I have an Australian Shepherd named Rally. She is known by the American Kennel Club as Gold Dust Playin' To Win at Defiance, but that sounds more like a name one would hear at the Kentucky Derby, not a name called out at the local dog park. My husband and I were walking Rally on a recent crisp autumn afternoon. This dog is highly trained, but she likes to pretend that she isn't. When I walk her, she heels like a pro. When my husband walks her, she practically licks every spot where the various neighborhood dogs have peed. I stand back and listen to him spout the command: "Return to heel! Look at me, Rally. Return to heel!" She just continues to sniff, ignore, and lick. We continued to walk on, and as we approached a turn on the trail we noticed a little boy approach us. It became clear very quickly that he wanted to pet Rally.
Rally does not like small children. We have four daughters whom Rally fiercely protects and defends, but, outside of "her pack", she really dislikes small, fast moving people. They get in her face, hug her, and act like sheep. As a trained working sheepdog, she acts on instinct. She might nip, growl, herd, or corner a perceived "sheep" in order to put it into a hold. As a rule, we generally keep Rally away from small children. This little guy, however, ran right up to us: "May I pet your doggy?" My husband had a tight hold on Rally's leash, but, suddenly, Rally let out an uncharacteristic ferocious snarl. The little boy didn't want to pet Rally after that. "Wow! That was weird," I said. She looked fine so we continued towards home. One block away from the house, two small, yippy dogs ran by us. Their owners had them leashed, but the dogs were pulling so hard they looked like they were trying to hang themselves. Again, Rally let out that ferocious snarl. "Okay, she's really being bitchy! I hope she's okay," I said sympathetically. My husband cocked an eyebrow at me. "What?!" I asked defensively. "Hey, if you had those two yippy things coming at your face, you'd snarl, too!" He was still looking at me sideways. "She snarled at a toddler," he observed. "Okay, I can't defend her for that. I have no idea why she did that. Maybe she's having a bad day," I wondered. "A bad day? Dogs have bad days? Well, she better get over it because we can't have her snarling at babies," my husband said rather unsympathetically. "Noted," I nodded.
Rally's mood did not improve. She continued to be bitchy, and that's the best way I can describe her mood. She chased after the cats more than she normally did--and this dog loves to antagonize our two cats. She refused to obey our commands. She was utterly defiant. Then, she started to smell weird. Tangy. Bitchy and tangy. Everything you look for in a family pet. Last night, her mood changed. She crawled onto the couch with me, curled up in my lap, and refused to leave. Clearly, she didn't feel well. I started to worry. It's important to note that Aussies are characteristically loyal dogs; they tend to bond to one or two people. I'm her favorite person, her shepherdess. She goes where I go. She epitomizes fierce loyalty. This dog tries to go into the loo with me. Her mood last night, however, wasn't one of loyal companionship. It was one of neediness which is why I felt concerned.
This morning, I awoke to find Rally in her crate. Rally ran into the kitchen for her breakfast. She was behaving normally. Then, I heard my husband call out, "Why is there blood on the floor? Are you bleeding?" No, I wasn't bleeding. The girls had all left for school. That only left one other mammal in the house aside from the felines--Rally. Aha!!! Rally had gone into heat! Suddenly, I was connecting the dots in my head...snarling at the toddler, snarling at the yippy dogs, her defiance, chasing the cats more than usual, crawling on top of me...Rally had PMS! Wait a minute. Dogs get PMS?!
There I was, staring at Rally, feeling tremendous empathy. I knelt down next to her and scratched behind her ear, "Do you feel badly? You got your period, huh? Well, isn't that just the suck." Aussies don't have tails so when they "wag", their entire bottom wiggles; Rally looked up at me with her chocolate brown eyes and wiggled her bottom. Yes, we had our girl-to-girl moment. I told my husband, "Rally's in heat. That's why she's been such a bitch. She doesn't feel well." My husband came in, put his hands on his hips, looked down at her with sympathy, and said, "Well, shit. We'd better keep her away from Eddy. He's a gorgeous lab, but that dog is as dumb as a stump." Eddy is my friend's purebred Labrador Retriever who lives directly next door. He is an intact male, and he is indeed one of the most beautiful Labradors you will ever see. Unfortunately, he is the Zoolander of Labradors--gorgeous but stupid. The dog can't even retrieve.
Determined to make her comfortable as well as keep our home free from blood, I found some old underwear and put it on our Aussie. That's really all you can do. I cinched it up with a decorative flowered band so that her underwear would stay on, and she was good to go. She looked up at me with an expression of horrified shame and let out a whinny. Aussies do that. They sound like horses. Clearly, she didn't like her new garment: "Rally, don't look at me like that. These are your new Power Panties! Wear them with pride! But, no getting it on with Eddy. We'll have no Litter of Shame over here. We're locking you away until you're not in season anymore, and then it's off to the vet with you!" She whinnied at me again, looked at her bottom, and fell over. My husband watched the whole display with great amusement and said, "Power Panties? The dog looks embarrassed. They're more like Panties of Shame. I thought you were going to start singing "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar." So, have you finished bonding with the dog?" I watched him laugh at his own brand of humor. "Go ahead. Enjoy yourself. Just keep in mind that this is the first female mammal in your house to get her period. There are four more in the queue. So, laugh it up...while you can." His smile disappeared, and I'm pretty certain that he paled a bit as he processed that information. I left him alone in the office with Rally, resting quietly in her Power Panties, as I slowly swaggered down the hall singing "I am woman, Hear me roar, In numbers too big to ignore..." He shouted after me, "Hey! That's not funny! Seriously! Stop it! This isn't funny!!" I started laughing. "Snarling at toddlers? Oh baby...you haven't seen nothin' yet." Somebody, buy this man a beer. Or two. He's going to need them.