What IS That?!


Gwynn looks at the world through alien eyes.

Everything is new and shiny and intriguing, but at the same time, it is terrifying and unknown.  Things he knows in one place are deeply disturbing elsewhere.

In the living room, the TV sits, on or off, completely uninteresting.  The only interaction he has with it is knowledge that its turn-off-noise generally means someone is about to do something other than be boring on a couch.  Though it isn’t guaranteed, and it isn’t the only time that someone does something other than sit on the couch.

A different but similar television sits, forlorn, kicked to the curb, and it is baffling and devious and terrifying.  What is it?  What does it want?  Maybe we should just circle very wide around it and avoid dealing with the mystery that it represents.

it lurks on the verge, waiting for its opportunity to pounce!

On a morning walk, I stray from the path to walk out to the Gazebo on the point – a gift to Gwynn, the opportunity to sniff to his heart’s delight in a less-often-visited place.  A dangerous and mysterious and terrifying electrical box sitting innocuously on a section of the Gazebo fence-wall.  Twenty minutes, many scuttles, and quite a few loud barks later, having circled the outside and inside of the gazebo numerous times, he is willing, tentatively, to go up and sniff this diabolically innocent-seeming mystery box.

A car bumper somehow finds its way down the creek and up onto the path along the creek valley.  This deeply alien creature, so unlike its attached-to-all-cars compatriots, simply boggles the mind.  It is weird and unnatural and ought to be barked at as furiously as possible.

Gravity is trying to draw me away from the floor! (pic here)

My first dog-trainer brought one of her dogs to our class one day.  He was completely fine walking on the asphalt outside, the grass, the sidewalk, the tile floor.  He looked into the depths of the shiny wooden gymnasium floors, and the floors glared back, an evil glint in their scuffed surfaces.  This well-trained, well-adjusted pooch transformed into the cartoon cat clutching the ceiling, s though the floor was going to let go of him if he didn’t stick close to it, as his owner led him calmly and patiently step-by-crouching-step out onto the floor.  He relaxed and resumed his normal standing elevation, only to remember the terror when asked simply to continue this walking-on-doom-floors routine on the other side of the room as well.

Lets not forget garden gnomes – diabolical potentially-alive creatures lurking amongst the shrubberies and blades of grass.  They’re tiny, they’ve got eyes, and they are among us. 

I play the “What’s this?!” game with him.  My neighbours might think I’m a bit strange, spending 5 minutes circling the big paper bag of leaves they left out, enthusiastically tapping it and exclaiming “What’s this?!” in a tone of voice I would otherwise reserve for free strawberry rhubarb pie or a 20 dollar bill on the ground.  It works, though.

At least he balances his paranoia out with a good dose of child-like wonder.  Every snowfall is a magical, glorious experience, to be thoroughly snuffled through, and every yogurt-covered spoon I let him ‘clean off’ is lip-smackingly delicious and the best thing ever.

What every-day objects have your pets found deeply disturbing?  What do you do to get them to relax?

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16 Comments

  1. Lots of dogs are weird about kinds of floors they haven’t encountered before. I don’t know what it is. When we first started showing Thunder he would jump over the tape that they used to secure the mats around the ring. Made it tough to show the judge his movement. 😉

    Gwynn sounds a lot like how Storm used to be on walks (and still is at times…she will bark at a kid’s toy left on a lawn because it wasn’t there the last time we walked by). As she got older, she got over it mostly.

    • My friend’s dog won’t cross the little metal band that separates carpet from hardwood… luckily she’s a toy poodle, so lifting her over it wasn’t too difficult for them. I can imagine what he would have looked like, jumping over the tape and completely screwing up his lovely gait.
      I think dogs just see things as a bit more ‘fixed’ than they are – “Why is that toy there? Is it dangerous? it could be – it wasn’t there before! change is bad!”. When I first got him, fire hydrants were the big terror of the walk. I think that maybe as they get older, they have more experiences to draw from (ie, “oh, yeah, sometimes toys are on the lawn when there weren’t toys before… old news!”), so they stop reacting like the world is going to end when something is radically different.

  2. Both Alma and Moses take serious exception to Christmas lawn decorations. Specifically, the inflatable ones. They must be simultaneously avoided (by taking a wide berth) and alerted to (by barking).

  3. hahaha, that’s funny 😀 You know a lot ore about what Gwynn goes batshit over than I, so I will only mention his woof games is sometimes similar to his reactions to new things… BARK!?! RUN AROUND IT BARKING EXCITEDLY! IT”S NEW PLAYPLAYPLAY

    • true! only when he’s reacting to strange and unusual (but completely normal and common-place) things, his tail is tucked while doing basically that.

  4. I am laughing because my toddler is EXACTLY the same way. The vaccuum is some sort of toe eating devil, and you better believe vegetables look to him like poison!

    • Hah, he and Gwynn could hide in the other room, maybe peer around the corner on occasion to confirm it isn’t coming towards them, while the vacuuming goes on 🙂

  5. Been there 100 times over. You have my deepest sympathy. Garden gnomes were Shiva’s worst nightmare for months. She hated anything that looked like it might be a person but wasn’t. One of the houses on our street has a Dalmatian dog statue and getting her to walk past without totally flipping out was impossible.

    Heck, rocks would scare her back then. Even if she’d walked by that same rock twenty times before. Now, now it’s the worst thing ever and must be killed.

    But, there is hope. Now she loves new, random objects. She sees them as sources of food and joy. I can’t keep her away from evil rocks and terrifying statues as she can’t wait to see what she has to do around them to get a treat. You are doing everything right and Gwynn will eventually grow more confident. If Shiva can do it, he can too.

    • There’s a dog statue in my neighborhood that makes ME jump every time we walk past it, lol. It’s funny that dogs recognize the appearance of human enough to know something’s off about gnomes.

  6. My cat, Beeby, seems to be disturbed by the wood floor, the bathroom rug, just about everything is causing her to pee in agitation lately. SIgh.

    This reminds me of a documentary I saw on how babies learn fear. They needed to crawl across a floor of clear plexiglass over a big hole to get to their moms on the other side. Each hesitated at the hole and looked at mom. If she had a big smile, they crawled right over it. If she had her hands on her cheeks, open-mouthed in a look of terror, they froze and started to cry. Fascinating.

    • OH NO! peeing, ew. That would be frustrating. Gwynn just barks, or circles things.
      I saw something similar (or possibly just one small section of the same program, lol), in which they had parents hold out something to the baby (a toy or something), and then accidentally drop it out of reach, or very purposely move it out of reach. The babies could tell when they were being meanly-denied vs ‘oops, i dropped it’, and only cried when the parents withheld a toy with a malicious atitude. Fascinating the things babies pick up from the people around them. And dogs, too, I’d imagine.

  7. Isn’t it strange the things that pop out in the middle of nowhere. The last few years we’ve traveled from Southern CA to Oregon and last year we made it up to Canada. We took the same route and some same highways…and lo and behold…a random TOILET sitting in a field next to the highway was still there the past 3 years. I want to do a story about…how did it come to be and why was it still there. This random piece of land looked unowned/empty…yet it was manicured. So, it’s someone’s property!

    Sandi
    http://www.ahhsome.wordpress.com
    Lake Forest, CA USA

    • super duper classy toilet-plant-pot? lol, that would be an odd sight, especially if the lawn is taken care of. Otherwise, i’d think, ‘hey, someone dumped that, and no-one owns the land, so it just sits there.

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