‘Try, try, and try again’ is a mantra that most parents have probably taught their children. The principle behind it does not simply relate to a living being’s basic instinct to survive, but also a desire to get ahead in life. This was amply demonstrated by Maddi, our 9.5-year old Pyrenean Mountain Dog recently.
Let me give you a short background of Maddi, so that you can have a better understanding of this pugnacious dog. Maddi is a pedigree Pyrenean, but was bought by an abusive owner and then chained outside on concreted ground with two other male Pyreneans, which were all left to fend for themselves. I suppose they were once petted by their owners and shown at dog shows. Twelve months later, with marital problems breaking up the family, the dogs were shoved aside and forgotten, perhaps not out of cruelty, but certainly through a high degree of negligence that took crossed the border into abuse.
Anyhow, so here were Maddi and two other large dogs which were left outdoors without food or water in all weathers. Sometimes, they were fortunate enough to be brought inside – in which case, they were kept in a small cell-like box room, with no light, water or food. As a result, Maddi became very greedy for food; and when she first came to us, she would shove her face into each and every dustbin she could find in search of food. She is lots better now, but it has taken us about 6 years to get her (somewhat) out of that habit.
Maddi, like all dogs, has a very sensitive nose, and she can smell food from a long way off. Yesterday, I happened to leave an upstairs door open when I went downstairs to do a little work. I thought nothing of it because I did not think that Maddi would try to leg it up the stairs. She might have done it in her younger days, but now that she is lame with arthritis, I did not expect her to try climbing up the flat’s basement stairs. I was wrong.
Our dog had smelt food upstairs, and was simply biding her time when my back was turned before making her way upstairs. I was working at the computer, and Maddi was lying a few feet away from me. I could not see her, but I never suspected that she would try to make a getaway. However, the next thing I heard were resonating thumps, then a small tumble, before more thumps.
Rushing round the corner, I watched as Maddi reached the half-way point of the staircase. Her hind legs are very weak from muscle loss, and cannot support her weight unless she is on a flat surface. So what did I see? Well, our stubborn doggy was determined to reach the open door: so, with head forward and eyes eager, she tried to push off with both legs at the same time in order to jump from the lower step to the next one up.
Maddi would hop forward. That was the first thump. Then she would fall backwards onto the original step because her weakening legs could not find purchase on the higher step. This was the second thump. However, using the momentum of the movement she had first created by jumping up and then falling down, Maddi would then walk one hind leg at a time in order to reach the step she had missed before. Here were the third and fourth thumps. Our clever clogs knew how to use the physics of movement to get herself going and reaching her goal. Try, try, and try again. What a lesson from an old dog!
Of course, now I had a problem on my hands. Maddi could not walk downstairs without slipping because her legs cannot support her weight when going down steps. The only way to help her was to hold her by the collar and cajole her down what must look like an interminable stairway to an old arthritic dog. Maddi, however, solved that problem for me. She dug her nails into the carpeted floor before the top step, made herself as heavy as possible by sitting down and tensing up, and refused to move. What was I to do now?
Thankfully it was a beautiful day yesterday, and Hubby was working outside trying to repair our car exhaust. I took Maddi outdoors and left her with Hubby. Thus Maddi had a nice time sunning herself under the late Winter sun on a clear still day, in fresh clean air. At least Maddi had her reward – although it was not the food she had hoped for when she first legged her way up all those steps!
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