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A Tint of Trauma

Sunday 10/23/2005 11:07 PM

The other day, I was in the kitchen making a grilled ham and cheese sandwich when a little piece of ham fell on the floor. Incredibly enough, Sheriff's food-centric spidey sense didn't go off and I decided to let Argus have a treat. He was lying on the dining room floor next to Candy, who was enjoying the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup I had made for her a few minutes prior.

I knew Sheriff would come running at the first hint of food, treat, attention or even simple acknowledgement, so I pursed my lips together and made sharp but quiet "pfft" sound to get Argus's attention. He ignored me the first and second times, but by the third, he was standing next to the dining room table looking at me curiously. I was standing between the refrigerator and kitchen counter trying to lure him into the three-counter cul-de-sac where the little piece of ham was awaiting his discovery.

He may know how to sit, but it looks like no one has ever used hand commands with him. Heck, even Chaunce deciphered the simple gesture of "come here" without too much trouble. After waving at him a few times and quietly calling him (hoping Sheriff wouldn't hear), though, I gave up and took the two steps I needed to reach him and I grabbed his collar.

That's when something weird happened.

Over the last few weeks, I've used his collar to move him about a few times in order to get him where I needed and he has never fought me, but this time he stiffened his legs and stood his ground so I couldn't move him. Not thinking anything of it, I re-doubled my efforts to tug him off his inertia so I could lead him into the kitchen to where the small piece of ham still lay, but he suddenly went about half dead weight on me and dug into the ground.

Candy was looking at us by then and I shot her a shrug. Her expression told me she was confused too. I stared at Argus in disblief for a moment and said quietly, "C'mon, Argus. Don't you want a treat?" and I pulled again, but to no avail. Aggravated now, and convinced he'd be fine once I got him going, I pulled him about about a foot across the floor, but he wouldn't give.

It was then that I saw his legs trembling and realized he was scared not stubborn. I backed off immediately and kneeled on the floor next to him. With his eyes were wide but not dilated, he was a hodge-podge of mixed signals. His eyes were big, but his ears were up. His back legs were trembling, but his tail was on a slow wag. His front legs were stiff and angled against our forward motion, but his face seemed attentive and curious.

Candy got up and came over to him and we both loved on him for a second to reassure him. Then I asked him, "You want a treat, Argus?" His eyes lit up as we heard from down the hall the furious clawing of toenails on linoleum as Sheriff scrambled to his feet in the bathroom. Knowing we only had moment before the old dog was upon us looking for his indulgence, I gently pulled on Argus's collar again, but still he wouldn't budge.

Sheriff was in the dining room now and he was looking back and forth frantically between Candy and I like he hadn't been fed in a week. I asked her to get him a treat in the back and, once she started heading that way with the black and tan in tow, I picked up Argus and carried him to the kitchen to the waiting scrap of ham on the floor. I felt his tail curl down across my arm wrapped around his back legs and after the couple of steps around the counter, I set him on the floor. He just stood there frozen and I could hear Sheriff scarfing down his treat in the back of the house. I pointed at the piece of ham and Argus did nothing while I could hear Sheriff coming toward us to see what Argus what getting. The second time I pointed to the ham and called Argus by name, he saw it and lowered his nose to sniff it. He finally realized there was food on the floor and he reached for it with his mouth and gobbled it up just as Sheriff came around the corner to see what extravagant culinary delight Argus was getting that he wasn't.

After that, we spent the next 20 minutes trying to figure out what it was that upset Argus. He's already been disciplined once for getting in the trash, so I thought it might be the trashcan. But when I moved it to another part of the house, it didn't seem to make him nervous. We thought it might be the narrow space between the end of the counter and the refigerator, but there are other similarily narrow spots in the house that don't seem to bother him.

Candy and I talked about it some more and we finally decided that it must be the cul-de-sac itself — that he must not like feeling cornered. I would think if this was the case, we would have seen this behavior manifest itself in some other way by now in the car, in the bathroom, or in the corner of a room.

So for the moment, we have a theory, but we're still not sure what's going on with the black and brown. It seems clear, though, that we've finally seen the first hint of his past.

And in other news, it is my buddy Mark's birthday. Happy Birthday, Mark!

File Under: Argus; Birthday; Borrow, Mark
Music: George Michael "Patience"

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