My foul-mouthed dog is having a territorial dispute with the ghost upstairs

I made three visits to the shelter before I met Ollie, a 2-year-old, 25-pound mutt with a pleasant personality. Ollie became my constant companion during the day, following me from room to room. I talked to him aloud frequently and started to call him Bubba. His full name became Ollie Bubba but his proffered monogram is OtB — Ollie the Bubba.

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The rest of the family — my husband and two grown children — were not that taken with Ollie Bubba at first. He didn’t care for men, especially men wearing sunglasses or baseball caps. In my mind I conjured a story of an abusive past — men in shades and caps being mean to OtB, my sweet little dog to explain his curious behavior.

I watched a dog training video and had him following commands, willing to sit for a rub under the chin and treats, but Ollie continued to be sweet only to me. He came when I called, crawled in his kennel when I told him to and would go back to bed if it was too early to rise.

We were OK as long as it was just the two of us, but guests and family disrupted our equilibrium. He became grumpy and snapped at people if they attempted to pet him without asking him to sit first.

However, when my husband retired, Ollie became more enamored with the parent who would give him treats with no demands. He could ride off in the truck and hold his nose out the window, and his requests to go out at 4:00 a.m. were honored. I’m pretty sure they smoked cigars and drank scotch together when I wasn’t paying attention. He became a decadent grump, refusing to be brushed or bathed without complaint. My husband rewarded him for insolent behavior, allowed to ride in the car outside of the kennel and encouraged to jump onto the bed to sleep.

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So when Myra the pet psychic, a friend of a guest at our bed and breakfast was visiting with her best friend, I decided to have her read Ollie. Her insights were surprisingly accurate, not only about Ollie, but about other spirits in the house.

She sat on our screened porch, talking with Ollie and reporting his comments to me. She said he was happy with his family and content with his situation. And since he didn’t know who the master was, he decided he would be the master, which she said explained his snapping behavior.

“Did you know your dog curses?” she said.

“Why no,” I insisted. “I have no idea where he got that from.”

“Well he does. He curses quite a lot. There is a woman here, a ghost, who stays upstairs in the blue room. She doesn’t like him being in the house, and he calls her an old bitch. He menaces her if she comes downstairs, but he doesn’t like to go upstairs. That seems to be her territory. He says she has made the drapes fall down and she moves things around.”

It was true: Ollie didn’t go upstairs — his choice — and things did get moved with no explanation, and the drapes have fallen down. He also wanted me to know that the sad story I assumed about his abuse was not true. He said he could open doors and was proud of it. I could confirm that he did indeed open doors – I had to put bolts on some of the doors. She told me his first family had a Chihuahua, but OtB didn’t care for them, so one day when the Chihuahua was yapping, he opened the door and left.

“Here’s the deal,” the pet psychic said. “Ollie wants you to know he could leave if he wanted to, but he doesn’t want to.”

That’s the nicest thing he’s ever said to me.

Like many moms, I take responsibility for being the structured disciplinarian, and the daddy figure lets our charge run amok. So Ollie Bubba probably remains confused about his masters and emotionally unstable but I haven’t lost much sleep over it. When it’s just the three of us, there’s no harm done and we’re comfortable.

As OtB gets older he takes medication regularly, but without fail he has a series of about 10 seizures over the course of three days, every five weeks or so. They are violent, racking fits, and all we can do is try to cushion his head with a pillow if he’s beating it against the floor. Now that he’s 14 years old, his recovery from seizures is more difficult — and he’s still grumpy. I imagine him answering our questions while he’s recuperating with “hell no.”

I find myself saying things like, “When Ollie dies, I’m going to buy a new comforter,” or “I’ll get a new car when Ollie passes.” However, my kids tell me Ollie is saying, “When Momma dies, I’ll tell the cat she should leave,” or “I’m going to eat three times a day when Momma’s gone.” We seem to be biding our time, tolerating each other’s quirks, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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