Thursday, April 29, 2021

Harry the Wonder Dog

Ultimately this is a story about judgement.  Sometimes based on our experiences both real and imagined we draw a conclusions about people not based truth but assumptions.  Unless those assumptions are corrected or proved wrong we carry them around in our mind like it was empirical fact. 

It has been a long time since I felt like I could write again. I lost my writing partner, then there was a Pandemic, I wasn’t doing any shows and soon the news was nothing but the saga of a failed attempt to overthrow an election, by sedition.  All very happy subjects to deal with. And since the Pandemic has us all circling our own nest in continually smaller concentric circles, there has been nothing much that I thought worthy to write about.  My one real obligation, during the shut down, has been to take Harry the Wonder Dog out for long walks.  He is a tiny dog but loves to walk and our average is three miles a day. There is only one distraction to these lovely dog walks through the Encino/Sherman Oaks area, and that is Harry’s agitation toward other dogs.  It used to be aggression but through a lot of patience, treats and training he is doing much better. 
Sandi and I are fully vaccinated as are most all of our friends, so yesterday was the first time since last April that Harry and I took our walk and I did not wear a face mask.  When that is your thrill of the day, you know you have been away from a stage and an audience for too long. Over the past year Harry and I have bonded on our walks and his distrust of other dogs is now “semi” under control.  For the longest time I thought there was some pattern to his barking out.  I thought it was only big dogs he barked at, then he would go crazy when a very tiny dog would walk on the other side of the street and he would dash my scientific theory.  I still do not know what will occasionally cause Harry to turn from Chihuahua mix to Chupa Cabra but I am always on guard when we are approaching other dogs.  
One thing for certain: if the “other dog” shows any sort of aggression or barks at Harry, Harry the Wonder dog  immediately turns into Joe Pesci.(thank you Donna Marie for that image)   If all other disciplinary actions and treats fail, he is small enough to lift off the ground and into my arms by way of his leash and harness.  When approached by aggressive dogs who are not on leash this method becomes very effective.

Needless to say sometimes my walks with Harry could be less stressful if he was less “energetic” but we pick times when there are less dogs on the street.  I would say that most of the time I am on DEFCON 3 when walking Harry. I scan the horizon for any person with a dog on a leash.  We will usually cross the street if they are are approaching us.  There are tense moments as we pass and I feel like I am walking a tightrope for a few minutes.  I pretend I am a member of the Secret Service guarding a President, ready to react at a moments notice. Harry seems to know when my guard is down and turns into the Tasmanian Devil so.... even thought I like the walks I am always watching out for other dogs.  

There needs to be a side bar at this point in my story.  Since the Pandemic I have become hooked on the Judge Judy Show which airs every afternoon here on a local station.  I know that your opinion of me has suffered just a little bit because of this attraction but I am drawn to Judge Judy like a curious fly is drawn to fresh shit..(which is a perfect metaphor).  I know she is a judge but she is so judgmental, so condescending and so sure that she knows exactly who is a loser, I am baffled that anyone could be so much like the second grade teacher I loathed when I was a kid.  She is combative, outspoken, unflinching and opinionated.  

Here is the connection. I would say that a large percentage of cases she hears involve dogs.  The big dog hurts or kills the small dog, the little dog bites a person and there is a dispute on who pays the doctor or vet bills.  Judy herself is an avid dog owner of Shitzus.  It is always easy to predict who will win a case when one of the dogs is a Pitbull.  The Pitbull always loses.  She hates Pitbulls and makes a point to say that home owners must pay extra for insurance if they have such a breed of dog. Judy will berate the owner for being careless with a vicious breed of dog, but will also point out that in her opinion no one should have this kind of dog, period.  I believe it is mostly the fault of the dog owner not controlling these big dogs which are bred to fight, but it appears that Pitbulls like many big dogs can suddenly turn for no reason into a very dangerous animal. 

 We return you now to the story about Harry the Wonder Dog.  

Yesterday when I was enjoying my first “unmasked” walk, Harry and I were strolling though the neighborhood.  I know most of the dogs along this path.  I anticipate the dogs that are likely to bark even from behind a fence which might release the Chupa Cabra I am tending.  We are on a street where I have never noticed any dogs to be cautious about before.  I would not say my guard was down but I would say I was at DEFCON 1 at this particular moment.  Half a block away I spot a large, very well groomed, very muscular, ominous Pitbull ahead of us on the opposite of the street.  I tighten Harry’s leash and began my routine intervention..  Harry notices the dog before I do. I then  realized the dog is not on a leash.  He is standing by a tree near the curb at the edge of the yard.  Harry hesitated but continued walking and began to huff and puff which I know as a precursor to an outburst. I am thinking that if this dog even looks this way, Harry is going to go crazy.  

I did not see the owner of this dog as it looked our way.  I became ready to haul Harry in by his leash.  The Pitbull’s gaze does not linger toward us long enough to light Harry’s fuse. Instead, the Pitbull turns to look at something else: from my angle now I can see a man  with salt and pepper short hair, of medium build standing  a few yards from the dog.  He is standing, in my opinion, too far away to be of much help if the dog charges our way. I am relieved to see him and assume he will take control of this potential killer now that he knows we are across the street.  He does not. 

Harry and I are now across the street and even with the Pitbull.  I am holding a ticking Chihuahua who is ready to explode at any moment. The dog looks in our direction again.   I am  disturbed that the owner has made no preemptive actions to keep this heavy weight from charging Harry and me. He has not even said the name of the dog nor make any sound. We keep walking carefully,  never taking our eyes off the big dog.  I immediately think of the story I will tell Judge Judy.  “The owner of the dog did nothing to restrain the Pitbull who was not on a leash at the time...your Honor.. he is a very irresponsible dog owner.”   
“Judgement for the plaintiff ... and you sir, are a negligent dog owner who probably should not even own a dog of any breed.”  That is what I was thinking.... Judging this dog owner and giving him the worst thoughts I could muster.

That is when the man turned to me and I saw his face clearly.  It was Caesar Millian zen master of dog training and television celebrity.  I was aware  he lived somewhere near but didn’t know where.  If you click on his name link you can see a picture of the Pitbull.  Harry and I could not have been safer at that moment from the attack of a Pitbull.  I was so ready to judge the dog and the man assuming he was a careless dog owner. The facts about this dog and this owner could not be more uninformed.  

Never judge a situation by the worst thoughts you can muster.  Never judge a person until you really know who they are. The evangelicals keep talking about judgement day coming... since we all seem to be judging each other not based on truth, I would say judgement day might just have arrived.

As you were,


Tom Pace said...

My dad always told me…”Everyone is your friend, unless they show you otherwise.

cwalter said...

I just read your story about Harry the wonder dog. I enjoyed it very much. However, we have a connection.

Six months ago Martha and I became a dog owner. The problem is/was the rescue dog was PREGNANT. Subsequently she had five puppies. We gave away three, so now we have three. (Mom and two puppies)

Our family reunion is scheduled for July 16-18 in Estes park CO. We have to board our three dogs. After much research and debate we decided to use Canine Country Club in Santa Clarita. It so happens that the facility is literally across the road from Cesar’s. What a coincidence!