Esme, the senior collie in my house, has been my partner through eleven years of chasing and rounding up little boys. Years ago, she assessed the task in front of her-help Gale to keep wandering toddlers in tidy groups and children on wheels off the road-and got to work. She always keeps an eye on where I am, what I am doing, what I am saying, and springs to action if needed.
The Phoebe Chronicles
Later that night, Dr. Davis called. The staff neurologist had examined Phoebe and felt there were four possible diagnoses: Coonhound Paralysis, Botulism, Tick Paralysis, or Myasthenia Gravis. Dr. Davis gave me an update on Phoebe's condition. The paralysis had extended as far as her face. Now she couldn't even blink.
While Phoebe couldn't come along, I spent a happy five days last month visiting with her family, the Genabacab clan of collies: mother Quiz, grandmother Kiwi, littermate Tilly, and assorted aunts and great-uncles. We all gathered in the Cotswolds, UK, the second weekend of October for Kay Laurence's Clicker Conference and Challenge.
I've been fairly relaxed about letting Phoebe play at the park with any dog who comes along, confident in her ability to assess and respond appropriately. If she is able to tell another dog to back off, so much the better. I can bird watch and daydream while Phoebe manages the canine situation. Lately, however, her communication with a dog here and there, always some unknown, over-enthusiastic teenager, moves swiftly from merely a raised lip to raised hackles, fierce snarls, and bared-teeth snaps. "Dammit, you dope," I imagine her saying, "don't you speak DOG?!"
Last month, my family and I took our annual week on Martha's Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. We rent a barebones cottage and spend all day, every day at the beach. Our favorite stretch of shore has a big sign at the gate that says No Dogs, just above the sign that says No Nude Bathing. Both rules are enthusiastically ignored. Phoebe immediately made friends, human and canine, up and down the beach for a half-mile. Soon our daily arrival was greeted with calls of "Phoebe! Here, Phoebe!" from other families already settled under their umbrellas.