Gail Fisher's Dog Tracks: Homecoming with her dogs reveals their strong connection | New Hampshire
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Gail Fisher's Dog Tracks: Homecoming with her dogs reveals their strong connection

February 02. 2018 7:51PM

As I suspect has happened to quite a few readers, I slipped on the ice and took a fall. Not funny, I broke my humerus. Even less funny, I ended up in the hospital for a week. Aside from how I felt physically (miserable, needless to say), for me, the worst part of being away from home is missing my dogs.

Trying to sleep at night (not easy in a hospital), I'd try to imagine Larry, our Chinook, snuggled up next to me. It didn't work. So imagine my excitement when I got word that I was being sprung to go home.

Homecoming had to be carefully orchestrated because of my arm - and 70-pound Larry's predictable excitement. Kochi, our Sheba Inu mix, is far less demonstrative, plus his much smaller stature is easy for a one-armed person to control.

The plan was for my husband (MH) to put the dogs in the yard before they knew I was home, so I could position myself on the left side of the sofa (protecting my left arm) and MH would then let the dogs in. Things proceeded much as we expected. Larry went berserk when he saw me - vocalizing excitedly, leaping on and off the couch, trying to lick my face - the picture of boundless joy.

What surprised me was Kochi's reaction. Unlike Larry, Kochi is very self-controlled. Under normal circumstances - regular homecomings - he is clearly happy to see me, but he doesn't try to lick my face or jump up. He simply says hello and goes about his business (which generally means searching for dropped treats somewhere in the world). But on this homecoming day, Kochi, too, became very demonstrative. It almost made me cry. He, too, gave me loads of kisses - a very rare event - and while trying to avoid the whirlwind of Larry's activity, clearly craved physical contact, too.

Kochi is almost 15 years old, so he's experienced my being away from home when I'm at a seminar or on a lecture tour on many occasions, but this homecoming was different. Pondering the difference once again made me realize how tuned into us our dogs are.

Under "normal" circumstances, I'd pull the suitcase out of the closet, organize my things and pack. Then I'd say goodbye to the dogs, give them a treat and I'd be off. With repetition, the appearance of a carry-on came to mean Gail's going away for a bit. This time was different. After being pretty-much out-of-it for several days, I simply disappeared - no packing, no goodbyes, no explanation. I was just gone - off to the ER and hospital admission. What does a dog think when we disappear for days on end? We have no way to know for sure what goes on in our dogs' minds, but I think the difference in our reunion provides a big clue. My dogs were far more stressed with this absence than they ever have been before.

Since being home, the connection continues. Larry has always liked physical contact. Even as a 10-week-old puppy, he would fall asleep on the floor with his head on my foot. As I mentioned, he snuggles next to me in bed, leaving Kochi very little room at my feet. In the 24 hours I've been home, he's hardly left my side - once again staying "in touch." Kochi, too, checks in frequently, as if to remind himself that I'm still here. Could there be anything better for a person's ego than a dog's boundless joy and at your mere presence? If there is, I've yet to experience it.

Finally, if I may, I'd like to thank the wonderful staff at the Elliot Fuller Unit for their outstanding care. We are so fortunate to have outstanding health care facilities and caring staff like this.

Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog" and a dog behavior consultant, runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. To suggest a topic for this column, which appears every other Sunday, email or write c/o All Dogs Gym, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. Past columns are on her website.

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