Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dog Angst

How amazingly strange.
The word angst is not in my 1984 Webster's New World Dictionary, nor is it to be found in my 1992 New Webster's Dictionary. (Note to self: maybe it's time for a new dictionary?) On Mirriam-Webster online dictionary, the word is defined as a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity and is said to have appeared circa 1942, a result of Freud's reign.
American Heritage dictionary defines angst as a feeling of anxiety or apprehension often accompanied by depression.
WordNet gives us an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom.
And the Cambridge Dictionaries Online goes a little farther: strong anxiety and unhappiness, especially about personal problems.

So. Do dogs experience angst? We like to think of our carefree companions as experiencing life as it comes, loving the moment and making the wagging best of any situation. After all, they don't have to worry about a mortgage or the rent. Their food appears magically before them, usually on time. Certainly all of you who are reading this have dogs who are warm and safe at night. How could a dog experience philosophical anxiety about the world?

Ha. One look at Delia during the past week and you could have no doubt about the existence of doggy angst. Her world was turned upside down. Her Bill was poorly. No heading out to the studio with him at 8:30 each morning, to lie in her special bed, or on his chair, breathing in the familiar art smells. Sneezy pastel dust, benign acrylics, pungent oil paint, turpentine. No singing along to Johnny Cash or Pavarotti. No standing at the glass front door to the gallery, scanning for squirrels and feral cats, or dogs walking by with their owners to bark at. No treats and loves from Bill's friend and studio-mate, Harvey. And it got worse.

She had to go on her walks with me. Angst, all over her being. Dripping from her like tears from a widow. She would don her coat and leash and then run to Bill's side. Yay! A walk! No, she couldn't leave her Bill. This was so wrong. Deeply, personally, philosophically wrong. Now, Delia is a polite dog. She would wag and wiggle and show the proper exuberance to me for taking her. But she would cast worried glances back at the house, and once the walk had turned itself towards home, her step was just a little more lively, and her pace was quickened.

Visit any veterinarian's waiting room. Doggy angst in spades. Observe the wide eyes, the panting tongues curled in concern. What did those definitions say? Oh, yes, there are feelings of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity thick in the air in the waiting room. There are always some youngsters who don't know better. But keep looking. Look at the face of that boxer and imagine the word bubble above his bugging eyes. "Hello? This was a mistake! We were going on a fun ride in the car, and you got confused and brought me here? Last time you brought me here, you forgot me and they cut off my boy parts! Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?"

And the little rotund dachshund pacing between the the laps of the elderly couple. His lap, her lap, his lap, her lap. Pant, pant, pant. "There is the door. Right there. Out the door, people, out the door! They are going to poke me if we don't leave now. They are going to cut off my toes. There could be blood. Out the door, let's go. OUT. THE. DOOR." This is a dog experiencing strong anxiety and unhappiness, especially about personal problems. Angst.

I think what we humans call Separation Anxiety, a term that appeared only after the practice of long term crating became popular, could fall right into the angst category. Of course crates, used properly, are a great boon to modern dog owners. I have nothing against crates and my dogs happily jump into theirs. But, I wonder about the six month old puppy, whose owner pops him into a crate at seven in the morning and returns at six at night. The puppy goes out to do his business and then goes back in the crate while the owner goes out to dinner. Day after day. An acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom. Angst.

Delia's troubles, I am happy to report, are fading. Her Bill is feeling better. A little studio time with him today will make her walk with me much more tolerable.

And I have a confession to make, dear readers. I am right there with Delia on this one.

Hug your hounds.

And hug your special humans, too.


  1. Well said. Foley is in a constant state if the woman they call Grammie is gone.

  2. Your new dictionary should be called The Internet.

  3. Dog angst is very real for me. I experience it every time I see the cat who lives next door and every time my mom picks up my comb or brush. There are other occasions as well.

    Glad to hear Bill is feeling better and Delia's life is returning to normal.

    Love and Koobuss Kisses,

  4. We see doggie angst when ever we are packing suitcases for a trip. They are well cared for by two wonderful ladies, but suitcases just give them the willies.

    Glad Bill is better.

  5. Patience can you email me please?

    Rachelle (the mom)

  6. oh I am so sorry to be late in commenting Patience - explanation on Marvin's blog.

    And sorry to hear your Bill not been well and glad to hear he is improving.

    And yes, Delia is right, Dogs do feel angst.

    Marvin feels it clearly several times a day, I see it in his eyes.

    Interesting post. Love and light Jeannie xxxx

  7. Delia
    Don't wowwy little love, youw Bill will get bettew and life will be nowmal again!!! Oh that face..thewe is cewtainly doggie angst...

    now as fow youw comment on my bloggie..I didn't know elegant lovely doggies knew such language,hehehe, I've been vewy lucky to have nothing but positive expewiences with catses, and you'll just have to accept me with my cat fwiends, so'll get ovew it..I pwomise..wemembew when you wewe scawed of me cause I'm haiwy???huh??? and what about all the fun times we've had since then..just think about that my dawling Whippet booties.
    smoochie kisses

  8. Oh yeah...doggie angst definitely exists...and I could bottle it with Maisie Rose right now! She has a look in her eyes at times that's just killer. Breaks my heart.

    Hope Bill is feeling better. Maisie and I send hugs to all.xox

  9. OH, I know about separation anxiety. Muzzer has it bad. That is why I go everywhere with her that I can, so she doesn't worry too much about me! It was a problem when I first came to live with her, because she kept going off and leaving me alone. But I taught her better. Now she is mostly OK. Delia should help Bill get over his separation anxiety too. Give him lots of kissies, and don't jump on his lap right now, OK>


  10. OH, I know about separation anxiety. Muzzer has it bad. That is why I go everywhere with her that I can, so she doesn't worry too much about me! It was a problem when I first came to live with her, because she kept going off and leaving me alone. But I taught her better. Now she is mostly OK. Delia should help Bill get over his separation anxiety too. Give him lots of kissies, and don't jump on his lap right now, OK>


  11. First off, glad Bill is feeling better and Delia will be back in the saddle with him in his studio soon.

    Second, I LOVE your blog, Ms. Patience, but let several posts pile up before I came back to visit and then could barely surmount the ANGST I was feeling over my inability to read them all and comment on them all right now. But, I bit the bullet and am jumping back into your world. I hope I'm welcome.

    Thank you for your eloquent post on this very real deal of angst. You're a peach.

    Goober love & smooches,

  12. Dehlia-

    Your photos are so telling. Glad to see relief in your eyes in the second photo. Also delighted to hear that YOUR Bill is feeling better! Hugs, r

  13. Delia sounds like Agnes anytime I'm nearby & someone tries to take her somewhere else. Even my husband or the kids. She's looking back for me, wondering why I'm not coming along as well.

    Silly old dog.

  14. I work part-time at a vet's and although he's a good guy and all the techs/assistants/receptionists are really sweet and love animals, it doesn't matter to the majority of dogs (and kitties, to). Anxiety rules the minute they get out of the car and it only increases while they're there. The pulling their people out the door is sometimes downright disheartening! Ah, well, I hate going to my doctors too, especially the dentist, and I actually understand the whole concept, so...
    'Glad Delia will be able to have her angst dimished as Bill gets better!

  15. Poor Delia! The hardest part about loving animals is that you can't explain. We spend so much time talking, but for all that, they don't really speak much English.

    I'm glad to hear Bill is on the upswing. No more surgeries!

    And for the angst, yep. I see it every time Athena and I step into that obed class, lol. She also shows it when getting into the crate in the car. She's worried we'll be going to the vet, or those classes. (Hurry up warm weather, so she can associate it with the dog park too!)

  16. Delia is so beautiful. How sad that she had to feel such angst. We're happy, though, for her -- and for you -- now that Bill is doing better and can relieve the whippet household of its anguish.

    Like Gussie said, our Mom too is prone to angst whenever she leaves us -- like she had to do for the last two and a half days.

    We understand, even though we're having a good old time, she's feeling that something is missing. Us!!!

    We stopped by Mary's blog to thank her for featuring Shelby, as you suggested.

    Wiry love,

    Jake and Just Harry

  17. PORK CHOP recipe? What pork chop recipe are we talking about? Please fill me in on the ingredients.

  18. Tillys definition of angst: Tennis ball gets stuck out of reach under the sofa. Daddy doesn't understand....

    I'm glad that Bill's feeling better!

  19. it's me Mona

    me wants you to come over and tell me what breed is Copper.

    bet ya can't guess!!

  20. We wanted to let you know that the neighbors brought some mail over including your package...The collar is GORGEOUS and we can't say thank you enough. We took pics tonight so they'll be up by tomorrow!!

  21. Sure dog angst exists. I see it in Lorenza's face when we go to the vet.
    Glad to hear that Bill is feeling better. Sure Delia is happy.
    Have a good night
    Lorenza's mom.

  22. Oh ho, yes I do feel the angst, let me count the ways... when Mom leaves the house is she going to take me too? When we go to the vet I sit very close to her in the waiting room so she won't get nervous. When we're at an agility trial, I get angst 'cause I worry if Mom will do well with me. Yep, I've got the A word!
    Glad Bill is doing better and Delia too --


  23. Lurcher No.2 definitely suffers from angst....anything that he doesn't know or knows and doesn't like causes him terrible stress.

  24. Very nicely put. Keep it up!


  25. Oh, dear Delia, it won't be long until you and Bill are back in a regular schedule.
    Your face says it all. I feel that angst when Kathy is upstairs and I can't find her right away. Stand tall (well, lay down tall) faithful heart dog.

    Waiting with you for more predictable days to return.....

    With love and respect,

    Star the Wonder Dog

  26. Poor Delia and poor you AND poor Bill. We hope everyone continues feeling better so there is no more angst only happiness!

  27. i hope bill continues to recover well. you must be so relieved to see him on the mend!

  28. Poor Dehlia,We are glad that things are looking up for everyone. Of course we have angst.You should have seen Agatha when Archie was crying and limping....Terrible angst!! Love A+A

  29. I understand what Delilah went through. I go through it every time my mom goes into another room. My brother Sammie cries like a baby for at least a half an hour when mom has to leave and go somewhere without us. Normally, though, she takes us with her!!

    We are glad Bill is feeling better. You know, we know exactly where Paducah is!! We are from Indiana!

  30. So unfair. I came over for fun monday and you made me cry. Dogs definitely feel angst. I loved your desriptions of the dogs at the vets - I must make an appointment today for my boxer to get her toes cut

    So glad that I found you and glad that Delia and Bill are both doing better.

  31. I completely believe in dog angst. Because I experience it. My sissy is high-strung but I experience real existential angst. I get deeply upset at certain things--the sound of children crying or screaming, my ma ape's sadness, being alone for too long. Several years ago I moved across the country with my ma ape. We left the other person and his dog, whom I had lived with since they rescued me. I developed deep separation anxiety. So severe I would push out windows, leap down 8 feet and wander up a busy street half a mile to be found by a friendly passer-by across the street from where my ma ape worked. I have angst.


  32. "Dripping from her like tears from a widow."

    OH! So good!

  33. I read your blog regularly, but have been busy lately and am finally getting caught up again. I hope your and Delia's Bill is feeling better again.



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