Happy, my Golden Retriever, is an extremely polite dog. He sits, gives you his paw, and if you tell him your daughter just had her tongue pierced, he gives you a look of real concern. Plus, he doesn't just exhibit fine behavior. He teaches it to other dogs in the neighborhood.
But, virtually every night at 7, it's a very different scenario. For about 60 minutes, Hap turns into The Wolf Man. He runs up and down the steps to his room, pulls down fine books and shreds the blanket in his crate. And if he can't do that by leaning in, he pulls the poor blanket out and beats it to death. All the while saying, 'That's for not coming when I called you!'
This road company version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been going on for months. And I'm at a loss as to how to stop it. But I need to, because I'm running out of dog bedding, not to mention, First Editions of Classic Books. And every evening by 7:15, Happy's room looks like the penitentiary library did, after the 1971 Attica Prison riot.
I did a search on the Internet and found that this hour-of-insanity, during which my otherwise pleasant dog re-enacts the Manson Family murders, is called "The Witching Hour." Apparently, children exhibit this behavior, too. However, no one says if they also get down on all fours, growl and nearly tear your fingers off when you're trying to hand them a Snausage.
Let's face it, most of us would pay to see that.
Still, this demonic display is costly and disturbing. With maybe the most upsetting aspect being that during this Witching Hour, Happy tears off mouthfuls of his own blonde fur and places it, strategically, all over the carpet. Until it looks like there are creepy Celtic runes everywhere. And the floor starts to resemble the cover of "Led Zeppelin IV."
Okay, I can live with that. But I worry that next, Happy's going to break into an a capella version of "Going To California." At which point, I'll have to run out screaming.
I'm so sick of that song!
Now, the good people on the Net, whose dogs also exhibit these high-on-Angel-Dust-tendencies, have also posted ways to short circuit The Witching Hour.
Of course, there are the amateur chemists who suggest you hose your pup down with Valium, like he's in the Bad Trip Tent at Woodstock. Others suggest bribing him with treats. But perhaps the most reasonable suggestion is to just tire your dog out before this hour arrives. So he won't have the energy to tear holes in the carpeting and pull the binding off your 100-year-old copy of "Treasure Island."
Problem is, Happy does all this doggy slam-dancing after we've been out on a 45-minute walk. If I didn't wear him out this way, I think he'd jump up on the piano, set it on fire, and start singing "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On!"
So, I guess I can consider myself lucky.
I'm lucky in another way, too. And that has to do with the time that this Charlie-Sheen-At The-Plaza-Hotel behavior occurs. After all, 7:00 p.m. is not a bad time. If Hap was doing this at two in the morning, tearing at the bars of his crate and singing "He's In The Jailhouse Now," I think it would be much worse. I'm already sort of sleep-deprived. Any more and I'd soon be reduced to communicating with weird hand gestures and gibberish.
Yes, I know, some of you think I already do that. But, more.
So, I guess this is a Count-Your-Blessings type of situation. Most of the day, my Golden Retriever is quiet, gentle and considerate. He rarely barks and if he does, it means he needs to go outside—pronto. So he can whiz outside and not on the legs of my Bentwood Rocking Chair.
He's rarely sick and he's nice to other dogs. What am I looking for—perfection? The kind of brown-nosing dog that's the equivalent of a certain kid you loathed in school? You know the kind. The one who reminded the teacher on Friday afternoon that she forgot to give you homework.
So, what's wrong with some craziness? After all it's called "The Witching Hour" because that's exactly how long it lasts. And, if it ever starts to worsen and the hour becomes a whole night? Well, I'll have to think about getting a shrink, I guess.
For me, I mean.
The roots of Happy's sickness, by then, will clearly be too deep. And that amount of therapy can really cost you. Assuming you can really find a doctor who knows how to cure a dog. And frankly, picturing that sort of therapist? It's much more upsetting than anything that's happened so far.