“The thing is,” the male deputy said, “this area looks like a town, but in reality you’re in the country.” He paused. “In the country, we shoot bad dogs.”
“But this is not a bad dog. It’s a very bad owner,” I protested. I had just told him and his partner of my morning trauma when a neighbor’s dog attacked Sammy and me.
“Unfortunately you can’t shoot the owner.” The female deputy offered a small smile.
It’s not the first time the big black dog has acted threatening toward us. His name is Bo and he defends his territory whenever we stroll by his yard on our morning walk.
Like most dogs do.
Like Sammy does from behind the fence whenever another dog comes close to our property line.
But that morning, Bo didn’t just growl and snarl, he attacked and had Sammy’s throat in his giant locked jaws.
Bo’s owner likes to keep him off-leash when she gardens in her front yard. She has never bothered to train him, so he ignores her shouts of “stay” and “come.” My best friend called the sheriff’s office earlier in the summer when she dog sat for me. Bo got too close and his owner didn’t listen to my friend’s repeated requests that she leash her dog.
Sammy’s no angel. He’s a rescue dog with hang-ups that includes chasing cars, picking fights with other dogs, and barking excessively at birds flying over our house. He’s strong and can drag me down the block when he chases after a dog or a squirrel. I control him by using a pinch collar.
I’ve asked Bo’s owner several times to use a leash on her dog. Each time she said that since Bo only has a problem with Sammy, the problem is mine, not hers.
Well, I made it her problem. After watching Sammy struggling for breath in Bo’s choke hold and earning several bites and scratches of my own when I fought him to release my dog, I had enough. I called the sheriff’s office.
And that’s why there was two very nice officers in my kitchen. The male deputy recommended carrying pepper spray. “It doesn’t actually hurt dogs,” he explained. “They don’t have tear ducts, so it doesn’t sting them. It just confuses their scent, and so they stop.”
I love dogs. My heart ached over the thought of pepper spraying a dog because its owner is irresponsible and won’t listen to reason.
I thanked the deputies as they leave and promised I’ll consider pepper spray. But I wasn’t. I’ve never been scared of dogs. I grew up with them. In our neighborhood there are several dogs running around loose and when I speak to them with authority, they back off.
The next morning, a yellow lab that I’ve never seen before surprised me when it rushed out from behind a building. It snarled and barked, getting closer and closer. My heart beat increased and blood pounded so loudly in my ears, I thought my head would explode. The dog slunk away after I yell, but I was too worked up, too afraid to continue the walk.
The second morning I didn’t take Sammy out. “I’m late for work,” I told myself.
The third morning my bruises were swirls of ugly yellow and purple. They covered my right thigh and I had a few on my left arm. That day I stopped by the store on the way home from work and bought pepper spray.
It’s been more than a week since Bo attacked. I haven’t seen him or his owner.
I walk Sammy every morning again. I take down his leash and watch his excited twirls and yips as he runs to the door. I tie the poop-bags on the handle of his retractable leash and then make sure the pepper spray is in my pocket. Maybe I’ll forget about it in a few months, but right now its weight pulls heavily on my clothing.
I miss the walks when I listened to music and strolled through the neighborhood with relaxed arms and legs. The walks worked wonders to loosen my stiff neck and hips, the banes of a writer who spend too many hours in her office chair.
Now I walk with my free hand close to the pepper spray pocket, shoulders high and tense. I’m constantly on the lookout for dogs that may attack because their humans don’t keep them behind fences or indoors.
Bad owners. Very bad owners. I wish I could spray them instead of the dogs.
I have a quiet one. My Bloodhound rarely barks. And her long, sorrowful bays only happen at night. Sleep baying. It wakes my husband and I up… but Frankie finishes each round, paws twitching, never opening her eyes. Not once. I can’t help but wonder which scent memories have been conjured up in her vivid dreams.
In spite of her quiet nature, she is still quite the talker and her powers of communication are a stunning display of hound-doggery.
Heavy sighs: Dinner’s late, she’s disgusted.
Throaty grunts: Hoping to score after-dinner treats, Frankie does a full-body fridge block and grunts when I ask her to move. My after-dinner workout includes pushing 85 pounds of hound dog out of the way and running the length of the house shaking a box of doggie treats.
High-pitched nose whistle: A supreme universal being has crossed her path… a cat! Both curious and fearful of felines, she lets me know one’s nearby and keeps a worshipful distance.
But for meaningful hound dog conversation, look to the paw.
The Power Paw. That left front foot tipped in purest white fur speaks a language that’s impossible to ignore. Whether she flings her empty ceramic bowl across the kitchen floor, scratches her snout before letting loose a mighty sneeze, thumps the edge of the bed letting us know she needs a middle-of-the-night pee, that left paw drives the message home.
Yet it’s the quietest moments when the paw speaks the loudest. In times of trouble or sorrow, like when I learned a dear friend had lost his battle with brain cancer, my Bloodhound reads my mood and senses my loss. Placing a paw on my leg, she comforts me. That’s the true power of the paw, friendship, and love. And sometimes that big pink tongue snakes out of her jowls and catches a tear or two.
This month, we’re celebrating Dog-tober. Us Janes are active, fun-loving, and have our noses in everything, so of course we’re dog people!
When I met my XY (it’ll be 20 years ago next year) he came pre-packaged with a dog. I admit, us two bitches got off to a slightly rocky start: she ate a pound — a whole pound! — of Fannie May fudge my mom had sent me and she ate six — SIX! — of a dozen donuts (she wasn’t a total glutton, but she DID eat the ones with chocolate, grr) I had hidden away, and she wasn’t even guilty about it.
Maybe it was our shared love of sweets, but it didn’t take long before it was us two against the boy. Girl power!
She was the first dog I was substantially responsible for, and when she died, she left a dog-sized hole in my heart. I knew we’d get another dog eventually. I mean, what do you even DO with yourself when you don’t have a dog? :( So when the time came, I found Monster Girl, who you met in our first Dog-tober post:
Yes, this is my little dingbat (half dingo, half vampire bat). She’s a dork, as you might have intuited from her photo, so we get along fantabulously. She, like her predecessor, is a well of energy, silliness, and good times.
And also life lessons.
What I’ve learned from my life of dogs
- Get up & go out
My dogs have always loved to sleep. They want their eight hours of beauty sleep, plus after-breakfast nap, midday nap, post-dinner nap, and evening nap. But they know the best naps come after hard work. Somebody has to keep those squirrels on the move! So whenever you find yourself cooped up too long at the computer, remember to get up and go, for a little while at least. THEN snuggles, lots of snuggles.
- Let it go
Mistakes and bad things happen. (Why can’t you ever vomit on the hardwoods, not the carpet?!) But brooding doesn’t make it better. So as much as you might resent baths, leashes, and mean cats that don’t want to be friends, take a moment to let your ears droop… then find a way to sneak out the back fence and run around like a loon.
- Eat ALL the snacks (metaphorically)
Hey, life is short in dog and people years. If you run around hard enough, you can eat all the snacks (carrot chips, peanut butter toast, blueberries, and anything that comes in a bag labeled for cats — mmm-mmm good) guilt free! But the treats can also be a romp on the beach, a cuddle on the couch, rolling in fresh-cut grass (and dead worms!), or whatever. Look for the simple pleasures that make you happy.
And don’t forget your microchip, so you can always find your way home!
Welcome to a brand new month of See Jane Publish. Starting right now we are off leash and on a mission: relevancy and reinvention. You see, being part of any pack is filled with challenges and we’d like to get to know our audience better… through our shared love of dogs.
Which is why we are dedicating October as dog month. Or Dog-tober as we like to call it. We are four writer dog moms who opted for fur babies instead of human ones, and all month long we are going to be writing about our lives with our canines. So to introduce ourselves to you, we thought we’d let our dogs do the talking and describe us.
Your job? Match the writer to the dog for a chance to win delicious treats, of both the human and doggy kind!
We’ll pick a winner on Sunday (10/5) at 10 pm PST. Have fun!
My mom is completely and utterly untrainable. I don’t have many demands as King of her castle but if she had her way, we could cuddle all day long on the couch as she writes on her laptop. I swear that woman doesn’t appreciate me. When I do my perimeter rounds, she calls me Napoleon. I bark back. When we encounter another dog on our daily walks, she calls me Cujo. I pull on the leash. It’s all rather embarrassing.
Someone please publish her books so she will have less time to snuggle.
My human is such a good girl! She learned sit-stay right away (as long as I put a computer in front of her) and she really likes to play fetch-the-snacks for both of us. Twice a day, I make sure she gets a nice, long walk, rain or shine, which I know she appreciates very much. Because I love her, I make sure to warm up the pillows on her bed by sleeping on them all the time—and those loud noises and wild gesticulations are her simple way of saying thank you. It’s just too bad that her stories don’t feature more canine heroines. Maybe I should just write one. How hard could it be?
My alpha female spends a lot of time in her pajamas. This is why I get very excited when she puts on pants. Three of my favorite words: walk, swim, and car, involve her wearing pants. She spends too much time on her computer, but I entice her to play by bringing squeaky toys into her office. Froggy must be her favorite. A few minutes of that loud green frog in my mouth and alpha female chases me through the house. It’s almost as much fun as when we go down to the lake to swim for sticks. Good times!
Me and Mom are two of a kind: She has a stubborn streak, is prone to laziness on hot days, and sometimes she drinks too much. Of course, she can’t drool like I can. But like me, she’s a bit of bitch when it comes to guarding her personal space. Territory is something we take seriously, me and mom. She gets to sit in the chair in front of the computer and I supervise her from the other side of her office – stretched across the length of a twin bed.