Quirks and idiotsyncrasies

"Every dog is in certain respects like all other dogs, like some other dogs, and like no other dog."

- Adapted from Brian R. Little's Me, Myself and Us: who in turn adapted from Clyde Kluckhohn's and Henry A. Murray's Personality in Nature, Society and Culture.

Notley's quirk

One of Notley's quirks: since puppyhood, she has sported the one ear up, one ear down look.

 I almost named my most recent puppy Quirk. I decided not to, because I found it listed on a popular pet name website. Maybe Quirk is trendy because it refers to what we love in our pets: that unique trait or peculiar habit that makes them "like no other dog."

All the dogs I walk are quirky in their own way. Jasper, for example, takes to heart propaganda, promoted by everyone from the Huff Post to the OECD, that families must sit down and eat together. Jasper refuses to eat unless his humans are eating. If they've already eaten, his humans sit at the dining table and mime eating, for Jasper's benefit.  it's human-canine quirk collusion.

Another dog, Einstein, likes to bark at the next door neighbour's dog. Makes sense, except the dog moved away three years ago. Einstein still stands barking at the fence, exactly opposite where the neighbour dog used to sit. Since Einstein's people cling to psychological baggage of their own, maybe Einstein can't let go until they do.

Beckett, one of my most charming clients, has canine dissociative identity disorder. (There's no doggy DSM, so I've invented one. I make up labels, just like the psychiatrists do for humans). Beckett is a low key dog, bordering on lethargic, but once or twice a day he has squealing sorority-sister episodes. For about thirty seconds he is possessed by agitated joy; then the switch flips, and lazy boy is back in his body.

Beckett: squealy and lazy

Beckett, in squealy boy and lazy boy modes, respectively

Sometimes the quirks are more like annoying habits, or idiotsyncrasies. Hazel deliberately tosses balls under bookcases and other places she can't reach, then barks incessantly for her humans to "fetch."  My mother's dog, Burton, tenderly coddles his pheasant toy for weeks, and then suddenly rips its stuffing out. We think it's symbolic filicide; my mother is disturbingly empathetic.

Sometimes quirks are body-based. Raska wags her tail in 360 degree rotations, like a helicopter signalling lift-off. Harvey bum-scoots across a freshly made bed, leaving understated shit trails in his wake. Georgie licks her genitalia so enthusiastically that she loses her balance and falls off the bed (she is part of a lesbian household...).

Harvey about to bum scoot across the bed

Harvey, about to do his 'bum scoot on the bed' number.

My own dogs, Foo and McCracken, call for constant referral to my dog DSM. Foo Fighter has OCD, which shows up, naturally, when walking -- karma for my choice of profession. She always follows the same routes, and will leap into traffic to cross to her preferred sidewalks. Also, she stays several feet ahead of the pack and pretends we don't exist. I've seen a number of twelve year old neighbourhood girls do the same thing, so I don't take it too personally.

McCracken's weird habit is to trot into my room, lick every one of my exposed body parts, and then retreat to a room of his own: Mr. Lick 'em and Leave 'em. And, like everyone in my human family, Mack Crack  holds firm, if unfounded, opinions, and is fervently for or against any person or dog he meets. Needless to say, we work closely with a trainer.

Kit, a past client, deserves special mention. Kit is the most lively standard poodle on the planet (Poodle people: I know, I know -- it's unimaginable that there is any poodle more active than yours).  When a favourite human comes through her front door, Kit literally bounces off her kitchen wall, and if she's really happy to see you, she also pees all over the floor. Kit is well-exercised and well-trained, but given her intelligence, energy and love, she should be organizing a revolution. 

The Poodles, United, Will Never Be Defeated. Every dog walker knows that.


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