On Dogs, Depression, and Rickie Lee Jones

I used to have a dog named Domini when I was a child who licked my face every time I cried. When I was home sick from school, she’d lie at the end of the bed and keep watch until I was better. She was so sensitive that when she went into heat she would take all of the stuffed animals off of my bed, arrange them in a circle, plop down in the middle of the circle, and tend to each one with kisses and licks. She was an extraordinary animal.

I thought all dogs expressed sadness and glee and pain and sensitivity and emotions in the same way Domini did, so when I got Rosie, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect. The first time I cried with her was the day I adopted her, and they were tears of joy. I pulled her onto my lap and held her tight. She looked at me for a second, and then she jumped off. Wait, what? Where were my licks and kisses? Aren’t all dogs the same? In my naiveté, I thought so.

I’ve come to the conclusion over the past few months — as I’ve been battling a pretty brutal depression — that Rosie doesn’t express empathy through licks; she worries and takes on aspects and qualities of my mood, like a sponge. She’s a worrier. When I’m depressed, she gets depressed, too. She doesn’t look me in the eye, and she sleeps with her back to me (if she sleeps with me at all). Which makes me feel fucking horrible and awful and like a bad mother.

But Rosie’s really the best reason I’ve had these days to get myself well — she’s forced me to turn my focus outward because I have to take care of her. I can’t bear to see her unhappy. Just as I’m sure she can’t bear to see me depressed.

Fiona, my wise friend, said, “When you feel better, so will she.” The anti-depressants have just begun to kick in and I swear Rosie has that little smile on her face again, because so do I.

I did this experiment the other night because I wanted to see what kind of music — voices, pitches, sounds, instruments — were appealing to Rosie’s ears. The winner, hands down? And wouldn’t you know it — my favorite: Rickie Lee Jones. Often not the most uplifting, sometimes sings songs my mother and I dub “wrist-slashers”. I put on the song “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963” from her debut album as well as the more upbeat, later-career track “Jimmy Choos”. And the dog was fucking mesmerized. At first, she stretched out her paws as if to get settled. Then she lay still, eyes darting back and forth, as if taking it all in. When Jones went up to the higher registers, Rosie shut her eyes, and opened them when the higher part was over. I swear, I may have been reading into it – but it was truly amazing to watch. And beautiful. And no, she did not slash her paw when it was all over. She just seemed relaxed and “in a zone.”

Rickie Lee Jones

Other music/sounds Rosie seems to like: Kraftwerk, Jimmy Somerville, and Justin Timberlake. But she doesn’t seem to enjoy Katy Perry. Today I’ll try some classical and see if she can distinguish between composers. (Yes, I’m nuts.)

Oh, one more thing: the other day I Googled: “How do you know if you’re obsessed with your dog?” And it said, “One: you constantly worry about their feelings.” And “Two: you Google things like ‘How do you know if you’re obsessed with your dog?'”

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It’s Rosie’s Foster-versary! (And That Ain’t No April Fool’s!)

It was exactly one year ago today that I brought little 8-pound Rosie home to my studio apartment in a cab from the Upper East Side to foster her, while I thought long and hard about whether to make her a permanent fixture in my life. Julio the doorman was at the front desk when I walked into the building with her.

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Julio and Rosie

“What the hell is that?” he said.

“Um, it’s a dog.”

“I know it’s a dog — but whose?”

“Mine, now.” I said, shaking slightly more than Rosie was. “Well … sort of mine.”

I had lost my 19-year-old cat Ethel two years before, so I had ample time to think about whether to get another pet. But I still had doubts. Would I be a good dog mom? Would Rosie grow up to resent me? Would she be a terror as a teenager and run off with an angry pitbull? Would she be into drugs? Prostitution? Trump?

One of Rosie’s first meals – a “mix-up” (ground turkey, eggs, peas, carrots, and chicken broth). Bon Appétit!

When I got her to my apartment, it was late and I had nothing healthy to feed her. (The former foster family said they fed her “whatever they ate — hamburgers, fries … ” — um, no.) I also had no toys to give her. I made her a scrambled egg and called my friend Fiona for advice.

“Give her a balled-up sock and roll it around on the floor. Give her one of those sweatbands you wear around your wrist and see if she’ll go for that.”

Rosie seemed like a rather intelligent dog, but clearly didn’t have very intelligent taste in toys because she loved the wristband and the sock.

Rosie’s first “official” toy, the crinkly pale green frog.

The next day, I went to Pet Central and, knowing nothing about dogs and what turns them on about toys, got her the lamest ones — a tiny pale green frog that made a faint crinkly sound and a plastic Nylabone with sharp bits that stuck out of it — presumably to massage her gums — that the vet later told me she could have choked on. Nice going, mom!

But hats off to me … I’ve obviously done a few things right, because I officially adopted Rosie on April 13th, 2016, and she’s still here — all 13 pounds of her — and so am I — (here; not 13 pounds) — and it looks like we’re stuck with each other. Thank god for miracles.

Rosie’s First Love

We’ve all had ’em. The ones that keep us up at night, the ones that make us sweat and shake and obsess and see stars.

Well, dogs are no different. And Rosie’s fallen in love with her handsome Italian babysitter/trainer Manuel.

Rosie and loverboy.

When she comes back from staying with him, she cries for hours, won’t eat, and looks at me as if to say: “Who are you and what did you do with my boyfriend?”

When the phone rings, she does a manic dance — as if she’s thinking, THAT MUST BE HIM, HE’S COMING TO RUN AWAY WITH ME!

And god forbid there should be a knock at the door… she has lovesick seizures. And the poor Chinese delivery man doesn’t know whether to get me to sign for my scallion pancakes or call doggy 911.

Click here and you’ll totally see how she flirts with the love of her young life.

 

Yes, It’s True: Rosie Can Jump Through Hoops of Fire.

Ok, not really.

But she did learn to sit, lie down, “leave it”, and walk better on the leash and graduated at the top of her training class at PETCO! (I think that’s Summa Cum Laude!) (Shhhh — she was the only one in the class! So?)

And so what if she’s forgotten everything most things?

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That’s Rosie’s trainer, Chloe, holding Rosie and her very official diploma. That dog is going places, I tell ya.

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How Many Beds is Too Many?

… because Rosie has … um, four. If you count mine as one of hers, which it pretty much is. And she totally hogs it, too. She sleeps diagonally so I am squooshed into the corner in a fetal position with no blankets.

Rosie (and Mr. Bill) in her “official” bed.

And it’s never like I feel I have the right to ask her to move. If I do, I’m always really quiet, so as not to disturb her.

“Um, Rosie, I’m sorry to bother you, but can you please just go over there a little so my face isn’t pressed up against the wall? My lip is literally asleep. I think it’s actually blue.”

No movement, no acknowledgement, not a care in the world.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.