Wednesday, July 22, 2009

we open in venice

During the early 1970s, I lived in Laredo, Texas. And I would, as Johnny Cash sang: "Walk out on the streets of Laredo."

The streets of cowboy lore did not differ much from those of the Nixonian era. Dust is dust. And they were dusty.

But no dustier than the street in front of my house in Melaque.

We have gone for weeks without a drop of rain. And this is the legendary tropical rain season.

Well, legends, like Disney dreams, do come true. And we had a visitation from a very angry rain goddess on Tuesday afternoon.

Actually, I think it was a battle of the immortals between Matlalcueitl and Thor -- with a guest cameo appearance by Calypso (not the Juan variety).

It was a ripper of a storm. The lightening forked several times right over the house. But the most spectacular were the strikes in the bay -- right off of the beach.

With the lightening that close, the thunder was immediate and loud. Destroyer shelling could not be louder.

I usually like storms, but this one touched some primordial fear. I suppose the brilliant flash of lightening through the full house might trigger some survival instinct in the amygdala. (Or, for you modernists, "the prefrontal cortex" -- but that sounds downright Kansas, doesn't it?)

And when the sturm und drang were done, you can see the result at the top of the post.

We have moved from the streets of Laredo to a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers. The Duke of Plaza-Toro (good name that) could easily have said: "I should have preferred to ride through the streets of Venice; but owing, I presume, to an unusually wet season, the streets are in such a condition that equestrian exercise is impracticable."

The Duke, of course, was merely aristocratically ignorant. But the result is the same. Our streets were wet.

Some of you have asked about Jiggs's health. He has recovered nicely from his tumor removal surgery. The stitches came out on Saturday.

But he did not handle today's storm very well.

As a young dog, he loved fireworks. If he heard them going off, he would pester me until we would go find where they were being displayed. After all, he is a gun dog.

Somewhere, age changed that. I suspect that as his hearing has failed, loud noises have become painful to his ears. Several years ago, I noticed he would almost wince when he heard loud noises.

But he has never been afraid of storms until we moved to Melaque. One difference, of course, is that we have a front row center street to the full production. He has never been exposed to lightening in any form -- and certainly not the Wagnerian percussive force of Mexican thunder.

He spent the entire storm looking for a sanctuary from the light and noise. Even my presence made no difference. I suspect he knew that I was no match for one of those thunderbolts.

When it was over, we went for a two hour walk around the neighborhood. He was Mr. Congeniality to everyone.

But when we returned to the gate, he refused to go back in the house. I had to pick him up. I suspect the place will never again seem the same to him. Perhaps, he has PSTD -- post-storm traumatic disorder.

I know it is a bit serious because he refused to eat his dinner tonight. Instead, he followed me from room to room.

I hope that by Wednesday morning, the storm will be as distant to him as Laredo is to me.


Anonymous said...

My Labrador got scared of storms as she aged, often before they arrived. There's not much you can do....

Anonymous said...

Sheila, my cat reacted the same way during July 4,'s strange, she's almost 5 yrs old and this is the first time she was big eyed and skittish during the "show". My theory is sounds near the water travel faster and farther and perhaps louder.

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- It may just be part of the insecurity that comes ith aging. I know these storms affect me more than storms up north did.

Francisco -- I think you are correct about the water. It is an acoustically-enhanced performance space.

Anonymous said...

Now that Jiggs has had some time to recover, hope he is feeling better today. Our old dog really disliked thunder and lightning and would cram himself into the tiniest space to ride out the storm. Jiggs always looks so happy in your pictures. As long as he has you by his side, I think he knows he is safe and life is good. Did the rain cool things down at all?

Christine said...

Maybe you could fix up a space--small bathroom or closet--for Jiggs that was lined with cardboard egg-crates. They make great sound baffles. Indeed, from your description, perhaps you will find yourself joining him? Wow! What a storm. (Very good description, I felt like I was there.) Christine

maria luz said...

Dog lovers, please bear with me here.

My 9 year old, 80 pound Bailey has been become more and more sensitive to thunderstorms with age, and in north central Texas that is not a good thing. We simply don't have showers, but instead, horrific storms often with large hail (even grapefruit size)with funnels dropping out of the clouds on frequent occasions. Most of the time in the spring and the fall, but even in the summer, like last night.

He will signal a storm three counties away, by jumping on the bed or sofa and panting as if hyperventilating, then pawing at my face and shoulder. "Oh Mommy, please help!" Mind you, this is a big dog, so I would hug him and tell him everything is OK all night, if necessary.

Melatonin is highly recommended by vets and breeders and it does help a lot. For a dog the size of Jiggs, or even my Bailey, 3 mg. 1 hour prior to arrival, if possible, or at the first indication he is upset and thunder is near. And, you can give him 3 mg. more an hour later. Now, he may sleep through much of it and be a bit sleepy headed for a few hours later, but it does seem to calm the fear center.

Conveniently, the tablets come in that dose. Since you are well acquainted with it, you have some idea how it works. I have used it for years, as well, for fibromyalgia/RA sleep issues.

Also, members of the esteemed Bearded Collie list of breeders and owners on Yahoo highly suggest to NOT comfort him with hugs and "poor puppy" comments, as that only reinforces the fear behavior. Many Beardies, like Bailey, are genetically very sensitive to loud noises. Instead, play with your dog and make everything business as usual. Day time, turn on the lights and music, or the TV, and make it a relaxed atmosphere and talk to him in playful tones. Drag out the toys if he still plays with them. Take him to the door or window and talk to him about the lightening and thunder - "Wow, that was loud!", cheerfully.

At night have him lay down on the floor and just totally ignore the behavior that displays fear, but show him that everything is just fine on your end, which in a hellacious storm is often easier said than done for the average human being. (I have even pretended to be snoring!)

Now at first, this was extremely, supremely difficult to execute for an old Mother Hen like me. I felt it positively cruel, but to my amazement it works!! He is getting quite used to storms. He no longer wakes me in the night on the bed pawing at my shoulder for comfort and usually remains on the floor and tries to sleep. When it gets really, really bad, he still jumps on the bed, but since I no longer cuddle him he simply lays down at the foot and lets me go back to sleep. Well, sleep as much as one can when it sounds like the demons of hell are getting after it Texas style.

All this has been accomplished in just a few storms and I would have never, ever believed it. Just try to remain calm and cool yourself while still keeping an eye on the sky that seems to be indeed falling!

They look to us for love and comfort, but like children, they learn by example.


Anonymous said...

Well, at least you weren't raving and half-naked on some heath.

But, of course, I'm guessing here, aren't I?


Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- Jiggs is doing better, but he is following me everywhere today. The rain cooled things down last night. The heat is back today.

Christine -- Unfortunately, there are no rooms in the house without windows. And the ventilation spaces allow the noise to echo throughout the house. During a storm, it is a bit like living in a cannon. And, of course, there are no such things as closets. I doubt he would appreciate being stuffed in the wardrobe. Far too CS Lewis for his doggy tastes. (There are lions in there, you know.)

Maria Luz -- Great suggestions. I have tried some of them with him. It is the lightening that causes the biggest problem. It literally lights up the whole house. It even startles me when it happens.

JH -- Lear is not to my taste during these storms. Perhaps, more Gene Kelly.

Anonymous said...

Steve, in order to write these bloggings do you have to research all of the literary references or do you just have them stored in your head to drag out at the drop of the proverbial hat? If it is the former, good for you for taking this blogging seriously and if the latter, then you are so much more highbrow than I am that we likely we would struggle with a English that Spanish I could run circles around you but that is not saying much.

My point is that I notice and appreciate the literary, highbrow references but it sure points out a giant deficit in my own education.

Jonna said...

Thanks for that melatonin tip Maria Luz, I'm going to try that. My beach dog, Hombre, who has spent most of his life around tropical storms and cohetes has developed this great fear now that he is 5 years old. His sister ignores them as usual but he gets all big eyed and scared. I may give him some melatonin on the next storm and for sure on the next holiday. I learn the best stuff on blogs.

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- All of the literary references in the blog come out of my head, but I research some -- just to be certain my memory is correct. For instance, I thought the Marx Brothers made a movie entitled: Bananas. I was thinking of Cocoanuts -- note the spelling; I would have got that wrong, but now I know. Bananas is a Woody Allen movie. Research saves me when my memory fails. But, you have identified one reason I enjoy writing this blog: it helps me keep my facts straight.

Jonna -- Maria Luz's suggestion about Melatonin is great. I use it myself -- to avoid looking my age(?). Jiggs is great at taking pills. The problem is that we get almost no warning of storms around here. I suspect you have the same problem on The Other Coast.

maria luz said...

Jonna, hope it helps your little furry one.

Steve, usually you can tell when the storm is on the way before you ever know it by the body language of the dog. They hear the thunder and sense the lightening charges long before we actually know what is happening. Panting, nudging you, pacing, any thing out of the ordinary is cause to take a look outside to see what is brewing.

Now, I have no solution for cohetes since they are often so random in occurrence in Mexico. Senor Felipe can verify that Bailey had to practically be peeled off of the apartment ceiling in Morelia centro a couple of years ago. For that matter, Felipe himself practically levitated off his chair with Bailey when the first one went off, as did we all. And off they went for no reason at all in the middle of the afternoon.

"to avoid looking my age" I can see it works for you, but I have not been so lucky!!!!


Jan said...

Poor Jiggs. I always feel so bad for Teddy (dog) and Niko (kitty) during the storms. We had horrific storms up close and personal when we lived north of PV on the beach. Our house was struck by lightning once. I'm sure you know you should unplug things before the storms..... We just lay down with Teddy and go through it with him. Our vet said the noise was causing most of the stress. Wish I had some better advice but everyone else has given you some great ideas. I am scared to death to use human stuff on pets but that's just me. I am one of the few humans who just feel weird and horrid from melatonin.

Al said...

Having slept for a year under mount 52 of a destroyer (DDG8) I can attest that shelling can be loud, even compared to nearby thunder.

Steve Cotton said...

Maria Luz -- Unfortunately, Jiggs is deaf enough that he gets no warning until the flashes begin. Several cohetes went off today, and he ignored them.

Jan -- I understnd the concern over human medication. I will try it once and watch him.

Al -- Literary license.