Some dogs run when you pick up a bottle of shampoo in preparation for their bath time. Then there are cats that abscond the moment you touch the doorknob to the closet where the vacuum cleaner is stored.
My 60-pound dog, Trucker, dashes off when I pick up a menacing 9-inch-long, black-and-white apparatus that squeaks — a lint roller.
My nightly routine is now molded around the sensitivity of Trucker and trying to remove pet hair from my bed pillows and sheet at the head end of my bed. Being a cat and dog owner who is allergic to both, I find that rolling the fur off of my pillows and sheet before sleeping helps keep my allergy symptoms at bay.
Trucker can be gently snoring under a blanket on my bed, but when he hears me peel one sticky sheet off of the lint roller, he hops to his feet and flees the bedroom.
This situation started when I ran out of sticky sheets for my normal lint roller and purchased an inexpensive one. The first night that I rolled it across my pillow it squeaked in a high-pitched tone that had Trucker at attention standing in the middle of my queen-size bed.
Trucker hopped around on the bed whining, searching for the squeaking source, then scurried about the bedroom trying to find the culprit. I tried comforting him, showed him the lint roller, but he didn’t believe me.
Let me backtrack a moment to the reason why squeaking noises irritate Trucker so much.
I rent a 90-plus-year-old home which is located along a river. Mice or bats have taken up residence in the ceiling above my bed. On cold nights they seem to come alive, briefly squeaking and scratching their way across the ceiling above my head or in the wall beside the bed. Trucker hears this squeaking and commences whining, dancing around the room and pointing at the sound source until it silences.
As you can imagine, when the lint roller made similar squeaking sounds, Trucker became frenzied, thinking that the creatures were in the bedroom.
At first I thought that he’d get over this anxiety and comprehend that the noise was just coming from an object mom was playing with. This wasn’t the case. After the third or fourth night of using the lint roller, Trucker ran out of the room and slept alone. In the four years since we’ve been together he has never slept in a separate room.
To reunite us, I had to give the lint roller to my mom (a seamstress) and purchase a new one like the original model.
With the original roller model back in my home, I showed it to Trucker, shared calming words, and started to roll it over the bed. Still worried about potential squeaking, Trucker hopped off of the bed, stood at a distance and waited for me to finish.
His concern still lingers. Each night he can be resting on the bed, but if he hears me pull one sticky sheet off of the roller, he’ll look up at me and step off of the bed until I’m done.
All of this made me think: If simple objects and actions like this ingrain fear in a dog’s mind, imagine how they struggle to live with a history of abuse or other trauma.
My uncle’s adopted dog, Rusty, was terrified if you picked up a yardstick. We never knew what started his fear.
My childhood terrier, Sugar, was afraid to eat off of paper plates. A free dog we found through a newspaper classified ad, Sugar had been fed outside and her food was placed on aluminum pie tins. The wind blew them when she tried to eat, causing them to crash about and frighten her.
Trucker has a fear of abandonment, storms, and any verbal reprimands. I’ve learned his emotions and sensitivity, and I continually work to help him cope.
One evening he was asleep, lying on his side on my bed, when a dreamcatcher the size of a car tire fell from the ceiling above and landed on him. He ran from the room and it took me at least a week of apologizing and coaxing to get him to come near the bed again, let alone lie on it to sleep.
As I finish writing this piece, it’s bedtime and Trucker is sleeping in another room. Not only did the lint roller make him leave the room, but a cross rail under my bed snapped loose with a thud (we were both lying on the bed at the time) and I had to put it back in place.
This will be an even more challenging mishap to explain to him.
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her book Raising My Furry Children to your collection.
Does your dog have any unusual aversions? Maybe he runs from the telephone, or can’t stand it when you wear red. Let us know in the comments!