I once read that it’s physically impossible to sneeze with your eyes open. This meant, of course, that I would spend much of my foolish young life trying to do it.
Ok. It was last year.
I actually came close once, but because my eyes left their sockets, the attempt didn’t count and thus was considered invalid, or so said the experts.
I wondered. Maybe dogs can do it. After all, they do sneeze. I realized that to document such an occurrence in my own dogs, I would first have to prove the existence of eyes. This is such a closely guarded secret in my breed (even from the owners) that I gave up.
If ever there was a dog that could have sneezed with her eyes open, however, it would have been “mean old Jessica,” the same dog of whom I wrote in my last article on crate car safety. “Mean old Jessica,” so named because she lived to insult anything with a pulse or Chlorophyll, was so loathe to miss out on one minute of her life that for her to close her eyes even to sleep, let alone sneeze, would have been out of character for her.
“Jessica,” a Cairn terrier, was fond of very few things in life outside of her own company, but she did seem amenable to visiting my sister’s house. Though my sister was never a nervous person, she was, for some reason, vulnerable to the ways of a terrier mind. “Jessica” made high art of getting under my sister’s skin and I realize now that for this dog, visits to my sister’s house was sport.
During mealtimes, Jessica situated herself underneath the dinner table staring intently at my sister as she ate. Since the tabletop was made of thick glass that magnified everything under it, it wasn’t long before my sister wilted under a pair of dark eyes fixated on her, each the size of hubcaps. Otherwise quiet meals at my sister’s home would be punctuated by the woman erupting out of her chair and tearing out of the room, sobbing that she couldn’t take it any more. We were initially baffled by why my sister had acted as if she’d been poked with a red-hot tire iron when the only thing near her was an innocent Cairn terrier. The dog acted as bewildered as the rest of us, and would calmly stroll away from the table – humming. Once I realized what was happening, I watched this interaction at future meals with fascination. Glassy black terrier eyes penetrated my sister’s skull and never once did they blink. Not through the salad, not through the main course, not even through dessert.
Perhaps the only thing that Jessica loved more than tormenting my sister was to terrorize strangers from the back seat of the car I drove in those days. Quick runs to the grocery store were the highlight of this dog’s life as they provided the challenge of thinking quickly on how best to startle people into a coronary with the least amount of effort. Once I left the car, she would hop to the back seat and lie down in wait. Her keen hearing, but mostly an unerring sixth sense, alerted her to a shopper approaching our car. Once they were within range, Jessica would hit the window with the velocity of a bullet, barking and snarling as if she were a 150-pound Wolverine. The more groceries I found scattered around my car, the greater her victory. I’m sorry to say that she found the elderly particularly vulnerable. It wasn’t that her barking startled them since many were hard of hearing. It was when they caught sight of a mouth chomping at the window, several rows of teeth opening and shutting in frenzied anticipation that caused them to throw bags of produce and personal hygiene products into the air.
“Jessica” nearly got her come-uppance when she choked on a bit of rawhide that she had chewed down to a nub. I first noticed her odd behavior when she failed to abuse our neighbor, the owner of three immense Maine Coon Cats, each the size of a Jersey cow. Jessica despised these cats with every fiber of her being, and when she failed to swear at them in terrier, I knew something was wrong. When I asked if she was all right and she didn’t tell ME to go to hell, I knew things were serious. In fact, she couldn’t breathe. Despite what she would regard as a personal affront, I put Jessica on my lap, put my fist under her last rib, and thrust upwards, performing a canine Heimlich maneuver. Son of a gun, it worked. The rawhide flew out of her mouth, ricocheted off a wall and hit my neighbor in the forehead with impressive force. The impact left the words, “Hartz Mountain” imbedded in her skin, and when I saw Jessica notice this, I knew she thought it was worth the scare.
I had grown up with Cairn Terriers all my life, but it had always been my ambition to own a Puli. When quite suddenly, I found a Puli breeder with a litter on the ground, “Makos,” my first Puli, came into our lives.
I loved Jessica, and in her own way, she loved me, but the addition of another dog was more than she was willing to endure. We gamely tried to make a go of it, and perhaps if I’d had more experience under my belt, we might have made a success of it. In the end, life had become miserable for everyone. Jessica routinely made a play for the new dog’s jugular, and neither new dog or old was happy.
It was Jessica who determined how things would end. During a visit to someone else’s house, Jessica refused to leave when it was time to go home. Try as I might, I could not persuade her to leave the house, get in the car, and head back. We had no choice but to leave her where she was until the next day. One day morphed into a week, and before any of us realized it, Jessica herself had found a new home.
I was bereft. I had failed the new dog, and betrayed the old one. They couldn’t live together, but for them to live apart was, for me, a complete failure on my part. What did I know. I was an utter novice about dogs. I knew how to love them, feed them, and keep them safe, but I knew nothing about dog hierarchy, relationship dynamics, calming signals – none of it. We learn.
Lest you feel sorry for Jessica, know that she spent the remainder of her days with the one person who gave her purpose and a life worth living.