulary because of Dude the Barking Dog. He only responds to a few short sentences such as, “Suppertime,” or, “Come and get it.” He seems to have no concept of, “You better stop that barking!” or “Don’t you make me come out there again!”
Dude’s night persona is a monster who has no vocal restraints. It wouldn’t be quite as bad if he’d change his tune a little and give it some variety. Instead, he barks for hours in one of his two patterns. It’s either, “Ruff, ruff,” or “Ruff, ruff, ruff.” The triple-ruff routine is initially a little more palatable than the double-ruff, but they are equally annoying after thirty minutes.
Lately he’s added a strange moan in which he seems to be imitating a train whistle or siren from an emergency vehicle. He’s not ready for prime-time television, but we’re considering hiring an agent. The soulful wails sound like he’s dying. I went outside to check on him the first time, thinking he must be in pain. He smiled and asked for a treat but was instead admonished with a strongly delivered, “Bad dog, bad dog, bad, bad dog!” He looked so sad, however, I gave him a gravy flavored chew strip which smelled so good I ate a slice of beef jerky before returning to bed.
Daytime is a different matter. Dude sleeps most of the day and will only go for short walks. After circling the house, he’s eager for a big can of scrumptious stew to supplement the unlimited crunchies in his silver-plated bowl. We began spoiling Dude when the vet thought our canine buddy was headed for doggie heaven. Once you go down that road it’s hard to turn around. Dude has figured us out, I guess.
After a recent night of incessant barking, I’d had all I could take. Early the next morning I went into Dude’s sleeping quarters and barked as loudly as I could before reading him the riot act. I didn’t realize how well my voice projects from our carport until Fletcher, a young fellow who lives about three football fields away, came to see if everything was okay.
Apparently, Dude knows my bark is worse than my bite. He slightly opened one eye and appeared disinterested. “It hurts me to say this Dude, but I’m going to be honest with you. You’re a terror at night but by day you’re catatonic.” His jaw dropped open and I thought he was about to offer an apology. Then he yawned, turned his head toward the wall, and drifted back off to sleep.
I’ve put a poster by his bed that says, “Quiet Please. Catatonic Dog at Rest.” It’s a subtle way of reminding him we don’t approve of his behavior. I don’t know how other dogs might feel about being called catatonic, but I can say with confidence Dude is not easily embarrassed.
If he continues with his nighttime antics, I’m considering a new approach to get some relief. My idea is to hang a big sign above my hammock and hope the nice lady who mows our grass will honor my request. “Quiet please. Catatonic Man at Rest.”