Getting nowhere fast

ani poorly 031The morning started early…long before dawn… even though the night had ended late. You would think I would have done mounds of stuff by now, but not so. The rest of the morning disappeared in my son’s kitchen then I came home to a sick computer and a sick dog. The rug may have to go.

The computer was easily enough rectified; once it had done its own thing for a while and decided it could go no further, perhaps under the weight of image files it now holds, it simply sighed and gave in. Several reboots later, we came to an agreement; either it got its act together and started, or me and the sledgehammer would give it some encouragement. Miraculously bursting into life, it whirred and chittered away to itself with every semblance of grumbling while I consoled the other poorly beast.

Just like last spring at moulting time, Ani has a tiny bald patch starting on her rump. Last year there seemed nothing to be done as the bald patch spread, in spite of everything the vet and I tried. This year, however, the coat that has begun to lack its usual lustre and the poor appetite are not being allowed to get any worse. Her diet is being overhauled and supplemented; she is also, much to her disgust, banned from her habitual scratching post on the end of the sofa. And she’s back on the anti-allergy pills. These she does not object to at all as they invariably come wrapped in cheese or chicken.

She does object to being poorly though… and the guilty face gets to me every time. There are things Ani knows she must not do and, although she may be the naughtiest thing in creation much of the time, she never oversteps those golden rules learned in puppyhood. The gentle conditioning goes deep and in spite of all my hugs and reassurance, some things, like being sick on the rug, make her cower as if she has committed a cardinal sin… even though she cannot help it.

ani poorly 008It is odd, really. Ani has never been chastised for being poorly and, in fact, a firm voice is really all she has ever known by way of ‘punishment’; which may be why she has such a mind and character of her own, of course. Yet ‘that’ tone of voice is enough to send her slinking into a corner… and even just her own interpretation of events and my probable reaction will have her hiding. She won’t come for comfort until I speak and she can gauge my response. As soon as she hears the gentle tone she is leaning on my legs wanting cuddles. The lessons learned in puppyhood stick fast, just as our own childhood conditioning remains with us.

We are barely aware of the moral values and societal rules that we learn right from the start. They never leave us, even if we choose to break them; they simply form part of the matrix of who we are as we grow. Some things will jump out at us and remind us of being taught as children… like getting dry in the bathtub rather than out of it, or eating the cabbage on the plate first. Other things we absorb almost by osmosis and we would be hard pushed to say how, where and why we learned them. Yet these too form part of our personal makeup, and not all of them are positive.

Watching Ani in that split second, while I took in the state of the rug and the cowering fluff-ball in the corner, it occurred to me that what she has learned here is not what I taught. House-training was a simple process… it is she who has extended that to include other things, like being sick, and yet she dreads my disappointment when she crosses a line that she herself has drawn.

It made me stop and wonder… how many of our reactions are based upon just such a false premise? How wide is the gap between what we are taught and what we learn from that teaching… between the intent and our understanding? Something, perhaps, ingrained since our earliest youth, yet constructed upon a simple misinterpretation of the terms? Do we even realise how many of our ‘actions’ … our choices and decisions… are merely reactions to that early, and possibly involuntary… perhaps even non-existent… early indoctrination about how we should behave?

But where do you begin to unravel the tangled skeins of imposed conditioning and reaction to experience? Perhaps all we need to do is bring such things to the surface… become aware of them… maybe then we cease to react like automatons and can begin to act. Though of course, that is not as easy as it sounds. I have to wonder about the whole affair as I cuddle my dog till her tail starts to wag in relief. Perhaps Ani wonders too… or perhaps she is content to simply be.

dawn 001

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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40 Responses to Getting nowhere fast

  1. Robert says:

    We hope Ani feels better soon, Robert and Stan xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SD Gates says:

    Beautifully written post. Poor Ani. I hope she feels better. Have you seen the blog Science Dog (I think that is what it is called)? They had a post about what we think are guilty looks from dogs, are really not guilty looks, but something else. It was very interesting because studies had been on this very thing.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      No I hadn’t seen that, though I have now 🙂 … and I think there is a semantics issue here. The dog may not, in such circumstances ‘feel’ guilt… but they do know when they have done something that will get a reaction they dread…. even if it is only the gentlest “Oh, Ani…” They know when they will hear ‘that’ tone or pick up ‘that’ signal…and they cower in fear, They look guilty in our terms… but it says as much about our behaviour as percieved by them as it does about anything they have done.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We are literal gods to our dogs. It is sometimes a painful responsibility, but I try to be a gentle god. I hope Ani feels much better really really quickly. A sick doggy is like having a sick baby. They can’t understand and can’t tell you where it hurts. I gets me in the gut every time.


  4. roweeee says:

    Hi Sue,
    Sorry to hear Ani isn’t well and hope she’s quickly on the mend. Our border collie, Bilbo,, has also ended up with something similar on his rump. Our new dog lady introduced fleas into our place and we’ve never experienced anything like it. We’ve done topical treatments,. Both dogs now have flea collars, which I’ve never needed to use before and Geoff popped back home while we were on holidays and the fleas had gone ballistic and he had to flea bomb the entire house twice. Australian John Williamson wrote a song called the Tenterfield Traveller and that’s what we call Lady’s fleas. They make ’em tough out in the Australian bush! xx Rowena


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Oh gawd… I recall a problem with tough fleas when a friend and I were looking after an old lady’s cat at her home… and another when I house-sat for a neighbour… Ani has been thoroughly checked for flea allergy. That was my first thought, but she has no trace of any and is always up to date with her treatments. Best guess seems to be a winter of central heating drying the skin and perhaps an allergy to an envoronmental factor as this happenes every spring.


  5. alienorajt says:

    Poor little Ani – do hope she gets better soon, Sue. The wider message made me cry. xxx


  6. denis1950 says:

    A wonderful story Sue. Ahh, dogs are such complex friends, much more than most people.


  7. jenanita01 says:

    Eloquent as usual, Sue, but sorry to hear about Ani. Sounds like you know what to do from experience, so all should be well in the end. At the moment though, she looks like the saddest dog on the planet!


  8. Mary Smith says:

    Hope you can discover if it’s an allergy and Ani is better soon.
    Could her reaction to being sick on the rug be a genetic memory of how the pack leader would respond to an animal showing it was ill and therefore weak?


    • Sue Vincent says:

      I think it is just a combination of the seasonal changes and the tempertures.

      Could be, though I think she simply fears my disappointment/disapproval… and no amount of reassurance seems to stop her feeling that way beforehand… she needs the cuddles to know it is okay.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Eliza Waters says:

    The mind and all its twists and turns.
    Hope Ani is feeling better soon, poor thing.


  10. My heart lurches when my Cavalier King Charles, Lucy, is off colour. At almost fourteen I know … She’s totally deaf and responds to hand signals and smiles, But when she’s not feeling right she goes into one of her beds, back to us, refusing cuddles. Hugs to Ani, hope she soon recovers


  11. kanzensakura says:

    Ani my dear doggie friend – I hope you feel better soon. Spring makes me sneeze and itch and not feel well too. You aren’t doing anything bad cause you can’t help it. My Kanzen tells me that too and snuggles me. Wish I could give you a snuggle. Hugs and love, SamCat.


  12. Sorry to hear that Ani is feeling poorly, Toby send her lots of love and tail wagging and hope she is better soon.

    I know that look so well. When Toby was last poorly I remember how sad he looked when I came downstairs to discover he had been ill on the kitchen floor. I felt so sorry for him and tried to comfort him as much as possible, but he so thought he had been naughty. Yet, when he is naughty (like not coming back when called) he doesn’t give the same look or reaction.


  13. As this post is a good day old now, I do hope Ani is feeling much better. Lovely post, much to think about.


  14. I had to google that. My french is not so good. A bit of humorous results I found, and am sure you mean none of them.
    Bête Noire, an album by British singer Bryan Ferry, released on Virgin Records in November 1987
    Bête noire (cake), a rich flourless chocolate cake
    “Bête Noire”, an episode from the television series NCIS
    Bete Noire, the city in which the comic book series Fallen Angel takes place
    Bete Noire, Dark horse, in French. It refers to an unlikely candidate, or winner.


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