One of Charlie’s remaining quirks is a continued profound fascination with, and sometimes irrational fear of, reflections and other shiny or sparkly things.
One of the ways this manifests is in his unswerving conviction that his reflection is some kind of unspeakably evil thing.
Early this morning I was having a cup of coffee and catching up on a bit of reading when Charlie caught sight of an evil thing in the glass front of the fireplace.
Charlie was transfixed by his reflection. He went stiff-legged and bug-eyed. He piloerected from the front of his forehead to the tip of his half-raised tail. He started growling softly but quickly escalated to an eerily accurate imitation of the demon Pazuzu.
I looked down at Audie, who was lying at my feet. Audie met my gaze with the kind of deep look that conveys an entire conversation. He got up, trotted across the room and picked up Charlie’s favorite stuffed toy. He carried it over to his irrational, ranting buddy and playbowed. Charlie woke from his trance, went soft, wagged his tail at Audie and the two of them moved away to play tug games together.
Audie (whose play was rooted more from of a sense of duty than real enthusiasm) quickly tired of the game and returned to his spot at my feet. Unfortunately once he was no longer distracted by the game, it didn’t take Charlie long to discover that the unspeakable evil had returned to the fireplace and he continued his tirade.
Audie and I had another silent conversation and, being a dog with a strong sense of duty, he trotted over to the horrid little dog at fireplace again. Eschewing the toy, this time Audie put on his best bendy, prancy, head-rolling, come-hither body language and successfully flirted Charlie’s attention away from the abomination in the window.
The ploy worked and the boys wrestled a bit. They got distracted by a squirrel on the deck and Audie laid at my feet again.
And once Charlie’s attention was free to roam on its own - it made a bee-line for the same ugly, obsessive place.
I could tell Audie had moved from dutiful to annoyed because this time he didn’t even look at me. He just got up, snatched a dirty sock off the floor, marched over the fireplace and stepped between Charlie and the object of his obsession in a coldly calculating way. Audie blocked the fireplace and stared at Charlie in obvious contempt until Charlie quit ululating and averted his gaze. Audie returned to my feet, spat out the sock and sighed in a distinctly annoyed way – but instead of relaxing he remained alert.
In the mean time Charlie had hopped up onto the couch to sulk. He averted his gaze from Audie’s direction (and mine) and fixed it on a blank spot on the wall, apparently trying to stare a hole through it. He remained like this, hunkered down, ears pinned back, glaring at the epic unfairness of it all until the sound of the UPS truck broke his rumination.
All the dogs ran to the door, but we’ve worked on this. They barked a bit, then sat quietly and attentively near the door while the driver dropped off two boxes and three dog treats before he rang the bell and walked away. They were antsy, but stayed generally sitting until I picked up the boxes – and the treats – and rewarded their good behavior.
The three dogs drifted around me for a while in a soft, curving, happy mass. Glad to be together, pleased to have been given an unexpected treat and proud to have earned it. Sadly, the serenity didn’t last long. And when the joy of the moment had passed, each of the dogs wandered off to pursue his own interests. Unfortunately Charlie’s interest went immediately back to staring down his demon.
Audie had settled on one of the dog beds to work on a bone. He tried to ignore the shrieking abomination across the room, he really did. But the utter wrongness of it could not be denied. And it could not be allowed to continue.
Audie dropped the bone, narrowed his eyes, laid back his ears and darted across the room. He’d given up on asking Charlie to agree to stop his annoying, unbalanced behavior. He would make it happen.
Audie delivered a swift muzzle punch to Charlie’s left flank. The impact threw Charlie off balance and instantly pulled his attention away from the monster in the fireplace. He spun around and yelped more, I think, in surprise than in pain. He took one look at Audie’s intensely annoyed expression and dropped to grovel softly – and quietly – at his feet. Audie stalked around Charlie to block him once more from the fireplace and Charlie got up and slunk away to the kitchen.
Audie stood claiming the fireplace until he was sure Charlie wasn’t going to return. Then he resumed his preferred position at my feet.
A while after Charlie banished himself to the kitchen to process events I took the dogs outside for a break. Charlie and Audie romped together as if nothing had happened. Charlie didn’t express any fear or mistrust of Audie. And Audie showed no trace of resentment or unwarranted bossiness toward Charlie. (And Zip was as haughty and aloof as she’s ever been.)
Life in my dogs’ world went on much as it always has with only one notable exception. This happened more than seven hours ago – and Charlie hasn’t so much as looked at the fireplace since.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere…