To groan, or not to groan . . .


These are anxiety-ridden times, to say the least. Every day, we hear the COVID numbers go up higher and higher, and we wonder when the pandemic will end. It seems the whole world has finally joined BLM to decry racism and demand its removal from a just and socially aware America. And we lost yet another iconic New Orleans figure: Blaine Kern, the man who almost single-handedly imprinted Mardi Gras on our hearts. But we are all trying to figure it out, trying to adjust to all the news that blankets our world.

My dog Beau has been source of relief for me, even if it's mostly his idiosyncrasies. He's a funny guy who is sweet and loyal; he just has some quirks. I named him Beaujolais because of his rich color and because from day one, I knew he had substance, character. This has proven to be true. He is half German Shepherd and half God knows what; he's as smart as any dog (smarter than me, a trainer has said). If he doesn't get his way, he plops down like a petulant teen. There are no teens in the house, and I have not modeled this behavior, so I know this is all his doing, this is just who he is.

He likes to groan, a lot. His distinctive sound and action is to drop down on the floor and let out a long, deep groan noting his disapproval, his disappointment, or his desire. And he groans about the strangest things, like a late night phone call that awakens him from his pre-bedtime nap. "Who could be calling during this hour?" he seems to ask. He groans in his sleep, or rather his half sleep. He hates being inconvenienced or irritated, and voices his concern with a groan. My favorite groan (if there is one) is when it's apparent he's not invited on whatever trip I'm taking (to the grocery store, for example). He absolutely hates being left at home. If he's really angry about it, he'll push the bathroom door open and rummage through the trash, or even worse, get into my bedroom and do the same. But mostly, his groan is a statement of disapproval. It sounds as though he's lived a long and difficult life and he's expressing his troubles. Of course he has not - he is barely three years old.

He's got some awfully good qualities, but he can be sneaky and insubordinate as well. My next door neighbor witnessed him casing the fence, deciding when he might jump over and hang out with her dog. "It was like a deployment he was planning," the neighbor said. First of all, he chose his location - behind the garage, out of my sight - then he walked around the garage several times, making sure the coast was clear before he jumped into her yard. I should note that I had most likely asked Beau to remain outside for a little sun and exercise. He took it to another level. Sometimes he'll voice his frustration by maneuvering through my potted plants and pulling one or two to the middle of the yard. He's very sure of what he wants and does not want.

On a recent visit, my baby sister asked, "How do you know he wants a towel?" after she noticed him lying peacefully on the floor, on a towel. Well, I answered, there's the look he gives me. It doesn't matter if he's come in from traipsing around in rain puddles, his paws wet, a mist of water on his back, he waits to get toweled off. But he's still a little damp, so he stands there, like, "could ya please put down a towel so I don't have to lie down and possibly wet the carpet?" So I oblige (he now has a set of towels that he knows are his), and he lies down, stretches out all four and quickly falls to sleep. His worries are then over. Is he just that kind of considerate? It could be that he likes his comfort all over the house, and he can't get me to move his bed from room to room.

Of course, he dislikes the usual things, like postal carriers, but overall, it takes him a while with people and scents he does not know; they get hassled (barked at) and prodded like he's searching for contraband. He's a fierce protector, but he's also a sweetheart, what you want in a dog. He can be temperamental, guarding the house like it's his treasure, at times like a maniac. This thing with smelling everyone constantly, even me, is a chore. If I step outside to get the mail or water the plants or go for groceries, his nose is all over me like I'm a foreigner trying to enter the house. TSA is less harsh!

But all is well; two minutes later, he's got his head on my lap, waiting for me to sooth his brow. Again, like he's got all kinds of troubles in his life. In the end, though, he's the one who is soothing my anxieties because I find myself groaning as well. Beau reminds me to lighten up. Yes, he seems to say, these are tough times we are slugging through, but we gotta find a way to live free and laugh, be thankful, love our families and friends, and to care for and about everyone else. My feeling is I should be thanking God for Beau, my little friend who is getting me through these times.


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