Sunday, 27 January 2008

Chasing Sheep pt I

Ruby, Stray’s very bouncy boxer, has an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s official. A leading animal psychologist, who described her as one of the most obsessive dogs she has ever worked with, diagnosed Ruby recently. This very clever and experienced psychologist did not manage to cure Ruby of her obsession.

We could live with Roo’s particular peccadillo if it involved compulsively tidying away her bones or obsessively washing her paws after a muddy walk. We might even learn to live with her switching off all of the electrical appliances in the house before retiring to her basket. Unfortunately she is yet to learn any of these skills. Little Roo’s particular obsession is for sheep and so, having brought her to live in a village where sheep outnumber humans by at least ten to one, Ruby thinks that all her doggy Christmases have come at once. Ruby likes to chase the sheep. The local farmers do not want Ruby to chase the sheep. This presents us with a problem.

A dog with an irresolvable psychological problem is something of a bus driver’s holiday for me. Ruby’s OCD, however, pales into insignificance when faced with the identity disorder of Stray’s so-called Siamese cat, Ophelia.

‘Siamese cat’ is just one of Ophelia’s multiple identities. Ophelia is actually a wallaby (please note the above evidence.) It is a well-known fact that wallabies are mentally unstable, and Ophelia – or ‘wallaby-cat’ – is no exception. Wallaby-cat doesn’t just have an identity disorder, she has a fully blown Borderline Personality Disorder.

Wallaby-cat loves, loves, lurves you… really are her bestest friend in the whole world… has ever understood her like you do…..where have you been all her life? make her feel loved like never before. Until that fateful moment when you just fail to meet her needs by a whisker (forgive the pun) and she hates you with a passion that can only be expressed by biting very hard on exposed flesh. Wallaby-cat believes that the sole purpose of your existence is to minister to her every need. As bus-driver’s holidays go, this is much less pleasurable than chasing sheep.

When I asked Badger if she thought that Frank, her ginger tom, had any neurotic disorders she thought very long and hard before answering ‘he’s a boy’. Whilst it’s true that Frank’s boyness is his defining characteristic – he manages a delicate balance of testosterone fuelled hunting trips for local vermin with lounging passively in Badger’s arms – as far as I am aware ‘masculinity’ has yet to be classified as a psychiatric disorder. Please do correct me if I am wrong.

Stray is currently writing a book that meanders through anthropology, psychology and evolutionary biology before stumbling headlong into the arena of global warming. She is trying to persuade her co-author that Chasing Sheep is a catchy and appropriate title.

Let’s face it, don’t we all just try very hard not to chase the sheep?


But Why? said...

Any chance I can take some samples from Frank next time I'm up? I'd like to get him tested to establish whether there's a genetic reason for his enduring sanity...

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi there but why?, I think it must be the diet of mice, birds and rabbits. Yes, our lovely Frank has taken to eating wild rabbits and leaving their remains on the kitchen floor. It is unspeakably disgusting. I saved him a bit of our roast lamb yesterday, but Badger is very worried in case he develops a taste for it. Lambing season is upon us soon, and we are concerned that he will start dragging little new borns in through the cat flap. Still, all preferable to Wallaby-cat's BPD as well you know.

Nice to chat x

Böbø said...

I assumed that when Badger replied "He's a boy", that meant he was free of neurotic hangs ups and disordered personality - a diet of sport and game having left him with no prominent psychological scars, or interior life of any sort.

Or perhaps he's just been pacified by being surrounded by so much oestrogen? Should Master Melancholy be concerned?

I myself have no issues that 3½ years of personal therapy and now regular group therapy can't put right. Though I am slightly concerned I might catch my sweetheart's Dancing Disorder - in which not knowing or even caring about The Steps is no bar to swirling around in tight Scottish Country Dancing formations (demonstrations available on request).

wendy said...

what a pleasure to see you are hving such fun in the old yorkshire dales, I remember them fondly. Keep up the blogging all of you it is a real tonic

Misssy M said...

My pooch, Sonny, wants to run with the horses, and will use every opportunity he gets to do so. It is very worrying and in a pastiche on a well known film title, I ask myself, "They shoot dogs who chase horses, don't they?"

Apparently the trick is to always have yummy food on you that the dog would prefer to have instead of chase, but my boy is very much of the "Have your cake and eat it" (dog)school of thought.

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

So tell me, how does human to animal psychology actually translate. Are long sessions on the couch required for either Ruby or Ophelia?

But another thing strikes me, why is only the female animals in the family that have these disorders while Frank gets away with just being a boy? Has he perhaps driven them to it?

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Bobo, oddly enough, Badger meant precisely the opposite! She is convinced that 'boy' is a mental health problem although Master M is fast persuading her otherwise, cogniscent as he is of his vastly complex interior world. It is sooo hard being the son of a psychotherapist. As for the dancing disorder, I cannot diagnose until I have both behavioural and phenomenological evidence - please supply forthwith. Look forward to demonstrations very soon x

Why thank you Wendy, the Dales are truly beautiful still, and more beautiful by the day I do believe.

Ah, Missy M, we have tried an array of tricks which is fast turning into a doggy version of 'rock, paper, scissors. Blue ball is better than gravy bones, and parma ham is better than blue ball but only sometimes. (Yes, I did indeed say 'parma ham'. Never let it be said that us Yorkshire folk are tight.) Unfortunately, sheep remain better than everything, and we haven't even got to the stage where the little lambs are gambolling and frolicking. Imagine how much fun that is going to be?

Hey Absolute Vanilla, I wonder if you have a point there? Or is it just that females are intrinsically more complex creatures, be they cats, dogs or women. Bobo, we require your input on this debate!

Reading the Signs said...

The thing is that Ruby's OCD activity is not like my anxiety-related OCD thing - it's fun - for her, that is. So where's the motivation to stop? Good luck, anyway.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Ms Signs, you get it - that is precisely the point! Why on earth should she stop? I think it looks like fantastic fun too, and one day when the farmer isn't looking I shall join her for a frolic.

trousers said...

Your description of Ophelia reminds me of a woman I used to go out with. I'm sure Ophelia is far easier to deal with (instead of "deal" I nearly wrote "delia" - aome kind of echolalia?), but then I realise I may be completely wrong on that score.

Boris said...

Hi All, nice new blog and thanks for including me in your extended family.

On the subject of boy vs girl for mental instability I think we all know that boys are inherenly more stable than girls because we do not have so much to think about - or the time to think about the "stuff" that drives you girls insane.

My for year old strugles with the pronunciation of "girls" and calls them "ghouls" - just thought you would like to know

PS Do you mean "wannabe-cat"?

Boris xxx

Dandelion said...

There are those (eg Simon Baron-Cohen) who would say that an excessively masculine brain is what autism is.

Then there are others who would say that excessive masculinity (or aspects thereof) is a trait shared by rapists and other violent criminals.

Just thought I'd mention it.