Thunder Dog

Never let them see the whites of your eyes.
Never let them see the whites of your eyes.
Never let them see the whites of your eyes.

“There is a reason for everything a dog does. In his opinion, these reasons are valid whether we, the owners, think so or not.” (How to Live with a Neurotic Dog by Stephen Baker with illustrations by Fred Hillard)

To Eddie’s mind, it is perfectly reasonable to refuse to visit the neighborhood park where we happened to be as a severe thunderstorm approached a few days ago. By his logic, more ear-splitting thunder might commence at any moment along our customary route to the park, hence his new compulsion to crouch, tail tucked, legs locked and trembling, even when the suns shines brightly over this particular stretch of sidewalk. No amount of pleading, cajoling or high-value treating can persuade him that the path between our house and the park is safe to travel.

Poor Eddie probably can’t fathom why I don’t realize that lightning is bound to strike twice; by his reckoning, it will happen exactly where we last experienced it. He probably thinks he’s protecting us both from imminent danger and is equally frustrated with me for stubbornly ignoring precedent. It’s maddening that I can’t make him understand that the sky is not about to fall, yet I can hardly fault him when I recall how, in the raw weeks following 9/11, I froze and looked up anxiously every time I heard a plane fly overhead; a decade later, I still associate a “severe clear” blue sky with the tragic events of September 11.

Googling around with the words “thunder” and “dog,” I discovered Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. Michael Hingson, the blind man in the book’s title, was in his office on the 78th floor of the North Tower on 9/11 when the first plane struck a dozen floors above. His guide dog Roselle, a yellow Lab, somehow remained calm amidst the chaos, and led Michael down 1,463 steps to safety. Roselle’s courage that day is all the more amazing when Hingson explains that she had always been terrified of thunder. Ironically, Michael had gotten out of bed to comfort Roselle when a thunderstorm rumbled through their New Jersey neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning of September 11. So maybe there is hope for Eddie, after all.

Roselle was named an American Hero Dog by the Humane Society in 2011. She passed away earlier the same year.


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