Sunday, December 11, 2011

“The Cone of Shame”

         Bridget and Koi chase each other through the house, whipping around corners, clawing against the carpet for traction, rolling in a tumble of black sleekness and white puff over the foot of the bed. This represents their last bout of energy for the evening before they’ll vie for the mound of pillows and blankets tossed into the floor of the master bedroom.
         I know Bridget divides time into three categories: Before Koi, Before Grammy, and Now. In her past life, she enjoyed the indulgences of “Only Dog” status. Although she still had the two cats around, they rarely deigned to acknowledge her presence. Occasionally Padme would swat and hiss at a playful Bridget, but most of the time they lived happily ignoring each other.
When Koi came along, Bridget allowed him to snip at her. Her poor ears looked tattered for a little while. I expressed concern to our vet over the little bites she endured, and he responded, “When she knows Koi is old enough, she won’t let him get away with this nipping.” And, sure enough, one day Koi’s teeth lodged into Bridget’s leg, and she snarled with full ferocity, sending him tumbling head over heels. His approach with her after that incident showed more respect and caution.
When my mother joined our household last year, Bridget’s life changed even more dramatically. Her daily walks to the park ended. Occasionally David or I may manage to take her onto the back trails, but most of the time she’s housebound. I realized this week just how these changes in our lives have stressed Bridget. Normally a pretty laid back and eager dog, she now parks herself by the front window and barks at anything or anyone that passes.
A couple of months ago, Briget clipped her leg on a rock outside. She licked at the injury with neurotic fanaticism until I wrapped the sore. Then her focus shifted onto beating the bandage. It didn’t matter what kind of covering I devised for her leg, she’d manage to get it off before the end of the day. Eventually, the wound hardened and started to mend. A week ago, she injured her other leg by gashing it against one of the rocks out back that line my gardens. This time, she ripped through the bandages in record time and licked the entire area into a hot spot. Not wanting a repeat of her last injury, I researched some home remedies for hot spots.
My research led to several reasons dogs lick and chew at areas of their skin:   allergies (which Bridget has), infections (which she doesn’t have), mites/fleas (none), and behavioral issues. It troubled me that perhaps Bridget needs a little TLC. I’ve placed her in a “cone of shame” to prevent her from licking at her legs. Of course, every time I scratch her ears for her or rub her tummy, I tell her she looks pretty. When I apply cloths soaked in black tea to her leg, I shower her with attention. I bought a soothing lotion specifically for hot spots and dote on her as she lets me massage the ointment into her skin. More importantly, I know I must find the time in my day to take her on her walks again. Today’s rain ruled that out, but tomorrow I’ll take her along the roads near the park if the trails are wet. Otherwise, I think I should be the one to don the cone of shame.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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