Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dog Consciousness

Weather forecasts offered mid- to high-nineties this weekend, so we packed up the camper and the pups and headed for the coast. Friday, when it was ninety-four in Portland, it was eighty in Garibaldi. Saturday, when it was pushing a hundred in Beaverton, it was seventy where we were, and we were right on the edge of a fog bank. Literally -- the back half of the camper was in shade, the front half in sun.

The place we stayed we'd been to a few times before, and it was pretty much full -- we weren't the only folks thinking the coast would be nicer. Enjoyed the visit, walked around the little town, went into the antique shop and flea market, very pleasant.

Except for the guy who was parked across from us. Call him ... Darryl. He had a dog -- looked to be half-and-half black lab and pit bull, young, female, and she barked at everything that moved. (When I googled black lab/pitbull mix, the first picture that came up looked just like her.)

There were some cats about, she didn't like that. Every person who walked past, she woofed. Every car or truck that passed, same deal.

Guy had her tethered to one of those ground spikes on a fifteen-foot lead. She had water, he fed her, and he'd scratch her behind the ears when he passed by, but he didn't walk her. She was pent. SPCA wouldn't come and collect her; what he was doing wouldn't be considered animal abuse most places.

I walked Jude and Layla over to visit with her -- Emma, her name -- and she was fine, went into play mode, and after a couple visits, she stopped barking at us. We exchanged pleasantries, Darryl and I. Hey, how are you, nice dog, etc.

Darryl -- whose knowledge of dogs fell somewhere between slim and none -- spent most of the days and much of the evenings gone. Every time he left, Emma ramped it up into full alert.

Against the park rules to do that, go off and leave your dog chained up outside, but that apparently didn't bother Darryl.

Dog Training Rule #1: A tired dog is a happy dog. (And so are the neighbors.) A dog with too much energy will find ways to get into trouble.

Every so often, I'd go over and untangle Emma's lead from whatever she'd wrapped it around, talk to her, make sure she had water, and she'd calm down. I allowed when I saw Darryl as how she she needed some exercise. He was too thick to get the hint. So I offered to walk her with my dogs.

No, thanks.

Last night, Emma started barking around eleven-thirty. After half an hour, I went to see to her. Darryl was gone, she was tangled around the water pipe. I quieted her down, untangled the lead.

Twelve-thirty, she stared up again. Continuous. Frantic. Oh-migod-it's-a-wolf! frantic.

That's it, I figured. I stepped outside. I figured I'd bring the dog into our rig and calm her.

Another camper, a woman, beat me to it. She was talking gently to the dog.

I went back inside.

One-thirty a.m., I was awakened by voices: " -- somebody put her inside," somebody said.

In my sleep haze, I figured it was Darryl and his drinking buddy coming back, and that somebody had put Emma into his trailer. Good. I fell back asleep.

Seven-thirty, dogs carrying on outside, I got up. There was Emma, running loose. I got dressed, went out to catch her.

She wasn't having any of it. She shied away. Couldn't get close enough.

Looked up, saw her owner standing in the doorway of his trailer.

"Somebody let her loose," he said.

"Wasn't me," I said. "Though I can understand why. She was barking continuously for most of an hour."

"Somebody let her loose." It wasn't about the dog, it was about him. He was royally pissed-off. Didn't matter she'd been barking like crazy half the night.

If you hadn't left her out there, asshole, she wouldn't have kept half the campground awake into the wee hours, I thought, but I didn't say it. You're lucky all they did was let her loose.

The dog wasn't coming, and Darryl just stood there looking stupid. "Can you you call her?" I asked him.

"Yeah, I can call her! But she won't come. That's the game. Once she gets loose, she doesn't come back."

Yes, there are dogs that can't be allowed to roam free. Dogs that have to be tethered or they will eat other dogs, the livestock, the neighbors. The choice is tie them up or have them put down. I know somebody who does pit bull rescue, and sometimes, that's what he has to do. That's how it has to be -- but -- Emma wasn't one of those, and anybody with the sense God gave a squashed grape could see that.

So I followed Emma around for a bit, tried to lure her closer with some raw hamburger, but she was canny. Brought my dogs out and she would dash into play with them. She got close, but not close enough.

Guy behind me, rigging his boat, not a dog person, allowed that he had been badly bitten once trying to corral a strange dog, and he wasn't going to try it. I could understand that. No problem, I said.

Emma's owner headed toward us. Emma walked over and nosed the dog-shy boat owner's hand.

"Grab her collar!" her owner yelled.

Boat-owner: "I don't think so. I got bitten last time I tried that."

Emma took off.

Owner: "You could have helped me out, whatever your excuse!"

Emma romped around.

At that moment, I decided I didn't want to grab Emma and give her back to this guy. Yeah, she was his. she had tags on her collar, was well-fed and obviously not physically mistreated, but I figured she was safe enough in the park, well-off the highway, and getting to run around for a while longer served her better. Fuck her owner. He didn't deserve a dog.

At which point Emma came over and nosed my hand.

It was as if was as if she knew I wasn't going to try to catch her any more. If not outright psychic, certainly tuned into something.

When we pulled out a short while later to head home, Emma was still roaming around, her owner following her. I hope she enjoyed every minute of it.


Ian SADLER said...

What an asshole!

I had a Rhodesian Ridge back for 16 years, and except for maybe a handful of days, he got walked twice daily, everyday.

People who don't 'get' how dogs live, love and work shouldn't have them.

Jeff said...

It's a shame that people don't often understand that when a dog is barking they are attempting to communicate something. Too many folks go through life without thinking of others, be it human or dog.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of dogs and too many people are just like the idiot you've described. The really sad thing is a lot of dogs turn mean when they are left on a lead day after day. Too many people treat dogs like toys. Play with with them while it suits; then when you tire of them throw them on a lead. The kids have been lobbing for a dog. I'll get one once they are old enough to participate in the responsibilities that go with dog ownership. Langdon

Shady_Grady said...

I have a Shepherd and her exercise needs are incredible. The good thing about it is that it also caused me to lose a few pounds.

Every dog needs exercise but some need more than others. People should get dogs that fit their lifestyle.

His Sinfulness said...

Chained or penned dogs can only express their stress in three ways - they can dig, chew, or bark. To dog people this is common sense, but for many like Darryl this is esoteric, secret knowledge. Owners like him should be chained out in the same situation as their dogs for a day or two to help this lesson sink in. Once he got loose, I bet he wouldn't want to be caught again either...

Justin said...

Good story, shitty dog owner. I try to remember that 9 times out of 10, it is the dog owner who's bad, not the dog. But then again, there are about 10 dogs in my neighborhood who takes turns barking whenever they damn well feel like it, and nobody seems to do a thing about it.

LA's a crummy place to raise kids, but apparently everyone wants to own a dog, toss it in their backyard, then ignore it exists.