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Like a dog with a bone

Obsession – compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.

On Monday, I met Rocky, a Jack Russell Terrier, hence the definition of obsession.

Many dogs become “obsessed” with a toy or other object. Certain Labradors come to mind, the ones that scoop up a tennis ball with such fervor and delight that their eyes really do gleem with excitement. They mouth the ball, prance happily to you and away, daring you to take it. Its all a lovely game to them. You want the ball, I have the ball, kind of doggie keepaway. But here’s the rub – you CAN get the ball away from that dog by offering or tossing another ball.

You cannot get anything away from Rocky, and Rocky gets obsessed with large things, like the vacuum cleaner, the laundry basket, and the sofa.

Remember the movie The Mask with Jim Carrey? Remember when the dog (which, by the way, was a Jack Russell Terrier, case closed) puts the mask on and becomes a crazed maniac? Well, somewhere in Rocky’s crate, he has one of those masks tucked away.

Rocky’s owners, bless them for their perseverance and determination, have tried everything with this dog, including:

  • luring him with treats

  • providing acceptable chew toys like Kongs and Nylabones

  • removing the objects of his desire (albeit impossible to do with the sofa, so they have it covered up)

  • spraying the items with Bitter Apple

  • correcting him with a spray of water

  • removing him to a “time out”

  • giving him – on the vet’s advice – anti anxiety medication

  • taking the item away (this last option involves life insurance, as Rocky does not give willingly)

None of the above has made any impact on Rocky. He is an animal possessed once he takes hold.

Now, you are thinking, c’mon, its just a little Jack Russell, like Eddie on Frasier, right? You would be wrong, very wrong, perhaps fatally wrong. Think Bruce, the shark, in Jaws.

I have to say that when Rocky’s owners described his “fits,” I was skeptical. How bad could it be? Then, we brought out a well-hidden broom – hidden for good reason – and Rocky went beserk. His eyes glazed, teeth bared, and he attacked the broom. He leaped up, latched on, shook his head back and forth as if to dismember the thing, then dragged his kill into his crate. There, he wrestled and gouged at the broom with such hatred and vehemence that I stood back, I hoped, at a safe distance.

Can something be funny, and terrifying, at the same time? I felt truly sorry for the poor broom.

So, I would love to hear from other dog owners about their dogs and their dogs’ obsessions, and how you dealt, or didn’t, with this quirk? trait? character flaw? psychosis? Are there other Rockys out there? I believe I understand now what people have signs that say “Beware of Dog.” Even the most aggressive-toward-people dog I have ever worked with wasn’t this determined, this focused.

Meanwhile, what about Rocky? He lies in wait, lest an errant broom or vacuum cleaner appear and threaten his very existence. Then, Rocky will declare war, and fight to the death.

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