I guess I knew it couldn’t last. I sleep days because my wife works nights. Dawg decided today that he couldn’t wait for his regular feeding time and bugged me for an hour until I got up (still half asleep) and fed him supper. Then we went for “walkies”. About 50 feet down the sidewalk he stopped and threw everything up in one big reverse gulp. He seemed quite happy, and sort of proud of what he’d accomplished. That’s important, because occasionally he does that just once, and doesn’t go on to be really sick.
Then we went on to the dog park our townhouse community provides. It’s about half the size of a housing lot, is bordered by a hedge, and covered with beautiful grass. A “pickup station” is also provided, although few people seem to use it. There are townhouses on either side of the park. Dawg had barely gotten into the park when a lady pulls up in her car and parks in a slot across the “street/parking lot” that runs between homes. Then she walks across the street, obviously aware of me and the dog, and heads straight for us.
This is the sort of thing I hate, since I never know how Dawg will react. So I turn back to him, preparing to pull him in close to me so he can’t lunge, but I discover he’s already found a “place” and is in the middle of emptying his bowels. Standing with all four feet together like that, it’s difficult for him to move quickly (I thought), so I make a huge mistake. I decide to do nothing.
Apparently this lady’s townhouse is directly across the park from where we are, because she makes a bee-line for Dawg. His back was towards her, so he turns his head around to see what’s behind him. The next thing I know, he’s teleported to the end of his 25-foot lease, is standing on his back legs, pawing at the air with his front legs, and barking like an attack dog at this poor lady. I’m yelling “NO! STOP! COME!” and every other command I can think of at him, the whole time pulling with all my might on his leash to try and drag him back to my chair. None of it does any good. This is no simple “lunge”, this is an all-out attack. Animal trainers call it being in the “red zone”. The lady stops dead, inches away from the dog, and instead of backing away, stands there, frozen.
About a minute later (it felt like hours) his “red zone” gets down to orange, and he drops to all four feet. At that point I’m able to drag him back to me, but he doesn’t stop barking. Eventually I get him back to my chair and on a down-stay command. This whole time I’m making up excuses and apologizing my head off to the lady, who doesn’t seem to be mad or scared. For all I know she went inside and changed her underwear. I know that I would have. Then I’d be on the phone to the authorities.
Now, some people feel sorry for me because I’m in a wheelchair and Dawg’s a service animal (he wears a vest telling people that), so I get away with a lot of things other people might not. In this case, however, I doubt I’ve heard the end of this episode. Our community has rules about dog behavior. This is definitely outside the acceptable behavior.
The people who run the community have every right to ask us to either get rid of Dawg or move. The law says that a dog gets one free bite (okay, there was no biting going on, but the principle applies), so all I have to do is be very careful from now on, right? Wrong. When I relayed this story to my wife, she told me that he did the same thing while she was walking him a few weeks ago. She forgot to tell me about it. Thinking back, I realize that this has been growing all along. Each lunge episode has been more aggressive than the last. And now we’re here, in this place, where we can no longer ignore it.
I’m at a serious decision point. If it was a case of unjust, anti-dog behavior, I’d fight it. If I lost, I’d move. But these people have a point. This is a family community — there are small children around. In the past, they’ve been known to run up and grab Dawg before I could stop them. Now I don’t know if they’re safe. Moving isn’t going to fix the problem. Training classes haven’t fixed the problem. Walking him mostly at night hasn’t fixed the problem.
What can I do? I take my partnership with my dog seriously, and I’m not willing to throw him away or have him put down because we’ve run into a rough patch. But I’m in a real quandary. I feel trapped between my dog and my society. I guess what I really need to do is buy a place out in the middle of nowhere and hope no one ever comes to see me — including the postman and repair services. Except for the fact that I have no money, that might work — until he turns on me, my wife, or the vet.
You might think I’m over reacting, and maybe I am. But I’ve seen this happen several times before. Just last year a friend of mine had her face chewed off by a normally calm, friendly show dog she was raising. Dog breeders have a simple solution: they put the animal to sleep. But he’s not just “the animal” to me. I’ve done it before, when there was no other choice, but I don’t know if I can survive doing it again. Not this dog, not this hero.
So I suppose I’ve got some thinking to do. On the other hand, that’s one problem less. I can certainly stop waiting for that other shoe to drop.