Thursday, November 4, 2010

Old Dog, New Lessons

In August, I posted about learning lessons from my ten-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Tux.

I learned another lesson from Tux a couple of weeks ago. We were out walking when a small dog started carrying on from his place of safety behind his chain link fence. Tux was okay with the frenetic activity of the small dog running back and forth trying to provoke Tux. When the other dog stopped and started barking and talking trash, it was more than Tux could stand and he took umbrage.

I was sure Tux would, at the very least, lunge at the other dog. No. What he did was to stop and look hard at the trash-talking mutt. Then Tux turned his head away and approached his sister who had been watching the interaction between the two males.

In the doggie equivalent of a high five, he walked over to his sister and gently touched noses with her. I’ve only seen him do this once before, and under similar circumstances. It was as if he were saying that he was the bigger dog for walking away and his sister was agreeing with him, and, indeed, was proud of him for doing that.

How many times have we allowed ourselves to be provoked into action by someone else’s words only to rue the reaction to those fighting words? I, myself, allowed myself to get provoked the other day when we were walking in a park that posted that all dogs have to be on leashes. When we rounded a bend in the sidewalk, a man was coming toward us and his dog was off leash. Knowing Tux as I do, I called to the man to please leash his dog. He ignored me. So I called to him again to leash his dog. His response was not to leash his dog, but to continue to advance on us. By this time, Tux, too, was being provoked because he knows it is his duty to protect his sister and his Mom and here was an unleashed dog heading toward us. Finally, in my best school teacher voice, I ordered “Leash your dog.”

Finally, the man tried to do just that. Not that his dog went to him when he was called. The man had to chase down his undisciplined dog, which, of course, amused me no end to see an overweight arrogant man chasing a dog around in circles. He did get his dog on a leash and as we passed one another on the path, with his dog growling and snarling, Tux had had enough and lunged at the other dog. He and I both knew that because I had him on a short leash, nothing would happen. But neither the man nor his dog knew that. The dog was totally intimidated. So, too, was the man.

I couldn’t help but mutter as we passed, “Keep your damned dog on a leash in the park.” His response was a snarled juvenile retort, “You don’t own this park.”

I know better than to allow people to provoke me. Nothing is served by it. While there was momentary satisfaction on my part for having spoken up, the interchange did nothing to change the man’s attitude that he didn’t need to obey the leash laws, that he was special, and the laws weren’t meant for him.

So now, I simply do what I have to do to protect Tux and his sister as well as myself from harm. If it’s turning and going in the opposite direction of the unleashed dog, we will do that.

Luckily, though, I’ve not seen that man and his in my park again.

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