Momentary Loss of Composure

September 28th, 2010

Dear Clare,

The rain is here serving to illustrate a few of the shortcomings of our setup.  A huge bit of malicious digging that has been going on over the course of the summer has seriously compromised our wood chip, mud reducing ground cover.  Now the normally quite straight forward activity of letting a few dogs in the house has produced several thousand muddy footprints down the hall and an indiscriminate slathering of goo on the walls and fridge.

This all started when I thought, out of the goodness of my heart, I would let Cal, the massive pit bull with the temperament of a church mouse but a coat as thick as saran wrap, in out of the rain.  The result of trying to get one out of the pack is often like yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater as they all rush to be the one you pick.  Cal, the one dog that I meant to grab, of course, fled for it’s life amid the melee.

It is this kind of thing that can provoke a disregard for Phyllis’s number one rule, “Don’t expect to instantly correct one dog’s bad behavior while it stays with us let alone 15 at once.” as well as my own personal rule, “Don’t explode into a rage of profanity and physical contact in response to a dog’s natural instincts for although this can be quite an effective means of communication in an emergency situation it could be misinterpreted by those unfamiliar to your methods and result in calls to the SPCA or even local law enforcement.”  I believe I was without witness this morning but this is how I remember it.

“Hey Cal, let’s get you out of the rain, ya big ol guuuyy.” I said cheerfully as I opened the door and leaned into the rain.  I wasn’t naive enough to think it was going to be so easy but sometimes it is worth a try.  Cal looked up hopefully and wagged his tail but then retreated back a bit as nine other dogs rushed the door. “Back!” I said moving into the crowd.  Most of our dogs come pre-trained by their owners to respond to any verbal command by jumping straight at you in an attempt to reach as high as possible with their front paws. Sometimes I like to preempt this by swinging towards the offending dog with my leg out for the shorter one’s or my hands to push away the taller ones.  An untrained eye might interpret this sort of thing as kind of a kicking and punching motion which is why if you find yourself in need of these techniques it is best to do so out of sight of the untrained eye.  Of course with nine of them a few are bound to “get through.”  The trick now, in response to the husky cross with the stupid owner leaping against your back and “digging in” quite possibly dislodging a mole while a hound cross wails enthusiastically 3 inches from your face for she has misread your screams of pain for an indication that you are on to the scent of something big, is to remain calm yet still communicate that you regard this as “inappropriate behavior” that you don’t see fit to reward.   If you don’t communicate this firmly enough it is just going to encourage things isn’t it?  On the other hand if you over-communicate you might scar them for life.

Unfortunately the situation had sort of progressed to scarring for life.  Once I finished the communication process(which involved a regrettable amount of profanity as well as the hose and a few  projectiles)Cal had moved a mere two miles away and could be seen pressing himself against the back fence while the others were holding a respectable 10 feet or so like statues. Although misguided I did feel a slight bit of, “See Phyllis, with a concentrated effort one can accomplish the impossible.” Luckily she was hiding in the bathroom(a favorite spot of refuge when she senses an incident brewing)for all of this and could only imagine what all the fuss was about.  Now the only trick was to extract Cal from the back fence and escort him into the house.

In the end I brought a few more in as well as Cal to reward their good behavior.  They all responded to this bit of good fortune by breaking into the “Happy Dance” bouncing and skidding down the hall and violently shaking the contents of their sodden coats wherever they saw fit.

I remain, considering the possible ramifications of foregoing my 2 cups of coffee limit,


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