Sunday, April 13, 2014

Soothing My Savage Beast

Almost two years ago to the day, I got caught in a nasty car wreck.

The gory details have been preserved for posterity here, but the short version is that my two younger daughters and I were driving home on the expressway when bang! Out of nowhere, we got rear-ended. Without warning, a truck slammed into us at 60 mph. The impact shattered the rear hatch window and sounded like a bomb had exploded in the back of the car. Shards of glass and smoke immediately filled the passenger compartment and lingered over us for the next hour as we sat on the shoulder and sorted out the damage. Happily, despite the severity of the incident, we all walked away in one piece and quickly moved on from this ugly episode in our lives.

I prefer to ride with the windows down because that windblown look really works with my gorgeous fluffy ears.

My dear and beloved dog, Ranger, was in the car with us. Safely curled up on the back seat, he also survived the impact without injury. But sadly, to this day, he suffers from the psychological wounds of the accident. Always an exuberant car buddy, Ranger still gladly hops in the car when he sees it's time for a trip. But once we are in motion, he is reduced to a whining mass of angst.

Yeah, I understand. Those sound like the exaggerated words of an overly dramatic dog-parent who needs to get a grip.

However, dear reader, I have proof. Listen, if you dare, to twelve horrifying seconds of Ranger in full freak-out mode.

video


See what I mean? That is some Grade A ear-bleed-inducing agony.

Over the past 24 months, this whining situation has gone from bad to worse to Help! to Make-it-stop! to I may bash in either his head or mine and I don't even care whose head gets bashed as long as this horrific noise will come to an end.

So you know, before I got too far down the road with that head-bashing idea, I thought I'd try to find some other solutions.

And after a couple weeks of experiments, I've made an interesting discovery.
Ranger is fine on side streets, country roads, and major arterials. Making turns at intersections and following curves along the thoroughfare pose no problems to my Irish gentleman. 
It's the expressways that freak him out.  
In particular, he seems to hate the sensation of merging from one lane to the next.
As soon as I noticed this pattern, a light bulb went off in my head. At the time of our accident, we had just merged across two lanes of traffic.

Riding in the car ain't nothing. Think I'll just lick my foot to pass the time of day.

Poor, poor baby. It makes perfect sense that the distinctive gliding motion of an expressway lane change would be enough to send Ranger's associative memory into a panic. Honestly, his dramatic and high decibel reactions are a completely logical response, when I look at the sequence of events from his point of view.

So. New plan. When Ranger is with me, and our trip necessitates a hop on the ol' interstate, I adapt my driving habits. Rather than shooting back and forth across the lanes, I merge oh so gingerly only as far as the right hand lane, and that's where I stay for the duration of the trip.

video

This subtle strategy seems to calm Ranger's jangled nerves, and I'm hoping that my improved chauffeuring skills will help to soothe my savage little beast.

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Special thanks to my second- and fourth-born, who shot the two videos of devil-Ranger and angel-Ranger in action.

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