28 September 2010
The strange conversations we have - Part II
There are dog people...and then there are people who have dogs. I've heard there are other sorts of people as well, people who are not defined in relation to any sort of canine factor at all, but I'm not sure if they actually exist or if it's just a rumor.
We are dog people. Even if we we didn't have dogs in our homes for a long time (until we became a family), Chris and I have always been dog people.
People who have dogs seem to like the idea of dogs, but don't really seem to have any understanding of dogs. Dogs have needs, personalities and quirks. Sometimes dogs' needs are inconvenient (dogs need to go outside on a regular basis to relieve themselves; sick dogs throw up on things...or worse; dogs should see their vet on a regular basis; etc.). Sometimes these needs are time consuming (dogs don't need to just run to the nearest tree and then hustle back in to lie down; dogs need to be mentally and physically stimulated to distract them from finding their own means of entertainment—quite possibly in the form of the nearest shoe or couch; dogs need rules; even dogs who appear healthy should receive vaccines and check-ups; etc.). People who have dogs but are not dog people often assume the dog can operate on the basis of what is convenient to their schedules. They often have poorly mannered dogs, destructive dogs, dogs who are seeking to instill order in the chaos of their home. Generally, people who have dogs but are not dog people seem disconnected from their dogs—probably because they are.
In our old condo building, there was one particular guy who had a dog but who was clearly not a dog person. His dog was small-ish, maybe 25 pounds, with fawn and black coloring, a thick coat and a curled-up tail. It wasn't a particularly adorable dog, nor was it unattractive. I never once saw this guy take his dog beyond the perimeter of our building; and while our building did take up a full city block it wasn't nearly big enough to fully exercise even this small-ish dog. I also never saw this guy pay any attention whatsoever to his dog when they were out together. He was either on his mobile phone,smoking a cigarette or chatting up some woman who I have come to assume was his girlfriend.
His dog had horrific manners—snarling viciously and barking at dogs who were still as far as half a block away or more. This used to scare the bejeezus out of Toni (no matter that she could have eaten his little head in a single bite, if so inclined). If we ran into the guy and his little Tasmanian Devil on the stairs, things were even worse. The dog was even more hysterical in close proximity and the guy seemed to have no idea that standing stock still and hoping it wasn't happening was really not the right response. We usually had to retreat back up to our floor and wait until we heard the fire door close behind him went he went to his floor.
When we brought Téa home, it didn't take us long to figure out that she had her own issues with leash aggression. We opted for a different approach to the guy's: we actually contacted a trainer and learned to help her manage her issues better so that every walk wasn't a nightmare. One day after we'd gotten the aggression issue in hand, I was out with T2 when we saw the guy and Taz approaching. We weren't able to cross a street nor could we turn back the way we came (too many dogs everywhere), so we decided to stop and sit on the corner, waiting for him to pass. Surely he wouldn't exacerbate the situation by coming close or stopping to talk, right? Wrong.
The guy walked straight toward us. His dog, not surprisingly, began its beast-from-hell impersonation, which escalated in direct proportion to how close we were to him. Téa was trying to be good, she really was. But she likes to engage. She's not a "turn the other cheek" kind of girl. She's more of a "what the f*** did you just say to me, jerkoff?!" kind of girl. The guy stopped about seven feet from us (which was good, since everyone on our team was on a six-foot leash) and then he just stared. His psychotic, slathering, fixated furball was desperately trying to twist its way out of his control, which he probably didn't notice since it was a small-ish psychotic, slathering, fixated furball and he was a big-ish guy. First he stared at Toni, who dutifully pretended none of this was happening. Then he started at Téa. In the eyes. For a long time. And just when I was about to ask him to move it along, please, there was nothing here to see, he finally opened his mouth to share this little tidbit of wisdom: "That one (nodding his chin at Téa) is really intense. Really intense."
And then he walked away, psychotic, slathering, fixated furball dragging after him like a mitten on a string.