Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dog Tales: The Pet Psychic

I had hoped that William would be my GED--go everywhere dog. I wanted him with me in the car when I ran errands and did shopping. I imagined the two of us traveling the country together, like John Steinbeck and his poodle Charley. But William had other ideas.

There was the unfortunate shopping trip when, at our second stop, William pushed his way out of the car and wouldn't get back in. There was the disastrous road trip when, at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, exactly midway between home and our destination, William refused to get back in the car after a walk.

The start of any journey involved a half hour of wheedling, coaxing, commanding, and nudging, so after a while, I avoided all car trips except the essential ones: to the vet and to the groomer for a bath. That practice, of course, only exacerbated the problem, because the car now meant going someplace William didn't want to go. To remedy this, I came up with a plan I hoped would get William to associate the car with something good. Every evening, we would drive out to Wendy's where, at the drive-thru, I would order chicken nuggets off the dollar menu. Then I'd drive around until the nuggets were cool enough for William to eat, find a pleasant place to park, and then feed the nuggets to William. I did this for a month or more but never achieved the goal of getting William to leap eagerly into the car in anticipation of a special treat.

After William and I had been together for a few years, I learned from someone at a cocktail party about a pet psychic in the Berkshires who did her work over the telephone. Perfect. I figured if I could understand why William didn't like cars, I could cope with it better, and over the phone meant we didn't have to drive anywhere in the car. I set up an appointment on the psychic's website, emailed her a picture of William (as required), and called in at the appointed hour for our session.  

According to the psychic, the cause of William's car problem was twofold: he associated cars with getting lost from his first humans, and he got a little carsick--not nausea, but anxiety about being stuck in an enclosed space (something I could relate to, since I feel the same way in planes). She predicted that time would mollify the first problem; for the second, she recommended Rescue Remedy. 

At the end of the session, the psychic said to me, "William keeps telling me that he's a good dog and doesn't need obedience training. Why is he saying that?" I told her I didn't know. I was lenient--lax. We were obedience school dropouts. But when the call was over, the reason occurred to me.

A young German shepherd named Cupcake, who lived across the street, had just returned from doggy boot camp. She'd been pretty out of control, and her humans had sent her away to be trained. Just before our session with the psychic, William and I saw Cupcake for the first time since she'd come home. She was in her fenced yard outside her house, and instead of barking aggressively at the first sight of William, the way she used to, she slunk away and cowered when we approached. Clearly, William wanted to make sure he didn't get sent to the place where Cupcake had been.    


  1. How awful for Cupcake. Did she ever recover?

  2. Well, Deb, after a few weeks, Cupcake lapsed into her old behavior patterns, and in the end, her humans gave up and sent her back to the breeder or wherever she'd come from. I don't know what happened to her after that.