The Sad Life of an Only Dog

Orly and Spirit, similar-looking golden retrievers, nap together
Who’s who?

Early January is always a little sad. Holidays, and time off from work, are over; Missoula is gray and cold.

This year, January is sadder than ever. After a wonderful visit, Deni and Koala returned to Florida on Jan. 3. Spirit went home a few days later. Orly does not know what to do with a silent, almost-empty house. We’ve finally had to face the enormous hole that losing Cali has left. And Orly has never been the only dog.

Golden retriever Orly grabs her cousin Spirit's neck in play.Orly loved having a live-in playmate, one with a similar(ly obnoxious and physical) play style, all paws and mouths and teeth and leaps and jumps. After an energetic bout of wrestling and racing each other around the yard, Orly and Spirit would collapse into a fuzzy golden pile.

Since discovering that they are cousins, I’ve taken to calling them “identical cousins.” It was often hard to tell where one ended and the other began or even who was who.

But now Orly is alone. And mopey and sad, except when she’s outside. Then she’s alert and barky.

She is snuggly and overly affectionate sometimes. I wonder whether she’s worried that I am going to make her disappear as I have caused Cali, Koala, and Spirit to vanish, and she’s trying to ensure that she doesn’t annoy me … The primary reason I do not believe that she’s exhibiting Stockholm Syndrome, though, is that the (brief) cooperative, attentive, sweet, or affectionate periods soon give way to her more common defiant, moody teenager behavior.

She’s mostly just bored. I am boring. Spirit was fun. Koala, too. And with Cali, at least Orly had someone to torment. Now? Boring old human staring at a boring old computer. Humph.

She is going hiking a couple of days a week with a group of her dog pals, and I need to get busy arranging play dates for her on other days. She’ll get me out on lots of walks, too. And of course we have a large selection of treat toys, interactive puzzles, and other things to play with.

Even so, Orly’s life has changed significantly. And she does not see the changes as an improvement.

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