Rabia with Cam Miller

Rabia, my 5-year-old Golden-Lab mix who retains the puppiness of a 1-year-old, does not understand that tomorrow morning is Christmas. She does understand visitors, more food around, cardboard and paper to chew, and that with a grandchild in the house she slid down the pecking order. One present to be opened will drive her crazy.

For our grandson, we ordered a stuffed puppy that looks like Rabia. When it came in the mail and I took it out of the box for inspection, she was beside herself. Her tail thumped, her body wriggled and shook, her nose went straight for the look-alike. She even tried to nibble its ears as she might do with a real puppy. I had to raise it up and away from her because she wanted that soft little furry in the worst, and perhaps most destructive, of ways. I could tell from the anxiety emanating with every movement of her tail, that pecking order was on her mind.

Normally, Rabia is quite comfortable and settled into her last place in the household, but she doesn’t want anyone new wedging their way between her and us. When visitors arrive, she gets agitated and nervous until she recognizes it is a temporary situation. With our grown children and their partners, she cleverly understands more hands mean more touches so she puts up with the transitory displacement. The grandson is an entirely different animal.

He is bald like me. Smaller than her. Is held and given attention far more than what she receives and, from her perspective, deserves. Rabia wants to sniff his ears too, and might nibble there also if we were not watching. But there is one countervailing fact about the presence of that little boy that makes everything okay: his highchair. Food rains down like manna from the highchair. On top of that, that little boy finds utter joy in reaching down his oatmeal or squash covered hand to be licked. It is a dog’s holiday when that kid comes for a visit.

I have noticed that with a full house, Rabia more often than usual finds an out-of-the-way place to curl up. It is a self-regulating kind of thing, I’m sure. She gets exhausted from the anxiety of navigating the social relationships and where she is in the pack at any given moment. Humans are more herd animals and don’t think about it so much, but she is a pack animal and social hierarchy is everything and constant. So off she goes to plop down and sleep it off. I get it. She and I are both extroverts, but there is still a limit to how much stimulation can be sustained before respite is required.

Personally, and I know Rabia is thinking this too, I hope for a Christmas day walk along the lake. Between the morning chaos and evening feast, what could be better than getting bundled up against wind and chill to enjoy whitecaps, ducks, and maybe an eagle sighting?

May this be a blessed day for you and yours, too.

Denim Spirit does not refer to blue jeans; rather, it refers to the ordinary and sometimes casual expressions of human spirituality in everyday life. Cameron Miller is the author of two novels, “The Steam Room Diaries” and “Thoughtwall Café: Espresso in the Third Season of Life.” Both are available through Amazon and the blogger at www. subversivepreacher.org. Email Miller at dspiritflt@gmail.com.

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