Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reeling him in

I don't know if he's going through a mid-life crisis or what, but lately, Hershey the dog has been completely oblivious to an attempt to control his behavior. He's decided that HE is the boss and who are you, woman, to be bossing around the likes of me, a dog of great manliness and masculine machismo? Well, in spite of the part where his gonads were surgically removed before he could have a chance to woo numerous lady dogs.

Hershey and Wimzie often go for walks in our neighborhood at the end of their leashes, led most often by my husband, who can handle them both together, or by me, who can only deal with one of them at a time, plus carry the pooper scooper without, you know, accidentally letting it brush against my pants. Eeww. But in the late afternoons, it's always been easier just to let them go out to the yard, off-leash, to do their business while I walk around in the grass with them, or just stand on the front walk if the grass is wet or covered with snow.

This has always worked well up until now. Recently, Hershey has decided that he wants to go bounding up to people passing by on the sidewalk, a behavior that I deplore. Some of the passersby are people who live in our neighborhood, or the lawyers whose firms are housed in some of the big, 18th century demi-mansions that proudly line the next street over, so they're not rendering insensible with fear when he bounces up to them, tongue lolling happily. They know him and patiently give him a pat on the back while I apologize fulsomely. Thank heaven he's never been a jumper, but still. Still.

Some people who walk by don't live in our neighborhood and might not necessarily want some strange dog trotting over and sniffing and begging for a pat on the head. Monday, this came true in a particularly awful way that makes me cringe just thinking about it.

I took the dogs out at around 6:00 in the afternoon because that's generally a time when there are few people out on foot. The lawyers have come back from the court house, the little theater two doors down has not yet opened for rehearsals (they're doing "The Music Man" in November), the school bus has long since dropped off its load of kids and the mail carriers are finished with their day's deliveries. That is a time that I can count on.

Except for Monday.

On Monday, I was standing on the front walk and Hershey was across the yard standing under our tree. He heard voices that were too far away for me to hear, but I saw his ears perk up and his tail go up and he began prancing across the yard in his friendliest way, past the side of the house where I couldn't see him.

"Hershey!" I called, annoyed. "Hershey, get back here right now!"

He ignored me, of course. So I started walking across the yard after him, rather slowly because my handicapped knee does not permit swift movement on bumpy surfaces. By the time I got to the side of the house, the people that Hershey had welcomed had drawn abreast of the house. It was a group of college students from the nearby university. They were patting him rather warily and he was loving it.

"I am so sorry," I said. "He's really very friendly....I apologize. Really. Hershey!"

Hershey had gone up to one young man in the group, a man with the smooth, ebony skin that indicates an African emigrant, probably a foreign exchange student, I figured. He was very handsome with his strong features and high cheekbones; it was an elegant and eternal face, slightly incongrous in a university sweatshirt and a ski cap with a pom-pom on top.

That young man was trembling visibly. "I am scared of dog!" he quavered in the overly-precise English of someone unaccustomed to colloquial speech. "I am vurry scared of dog!"

Of course Hershey was attracted to him like steel to a magnet. The young man pushed his hands at Hershey as I got close enough to grab Hershey's collar. But Hershey, the little jerk, slipped away from me and went behind the African student. This caused the young man to turn around, obviously afraid that Hershey was going to go for a rear assault.

"I am scared! I am scared!" he said, eyes wide with fright. The other students, about six in number, gathered around him, speaking soothingly. They called him something that sounded like Owumba.

"It's okay," said one girl, squatting down to pat Hershey's back (I was highly tempted to kick him to the moon, myself). "See, Owumba, he's a friendly dog."

"Yes, friendly," I chattered. "Very friendly dog!" I looked at the student and my heart smote me -- he had tears standing in his eyes. I patted him awkwardly on the arm. "I'm so sorry you were frightened, terribly sorry." The girl who had been petting Hershey took hold of his collar and transferred him to me.

The African student looked at me, eyes wide and indignant. The guy walking beside him said gently, "It's okay. Come on, look, she's got the dog."

They all walked on and crossed at the corner. None of them looked back. But I stood there holding Hershey, just covered with guilt. Holding tight to his collar, I frogmarched him across the front yard. He did not appreciate this treatment and threw himself around like a python, writhing and twisting and yelling for the police. Thank goodness Hershey doesn't speak English.

"Shut up, you big baby," I hissed at him. I tugged him up onto the front porch and let go of his collar, and darned if that idiot didn't try to scoot around me and dive off the porch. I blocked him and said, "YOU ARE A BAD, BAD DOG" in a voice that must have held such a promise of mayhem, Hershey turned around and went into the house, where Meelyn was holding the door open for us, her eyes nearly as wide as that student's.

"What happened?" she asked.

"It's a long story, but let me start telling it by saying that tomorrow, we are going to PetSmart and buying one of those long bicycle-type dog ropes and I am never going outside with Hershey again unless it he is at one end of it and I am on the other."

I have spoken.

He'll find out who the boss is.

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