A post should appear each Sunday!
Sunday March 6th 2022
Yes, that’s right. I give in.
Over the last week, Isis’s mealtime behaviour becomes more and more extreme.
The crunch comes one evening, when she gives me a preview of what is to follow.
As soon as I walk into the kitchen to prepare her food, she sits close to the kitchen door, and begins a growly prelude. Then she emits a loud volley of barks, leaps into the hall, spins fast and furiously before twirling her way into the kitchen, and leaping up and down snapping and snarling at the empty food stand. After several minutes of ear-splitting shrieks, in a flurry of nipped off hair and angry barking, she returns to her original position.
I am stunned.
She is well past responding to any attempts at calming her, so I leave the scene, go into the front room, sit down and try to make sense of what my strange little dog is doing.
It’s as though she’s presenting a dress rehearsal of the scenario she has come to expect. Before she has even been given her food, she is enacting what will happen: what I have taught her will happen.
I finally accept that my once successful approach is no longer working.
A decision has to be made. Do I continue picking up her food, and walking away? On more than one occasion this week, I have done this four times before she has eaten quietly. It’s a wearying process:
1. prepare meal
2. unscrew clamp which holds drinking bowl in place
3. remove drinking bowl so that she doesn’t slosh water all over the floor
4. put water bowl in a place where she can’t jump in it
5. give her the ‘come into the kitchen’ sign
6. direct her to sit
7. switch off the kitchen light so that it doesn’t trouble her
8. double tap her under the chin to indicate ‘eat’
9. depart from kitchen cautiously so that she’s not disturbed
10. wait in the dark in the room next door, ready to shoot back in and remove her food bowl as soon as she barks, and prepare to repeat the process a number of times until she eats without defending her food
What will she do, I wonder, if once I’ve given the ‘eat it’ signal, I leave her to get on with it, if I ignore the battle cries?
The next morning I do just that. She barks twice over her breakfast, then crunches steadily until she’s finished. No spinning, no snapping, no tail nipping, no spillage.
Dog’s tea time is similar. So is the next morning’s breakfast.
What a relief.
On Wednesday evening, when I leave her and go to sit in the front room, there’s not a sound. I can’t even hear her crunching.
After a few minutes, she comes to join me. But she doesn’t come over to my chair to check in. That’s unheard of. She curls up on the rug and closes her eyes. She looks very dejected. There’s something wrong here.
I get up to check her bowl. She pads down the hall after me.
I peer into the kitchen. To my surprise, she’s not touched her food. That’s very odd.
Is she feeling ill?
She squeezes past me, positions herself in her dining area, and sits up very straight. She tilts her head up towards the ceiling, as she always does when she’s waiting to eat.
What on earth’s the matter with her?
Then the answer suddenly hits me. I forgot to give her the ‘eat it’ signal. But she’s always a hearty eater. Surely she would eat anyway, signal or no signal.
Just to test my theory, I give her the signal.
Immediately, she begins to eat.
Obviously, I conclude, while it’s O.K. for a dog to carry on like a hound from hell while dining, it’s just not done to begin one’s meal before being given permission.