Linus’ head is in the clouds, literally. Between his snappy new collar and the diffuser plugged into the wall, he’s engulfed 24-7 in a haze of soothing Mommy pheromones.
We practiced with the Mommy collar almost daily for weeks. Finally today, Linus felt comfortable enough to poke his snout, then his eyes (none of the usual suspicious glint), then his powerful jaw through the loop, which I tightened as Linus very daintily took the slice of cheese I held just out of reach on the other side.
Then Chris and I high-fived.
Then I read the Mommy collar directions.
Then realized we’d high-fived prematurely.
This Mommy collar is actually made of gray plastic, by ADAPTIL. Once on, it apparently releases soothing Mommy pheromones into the skin on Linus’ neck. We didn’t tighten the collar enough, and it’s riding loosely on Linus’ neck, over his coat – a coat whose texture brings to mind childhood, camping, my Dad’s coarse old army blankets. Impenetrable. Comforting.
Initially, as with the crate, Linus cut his eyes at the Mommy collar and trotted around it, giving it as wide a berth as possible. This went on for days, and we surmised that his before-us people probably used a shock collar on him. Indeed, during our Behaviorist visit we’d heard that as many as 90 percent of dogs in Michigan have probably been electrically shocked at one time or another in the name of training.
Linus wouldn’t even come close enough to grab a treat if we sat both the collar and the treat together on the floor. So, we started by rewarding him with a treat from one hand for merely sniffing the collar, held in the other hand. Eventually, we put the treat and the coiled collar on the floor, and then in my hand. It took some coaxing to get him near it, and when he began looking anxious, we stopped.
Now, it’s around his neck, and pumping out Mommy love (it’s heat-activated, we’ve stored it in the fridge so it doesn’t run dry as it only lasts about a month) but it’s not touching his skin.
However, we’ve done the heavy lifting; now we just need to adjust the fit. He’s no longer afraid, and that’s the real victory. We’ll let you know how the collar works.
Important lessons we’ve learned:
- Read the directions first.
- You get more bees with honey than vinegar. Or, more accurately, you collar more dogs with bits of cheese and turkey and ham and copious praise and petting, than with force or electricity.
The Mommy collar is only one small part of Linus’ behavior modification plan, as recommended by Behaviorist. I’ve come to think of her as our dog’s therapist, the same way I think of my therapist as, well, my therapist.
On this steamy weekend of cookouts, horseshoes, beaches and family – summer’s last soiree before the school buses trundle out into the Tuesday morning mist and suddenly it’s fall – on this Labor Day I wish my therapist had a Mommy collar for me. Adjustable to fit. Some researcher should invent one; I suspect you’d have to line up the Brink’s trucks to haul off the profits.
Mom’s funeral flowers are still in our guest room. Even after six months, the room smells cloying and sweet, foreign in the way a hospital room smells foreign no matter how much time you’ve spent there. The lingering scent of these flowers doesn’t remind me of her. Mom didn’t wear perfume. She wore Jergens. Anyway, my plan was to take the petals from these flowers and bake them into beads, then make necklaces and bracelets and earrings for all the women who knew and loved her.
That’s the plan anyway.
I’d also planned to write thank you cards. That hasn’t happened yet, either.
One other important lesson:
- Things happen in their own way and time. Grief lightens, trust forms or disintegrates, relationships morph into something better, or different, or they too disintegrate. Scars heal, or blend into the surrounding flesh, or harden around the sharpness that caused the hurt in the first place. Memories like metal bars eventually soften into daisy chains, worn voluntarily because they bring a smile. Life doesn’t conveniently adjust to fit our coping skills.
So, I should stop worrying about invisibles since it doesn’t do one whit of good.
That’s the plan, anyway.