My vertically, but not horizontally, challenged dog

A few days ago, I outfitted Jelly in her blue PALS bandana and leash, and drove her to the seniors’ home for our second scheduled visit. There are eight owners and their dogs who visit the residence twice monthly. Residents look forward to the visits and, if they are dog lovers, their eyes light up when we come. I’ve been shadowing more experienced PALS participants to learn the ropes.

From these two visits, I’ve determined that Jelly’s temperament is well suited to the job, but she is by far the most ill-behaved dog in the group. The other owners can easily make their dogs heel and sit and stay and do a variety of other fancy tricks to the delight of the residents, while Jelly drags me around from one end of the place to the other, misbehaving at every opportunity.

In addition to her noncompliant behaviour, Jelly’s motivation for participating in these outings remains sketchy: she has continued to assume the role of resident vacuum, cleaning every inch of the crumb-laden floor, to my dismay and embarrassment. She’s not the most socially engaged critter at these times.

Jelly’s height has proven a bit of a challenge in this setting. Notwithstanding her aptitude for stealing food from our counter, Jelly is as short as a Shih Tzu. She may be long from head to tail, but she is short from head to foot. I’ve never considered her height a problem until now.

Most of the residents we visit are in bed or have mobility constraints, often using wheelchairs or walkers to get around. In any event, after two visits now, I have learned that many of these people cannot reach down far enough to pet Jelly. She is too heavy to lift onto the beds–I fear all 43 lbs of her could rupture any delicate spleen–but she’s too short for many to reach her.

Basset hound looking up at ownerFrom those residents with very long arms, Jelly accepts affection graciously. Still, she has not figured out that the residents are above her usual range of vision, and require her to crane her neck to look up. To get the fully Jelly experience, one must experience her droopy Basset eyes and her expressive furrowed brow. So far, the residents are only experiencing the top of Jelly’s soft furry head.

We may have miraculously passed the PALS assessment, but for us to succeed at this placement, we have a lot of work to do yet. Jelly needs to leave her perpetually scrounging persona at home, and harness her inner powers of obedience. She needs to focus on the others’ needs rather than her own. Finally, she needs to share her love far and wide with dog-loving old folks for one hour every two weeks. Otherwise, I fear we may be kicked off this PALS team.

Failing that, her voice may come out over time and familiarity. With some encouragement, I’m sure I can get her to howl during visits. No one can resist, or miss, a vertically challenged baying Basset.

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