When Spot received his calling, I don't know. One day we noticed him chasing his tail, not for a few minutes, but for six hours. My son wanted to rush him to the vet. I explained to him that Spot was doing what dogs are supposed to do. Dogs are hunters, they feel a calling to hunt, and chasing their tail satisfies that calling.
At the time, I was only making an excuse to prevent a trip to the vet, which would have sunk our floundering fiscal raft. Over the following weeks though, I started to believe what I'd told my son. Spot seemed to consider chasing his tail a pleasing duty, and spent the entire day wearing a circle in the carpet behind the wood stove.
I tried discussing Spot's condition with my wife. She told me I had too much free time on my hands. I let it drop there, not feeling up to another row over money that night. My son volunteered to help the next morning. I've always suspected he can hear us through the ducts. Nevertheless, I was not about to turn down an offer of help. We spent four or five hours a day studying Spot, discussing psychosis which might lead to his condition.
Our first breakthrough occurred a week into the project.
Running in circles seems pointless from a standing position. When you are at Spot's level it becomes a thrill. I crawled on hands and knees, a stocking filled with paper tucked into my belt, looking for something to hunt. I let my mind become a dog's mind. Finding nothing ahead of me, I look around. There, behind me is a creature, just within reach. I leap. The stocking falls out of my belt.
From this experiment, we determined that his tail was probably the first thing Spot saw when he received his call to hunt. Of course, that hardly explains why Spot continued the chase long after most dogs would have given up.
The answer hit me as I was replacing my wife's headlight.
It's a halogen bulb, inserted into the reflector housing through a removable steel holder. When I tried it though, the bulb didn't fit. For half an hour I tried to force the bulb through, finally using vice-grips to deform the holder around the glass. Having succeeded, I ran to the car, ready to push the bulb in, and return to my study of Spot's behavior. The holder didn't fit. The bulb was installed backwards.
Neither Spot nor I looked beyond the task at hand to see the effects of our actions. I couldn't see that I was destroying the holder. Spot couldn't see that his movement prevented his catching the tail.
Being unable to see the futility of our paths, we couldn't back up and look for another route. We were locked into the loop until something forced us to stop and examine our situation. For me, it was a look at the headlight casing. For Spot, it was as simple as tying his tail so it couldn't be seen. He was freed to look around and see the other wonderful things to chase, without the tail hanging in front of his eyes.
The challenge to the psychiatric profession now, is to use this technique of reflection to teach those who are acute reactionaries to control their disease. They must be taught, as Spot was, to look at their options, and consider which is best suited to the case. They must be trained, also, to examine the effects of their choices, and based on that examination, decide whether the path taken is valid.
As for Spot, he's still healthy and happy, living on the farm, chasing anything that moves. My little daughter likes to watch him playing in the fields, but something she pointed out has disturbed me. She noticed that Spot disappears behind the barn every day about noon. I decided to wait there one day, and sure enough, about twelve o'clock, out came Spot.
He glanced back at the house, and then began chasing his tail. For some reason, he seemed happier than he had been since we cured him. I've begun to wonder if maybe he didn't chase his tail for fun.
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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1992