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Isis seems a little sorry for herself. This morning we arrive at Kings Heath Park. The sky is pale grey and she jumps enthusiastically out of the car and sets off, tail waving, along the boundary path. Suddenly, the sun pops out and shadows smack onto the path in front of her. To make matters worse, everything is moving in the strong wind. She flattens herself on the path in fear before scuttling into the undergrowth where she cowers, looking terrified.
The sun retreats again very quickly and all is a safe grey again. I pick her up and walk to the edge of the field. But she is rigid in my arms. She has been spooked and when I put her down just wants to return to the car.
At home when out in the garden she plays happily for a while. She feels safe here. But then the light keeps changing and she comes in and disappears upstairs to lie on the rug where the bed is between her and the window. I follow her up and draw the blinds. Soon after she is fast asleep on the bed.
Later on she returns to the garden but the sun is capricious today and she retreats upstairs once more.
I am watching her third sortie into her beloved garden. A happy dance around in the light rain before the wind gets up again. She barks defiantly at the tall, swaying buddleia. But it is very menacing and she returns indoors. It’s not like her to surrender her garden but it has been a very trying day.
When Isis was first introduced to the park, I assumed that her strange behaviour – sitting down, lying down, refusing to walk – was a response to the upheaval she had been through, the strangeness of everything. After a while, I deduced that she was afraid of the sun and perhaps it hurt her eyes. When I took her to Wales I was astonished that she wanted to run for ever on the sun flooded beach. What was different? Ah. No shadows on the beach.
Then we walked in the wildlife park which is almost entirely in shadow. I concluded that she liked this because it was a new place and she had not learned to be afraid there. What’s more, it is full of the scents of rabbits and other interesting mammals.
But there were other anomalies. Sometimes she would be perfectly happy walking a certain path in Kings Heath and Highbury parks, at other times she balked at approaching that same path. Sometimes she would spend an hour running in the sun on the big field. Other times she would slink along the edge of the same field pulling to go back to the car.
It has been just as difficult to grasp the optimum lighting arrangement for her at home. For a while, she seemed OK with the low energy overhead bulb in the back room, then the daylight bulb in the lamp, next the t.v. with other lighting, then the t.v. with no other lighting, or at one time the thin dusk light coming through the windows, at another time the blinds drawn to exclude it.
Her reactions to light in the house in the evenings became so extreme that I feared she was having seizures. Night after night she flew into a rage every time a bit of her touched my foot or I accidentally brushed against her. And she continuously woke from sleep snarling ferociously and biting herself. As I explained last Wednesday, I thought that I’d solved the problem recently by placing a draped clothes drier between Isis and the t.v. screen. But the rages persisted.
It was not until I saw her glance at the ceiling a nano second before she flipped, that I realised that her attention was on the moving reflections projected from the t.v. screen onto the ceiling. And these were what were distressing her.
I now believe that changes and movements of light are what she can’t tolerate, rather than any static light condition: car lights flicking across the glass in the front door, interior lights suddenly switched on, dawn light creeping through the slats of the blind, the sky lightening or darkening.
The change in her mood in the evening now that there is no t.v. is remarkable. Last night, for the first time, she kept executing rumbly, stretchy, rolls of pure contentment. Each time, her hind legs pushed against me. But no growls, no snarls, no self-attacking.
It’s worth abandoning the t.v. Shame I can’t control the weather.
Isis came from the Aeza* cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact email@example.com or www.dogwatchuk.com