Homeostasis Beagle

I have had Maggie about the same time that I have been bipolar (I didn’t just wake up one day and all of a sudden my hair is alive and I can taste color. I have been bipolar my whole life, but it wasn’t super prevalent until about 10 years ago).  We weren’t really on the same page for probably the first 5 years of her life.  She was just a dog, and I was just a person, and once in awhile we would go to the dog park where she would stand around like, “dogs? Why am I here with…DOGS?”

In 2008, I was officially diagnosed bipolar I rapid cycle with all kinds of other “disorders” and “syndromes” following behind it, but my chief diagnosis is the whole bipolar thing.  So anyway, around that time I was moving in with @jaredwsmith and Maggie was coming with me, and we had Charlie of course.

Charlie has a big personality, which most dachshunds do; well he rubbed off on Maggie.

Let’s talk about how smart Maggie is.

As a puppy, she was in the garage drinking her little filtered puppy water out of her little metal puppy bowl, and my mom and I were standing there doing…whatever, and she was almost out of water in her little puppy bowl, so she picks up her paw and places it on the side of the bowl so that all the water can pool to one side.  She finishes drinking, puts the bowl down, and walks away, like no big fucking deal. Later that week, she was behind me coming into the house and I didn’t know it so her right paw got caught in the door and she cried because I think more than anything, it scared her.  Well, Maggie was queen for the day, she got whatever she wanted because we all felt like total shit for slamming a fucking puppy’s paw in a big scary door.  Maggie is 9.  Maggie still holds up her right paw when she wants something. She has taught the other 2 to do it as well.  So when 5:30 rolls around and I have not made my move to prepare dinner for them, they all stand around with their right paws lifted telling me to go make them dinner.

If I have been anywhere near a Publix, she is all over me. If there is a Publix sub anywhere in the house, or even just a wrapper of a Publix sub, she is beside herself.  She paces, she cries, and when you leave the room, she attacks.  She will chew through drywall just to be able to lick a Publix sub wrapper.  Now, if I go to Publix, I come home with chicken fingers for the dogs. She has trained me to do that for her, because if I get them just for me she wails like it’s the worst thing in the entire world to happen to her if she does not get a single crumb from a Publix chicken finger.  It is worse than the door thing from 9 years ago.

We had a “dog proof” garbage can.  When we lived in DC we did not, so we just threw the garbage away with the can on the counter-height table after we would come home to butter wrappers on the leather couch and raw ground beef trays on the carpeted floor. She learned that she could tip it over by somehow getting the bag out of the little bag holder and pulling it down and then somehow opening the lid. The first time that she did this; she had gotten the entire garbage can into a totally different room of the house before she could plunder. She actually threw out her back doing this.  It cost us hundreds of dollars; she was on medication for like 6 weeks, we thought she needed surgery.  Now, we keep the broken dog-proof garbage can in the garage, which is one of the only doors in the house that she can’t open.

Maggie has always kind of been clingy with me, and I think that’s because when she was a puppy, the first two nights I had her I put her in her little puppy crate and she cried, and cried, and CRIED probably because she was alone and not on the Beagle Farm where I got her anymore, so being that I was like 22 years old, I opened her little crate, and we snuggled all night.

Then my mom found out and told me she has to sleep in her crate.  This is probably why she’s crazy like that; I think Freud would have a field day with this topic.

Maggie doesn’t like crates.  When I lived with my parents and I had her, my mom wanted me to crate her, well it never worked, and she would hide until I eventually gave up. So when I moved out, we bought a crate. Like all of a sudden, Maggie would be totally cool sleeping in a box.  This dog would rather sleep outside with the squirrels and deer in the rain than sleep in a fucking crate.  This crate is a palace.  When we put it together, and put it in our bedroom so she wouldn’t be lonely, me, Jared, Freakin and we got Maggie in there, we all fit, and we closed the door. And we hung out for like 30 minutes in the fucking crate.

Well we put the crate in Jared’s office because she cried all night.  She would keep us up for about an hour or two crying, and then she would stop.  We figured she just got tired and gave up.  Beagles never say die. Ever. The next morning we would wake up, and Maggie would be in bed with us.  We would go into the other room, the crate would still be intact, door closed and locked. I actually even made her a bed; it was one of exactly five things I have ever used my sewing machine for.  She shit on it, and then rolled in it.  So I guess she didn’t like the bed.

Beagles usually aren’t picky eaters, she is. As of this last month, she has decided that she no longer likes American cheese.  No American cheese, singles? Boars Head? No, no American cheese.  I learned this by putting half a Kraft white American Single on her food.  She wouldn’t eat.  She walked away. She knew there was pork tenderloin the refrigerator because that is what I gave her for breakfast. I took the cheese off, she ate. The next night, I let her pick her own cheese; she wanted Boars Head imported Swiss. She ate that. The next morning, I put Boars Head white American on her cheese.  Without skipping a beat, she picked up every bit of that fucking cheese and put it on the floor and then ate her food and then went and drank out of the toilet.  In fact, I gave her cheese this morning to see what would happen and I closed the lid to her favorite toilet, she spit the cheese out then went into the bathroom and cried because the lid was closed. I told her to get out of the bathroom which she did, then she went back in and I heard her drinking from the toilet. Somehow she got the lid open.  And like what am I going to say?  I can’t get mad.  That’s like telling your kid the A she got on her paper about why school sucks is bad.  Good thinking, Maggie, keep that brain sharp.

So, why is it relevant that I told you my psychiatric diagnosis? Because I keep very detailed charts of my mood, how many hours I sleep, my daily activities, et cetera.  About once per month, I go back through, usually before an appointment, and I read through my notes and charts, just to get a feel for any kind of pattern that might be happening.  I write a lot about the dogs, especially Maggie because she is so weird and she is always kind of in trouble. And I am noticing days where I am getting up around 3am and being hyper productive, or just manic overall, she wakes up with me and I note it on my chart.  I don’t think anything of it; I think she is just being clingy. On days that I am getting 8-9 hours of sleep and feeling totally normal, she doesn’t get up with me. I have to go make sure she is ok and like not dead or pouting because of the fucking American cheese.

She knows when I am manic.

And it’s really scary.

Think back to your ab psych class, I told you I am bipolar I which means I am primarily manic and I am prone to more severe manic episodes than someone with bipolar II who is more likely to have depressive episodes and an occasional hypomanic episode.  I am hypomanic probably 70% of the time, a lot of that was suppressed with the drinking and drug use, now that I am sober we are trying to find a new normal.  And that’s what is going on with this dog. She knows something is abnormal with me, maybe she can smell it?  I read that beagles have noses that are 1 million times stronger than a human nose. I need to pay better attention to her.

From the drinking and drug use I have gotten myself into some chronic GI distress. It was really bad when I first quit, Maggie was right there, she was like a bad habit, I couldn’t shake her. Even right now, as I write this, she has a big, tasty bone that she was working on in the living room; I sat down to write this with a headache, she’s currently snoozing under my desk.

I had heard about a service years ago for dogs for people with mental illness and I thought to myself, “yeah! For people who have depression, animals will make them happy and stuff! Great idea!” My therapy dog tells me when I am about to have a manic episode.

Let’s also make one thing clear, she pats herself on the back a little bit for being Therapy Dog of the Month in our house because when I am not sleeping and I am manic, she sleeps on Jared’s side of the bed.  Not like, “aww, Maggie, ok, let’s snuggle,” but like she is saying, “fuck you, you’re sleeping in your office tonight because we have a 3am wake up tomorrow and I need to be on point. Go away.” Like if I sleep vertically in bed, she sleeps horizontally on J’s side so there’s no slipping in and spooning. She probably wouldn’t let you spoon her anyway. And don’t think about moving her, she rolls on her back, gives you a dirty look, and if you persist, she growls. If things are going to be kosher the next day, she permits my husband to share the (king size) bed with his wife.

She is my homeostasis beagle, she is my therapy dog. I need to listen to her a little more carefully. I have been talking for the last year on my charts about triggers and patterns, well the barometer for that is currently snoring under my desk.