Friday, July 29, 2011

Seasonal Anxieties

It's summertime in Iowa.

One of the things I love most about the Midwest is that all of the seasons are beautiful and so distinctly different.  Winter brings crystals of frost clinging to the trees, spring brings budding flowers and the magic of the world waking up again after a long dormancy.  Fall, being my favorite and the favorite of just about every other woman on Earth, brings the crunch of leaves underfoot and just enough of a crisp chill in the air to cuddle under a blanket and snuggle close to the ones I love.

But summer is a little different.  Aside from the freedom of time-crunching schedules, I find myself feeling oppressed by the stifling heat and humidity.  The hot sun beats down on the ground, causing the grass to turn brown and the only things that seems to thrive are the weeds.  And what was once a dramatic and exciting feature of summer, the thunderstorms, are now an ever-present concern.  I used to stand outside and watch the storm clouds as they would roll in over the farmland; the unpredictability of nature intriguing and humbling.  But with two little souls in my home that I have vowed to protect, I find myself constantly nervous about what each and every storm will bring.  When thunder and lightening wake me up in the night I lie awake, willing away a tornado and replaying in my mind how I will gather my boys from their respective rooms and get them to safety.

But as anxious as I get and as much concern as I have, it will never compare to the cowering, whining puddle of fear that is my dog, Oscar.  I've told you all about him before, with his neediness and unique ability to ruin any sentimental or otherwise significant moment by canoodling with the cat.  Oscar has another side, however, and that other side is completely phobic of thunderstorms.

After a 2-3 week stretch of little to no rain, we've had a handful of somewhat severe storms that have downed trees and dumped several inches of rain on the already saturated ground.  Each and every time, at the first darkening of the sky and before the first grumble of thunder, his tail tucks between his legs and he begins circling under my feet.  God forbid I should choose to walk anywhere, as the dog must stay within a 2" radius of me at all times.  I'm looking into a restraining order.

On Wednesday morning, we all awoke to a dark and gloomy day with such intense humidity that it was physically difficult to breathe.  The potential for storms was high, and within only a couple of hours the thunder began and Oscar found his place at my feet.  The boys were finishing up breakfast and after I'd wiped the last of the syrup dripping from the table, the power went out, spiraling Oscar into a new dimension of anxiety.

I walked to the laundry room to gather some candles as my house, although full of windows, seems to be rather dark during the day, no less during a power outage.  I lit three candles, gathered some construction paper and crayons, and sat at the table to draw with my kids.  As I drew my 2,437th train of the week, I felt something warm and wet on my feet.  Freakishly enough, this is not that unusual as that furry white canine has a bit of a foot fetish and is contanstly attempting to lick my toes.  But this was different, and as I scooted my chair back to check out what freak show was taking place under the table, I was able to watch Oscar finish emptying his bladder right there, on my feet.

"Oscar!!!  NO!  You go potty outside!"

I literally had to pull the little critter out the door and down the stairs and stand in the rain while he peed a little more in the thirsty grass.  Once finished, he beat me up the stairs and clawed at the door while the sky boomed above us.

Back inside, Cael had shredded two sheets of perfectly good construction paper, so I resorted to Play-Doh.  The boys were both begging me to go downstairs and play, but the basement was almost completely black and with my town's reputation for poor electrical stability, there was no telling how long the power would be out of service.  Graham quickly got to work making what looked like shriveled bananas with the yellow dough.  Cael made a train, or a serious of small white globs conveniently placed in a row.  After turning down the repeated suggestion that I sculpt a train, I decided to attempt a horse.  We were all happily molding while Oscar whimpered relentlessly under the table.  I'd cleaned up the urine, and the enticing scent of Resolve along with Oscar's tender melody created a magical moment by candlelight.


The dog would not be quiet.  I put him on my lap.  Still whining.  I put him on the couch.  Still whining.  I put him in laundry room and closed the door.  Barking full force.  I put him back at my feet.  Still whining and now shaking.

I tolerated his neediness as long as I could, and once I had completed my anatomically incorrect Play-Doh horse, I put the colors back in their respective cups and headed to the laundry room to put them back in the craft cabinet.  My leech followed me closely, and when I almost tripped over him while exiting the laundry room, he promptly squatted and pooped on the floor.

Question for all of you readers:  Does locking my dog outside during an electrical storm and laughing at him from inside the house constitute animal abuse?

When the power kicked back on almost an hour after the storm had passed, I promptly got on the internet and researched treatments for storm anxiety.  I'd rather not tranquilize him, as they take some time to kick in and I am not always able to predict a storm early enough in advance.  The other item we considered is known as a Thundershirt.  The shirt compresses his midsection and, through some miracle of science, calms his nerves by putting pressure on his central nervous system.  I think it might calm my nerves if I could just squeeze him really hard.  Or tie a towel around him like a cape.

Whether or not I order the Thundershirt, something has to be done.  I love the dog, but in the storm-riddled summertime, he is more of a burden than a companion.  So I have turned my focus to autumn and the promise of better days.  I am anxious for pumpkins and burning leaves, apple cider and butternut squash.

And for my dog to shut the heck up.  See ya later, summertime.


  1. Get the thundershirt. I didn't watch the 20 min infomercial for nothing. I'm really perplexed by said device and would like to see if it's magic really works.

  2. Steph- I'm going to get one and see if it helps. Although, with my luck, there won't be any more thunderstorms and I won't be able to test it out before the 45 day trial is up. And on day 46 there will be a doozy and it won't work. I'll probably get a nasty paper cut that day too.

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Leave your own "ism". Cael and Graham double-dog dare you.