Free-Floating Hostility

Monday, January 01, 2007

Am I Dog Person?

My eyesight is better than Anna's. So whenever we go for drives or walks, I have taken over the job of pointing out meaty dogs. It could be a black lab on the other side of (I kid you not) Putah Creek in our arboretum. Or it could be someone walking a St. Bernard on the sidewalk as we drive along. Anna's response is, invariably, to coo about the virtues of the dog she has never met. One side effect of this behaviour is that I, somewhere along the way, convinced myself that I was a dog person. After two weeks of tending Nisa, and for a portion of that being the primary caregiver, I can report that I'm wouldn't use that term to describe myself. At least not yet. I liked Nisa and think big dogs in general are cute. But I still don't really trust them or myself around them.

Because mostly, I was nervous around Nisa. She would make a noise or turn up her nose at her food and I would be in contact with Anna immediately. "What does it mean when she sniffs?" I'd ask. Or maybe, "What does it mean that she has four legs?" I liked walking her, but felt utterly frantic at the times she would run in circles and try to get out of her collar. I loved watching PTI with her sitting next to me on the couch, or the way she followed me into the other room and napped next to me when I was borderline sick (which is to say, when, on the first night, I had awoken at every sound in fear it was Nisa barking or the manager tacking an eviction notice to the door). That was really nice. But when she was awake and moving, I was constantly tense. I worried she would eat chocolate, shit on the purple chair or bite a neighbor. Perhaps this is what parenthood is like.

I found as our stint went on, however, that when she did something bad I stopped feeling frightened and instead started to get frustrated. I think, actually, that counts as a progress. I adjusted from feeling out-of-control to believing as though I was just fucking up. Accepting the latter also meant that I believed I could control the situation. And that's something to build on.

I also think it's like parenthood, because most of what we did for two weeks was talk about her. Because she was sweet and smart. I'm told that when people were crying in our apartment, Nisa was right there to lick the tears away. That's an important skill for any family gathering. Also whenever we left, we'd lock her in the kennel with a bone we'd spread peanut butter inside. This is Nisa's favorite treat. But after a particularly busy day in which she had eaten too many peanut-butter bones, Nisa came out of the kennel and refused to give up the bone. She'd carry it with her, and, when I tried to grab it she'd gently pick it up and walk away it. As long as we couldn't give her any peanut-butter bones, she had clearly reasoned, we couldn't leave her alone. I love that story. But I can't imagine you're interested at all.

When I came home from work Saturday, I was relieved that Nisa had gone. What I find today is that I miss having her in the apartment. Actually, we've been walking up to each other at various times today pretending to pin our ears back and sniff inquisitively. Some people get dogs as practice for having kids. But our time with Nisa was practice for getting a dog. Anna told me Friday that she didn't think I was ready. She's probably right, although I have two points about that: 1. Maybe an 80-pound German Shepherd with Post Tramautic Stress Disorder isn't the best starter dog and 2. Who's ever ready to undertake any large responsibility?

The good news is Nisa emerged from our apartment none the worse for wear. I probably set her training back a month or two, though.

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1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at January 04, 2007 5:00 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Myself, I can't think of any reason why being locked up with a 90 lb, immature animal which evolved to hunt in packs, then bred to guard farms in rural middle europe would make me nervous. I'm sure there's a major literature in anthropology and evolutionary biology on this subject. As well as the co-evolution of psychology of pet ownership and pets.


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