Monday, September 18, 2006

I Don't Hit Animals or Humans

I'm still mulling over the sandwich incident. There was a time, before I’d taken in over 1300 hours of animal shows on The Learning Channel, that I thought spanking seemed like a perfectly reasonable option for dogs. I know; I’m the devil. These days, however, animal behaviorists are pretty certain corporal correction hurts dogs more than it helps them. By the way, if you are someone who still disciplines your dog with physical punishment, I'll let you in on a little secret: people probably assume you also run Pit Bull fights out of your garage on weekends to support a nasty meth habit-- just so you know.

So I don’t hit animals (or humans in case you’re wondering). I feel the need to be clear on this point since somewhere along the line I have acquired a reputation for having a violent temper. A temper? Guilty. Violent, only if you happen to tap into the 39 year-old reservoir of angry gay man, which, by the way, is just down the street from somewhat disillusioned evangelical and across the road from mildly irritable selfish second sibling.

I clarify my temperamant because once I relayed news of an earlier food snatching to my friend Dave, who has, in my view, an unhealthy need to be the sole object of Claire’s affection to the point that he lays down with her on our furry floor to spoon, repeating over and over to me as I watch that Claire has no love for anyone greater than her adoration of him. Isn’t this just what the religious right fears will happen if you grant the gays marriage rights?

My memory's a little fuzzy, but he wasn’t spooning with Claire during my retelling of her earlier smash and grab. He was making a fall wreath. Upon word of her transgression, Dave gingerly placed the hot glue gun he’d been using to attach red and orange berries to the wreath on the table, turned to me and with a drawn back accusatory glare that would have made Norma Desmond proud, shrieked, “You didn’t hit her, did you?” I told him that the nail-studded driver I normally use to discipline Claire when she makes a “poor choice” was at the pro shop.

I don't hit animals or humans, but I'm starting to realize that even when I'm tempted to club something the gentlest response is likely to be the correct one. Claire's walks are an example. They are typically peaceful, occassionally jaunty affairs. She ignores most dogs. I can tell when she sees a cat that she imagines chasing it down, but these are fleeting fantasies quickly dismissed. If a squirrel, however, so much as picks its nose in a tree three blocks away every muscle in Claire's body starts to twitch and twinge. Sometimes she'll flip her body and walk on her two hind legs while trying to pry the leash from around her nose. Since autumn is turning our streets into a squirrely Klondike full of fallen acorns her behavior has gotten increasingly problematic. I lie to alarmed passersby and tell them she suffers from Turrets.

I tried ignoring her behavior, pulling her through the episode like the good pack leader, saying with each tug of her leash, "we don't have time for this. We have to migrate to food, which happens to be at the house we just left 30 minutes ago." I tried holding her face in my hand to break the squirrel spell. No luck.

Finally, this morning I asked myself, "What if she can't help this? I know she's supposed to be ready to do whatever we as her pack leaders ask at any time, but what would happen if I just followed her lead on the squirrel thing?" So when we came upon our first squirrel who was sitting on a tree limb 15 feet above us I gave Claire the slack in her leash. She raced to the base of the tree, sat down, stared at the squirrel for 5 seconds and then stood back up to move on with her walk.

I felt ridiculous. Three weeks of incessant doggie mind games trying to figure out how to get her to move through the squirrel fits, and all she needed was to look at one for a few seconds. I wonder how many other challenges in my life have such simple solutions.


Blogger Michelle said...

Very funny. Extremly refershing.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Sally said...

Wouldn't it be awesome if all of lifes problems were so easily resolved? David is obsessed with Claire, by the way.

5:40 AM  
Anonymous David said...

I'm just sayin'...I always have Claire's best interests at heart. It's an unconditional love we got goin'...

7:11 AM  

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