I love animals so much I share my house with three pets. I have two dogs and one cat. The dogs are pretty laid back and the cat is fairly aloof. They’re quite frankly, stereotypically wonderful—the lot of them.
Last year, my husband and I moved from the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area to the San Francisco Bay area. It was a big change in location and career for both of us. He got a promotion and I was leaving behind a great job that I didn’t want as a career, but where I learned a thing or two about business and made some excellent friends. Eleven months ago, my husband and I essentially unzipped our East Coast lives and stepped outside of them in order to moved forward. We left most of our friends and family behind to chase a dream and drive off into the sunset, just one time—together.
It was all very romantic and exciting until the Cat went apeshit in the car, I accidentally drugged the Chihuahua and the Bulldog started farting incessantly. That was the beginning of our most daunting of road trips to date and yet we were blissfully determined to make it to the promise land, regardless of how crazy we made one another during the long car ride there.
Fortunately for us, the cat only went bananas once, we had a sunroof to vent the bulldog flatulence and the Chihuahua didn’t eat enough of the cat tranquilizer to do any real harm. I still felt horrible about it because the tiny look in his puppy eyes indicated that he was having a really bad trip for at least 6 hours and there was nothing I could do, but keep close watch.
With some luck, a little determination and the help of several audio books, we made it across the United States of America. We left the East and found that it really is a different world here in Northern California. As a matter of fact, it took me quite some time to begin to adjust to life here on the West Side and I think I’m actually still in the process. I tend to take my time with important things and I rather like that about myself so I’m currently rolling with the California punches and settling in a little at a time.
Seeing as I’m still adjusting to life on a new coast, I figure my dogs are still settling in too. That might explain the horrible turn of events during my daily walks with them. Back East we all walked together in a mostly peaceful pack. We would circle our Northern Virginia townhouse development and politely avoid eye contact or nod and wave when necessary. The neighborhood kids knew our dogs and our dogs knew them. Because every rose has its thorn, we lived around the corner from a large mixed breed dog that was a troublemaker. He liked to bark at everything that crossed his path and sometimes he’d even lunge and try to attack other people’s pets. That big brown dog was my polite Northern Virginia townhouse subdivision’s very own “asshole dog.”
Since moving to California, my husband and I take our dogs on much longer daily walks. You see, in my family we’re big on walking since we have the most hyper bulldog I’ve ever laid eyes upon and a Chihuahua that isn’t yippy, but needs exercise in order to stay that way. We actually enjoy walking with them and my husband and I are known to take these dogs everywhere. We’ve driven them up to Berkeley for a change of scenery and taken them to Golden Gate Park for a day of people watching in the city. We also walk them the four or so blocks to our neighborhood park and we all do it up there, running through the grass. We do enough walking that you’d think our dogs were well-socialized and easy to lead on a leash, right? Wrong.
I don’t know where we’re failing, but we’re failing hard. We’ve watched the Cesar Milan specials. We’ve bought the books and we’ve used the training tools, but nothing’s worked. I’ll be the first to admit that the Chihuahua isn’t the best leash walker so he can make walks difficult all on his own. He’s a little scattered and a bit of a spaz, but he’s easy to control because he only weighs seven pounds. The Chihuahua isn’t the real issue. The issue is the bulldog.
The bulldog is fifty-some-odd pounds of pure muscle, compact and dense. He’s short and low to the ground, but he’s also fast like a jackrabbit. He can easily take you down if he runs into you at full speed. He’s also the biggest love bug in town. He loves most people, most of the time, but when we’re on a walk, he’s terrible with new folks. Actually, terrible doesn’t quite convey the severity of the situation. He’s embarrassingly bad with new people and animals.
When we’re out on our walks, my bulldog will excitedly approach any newcomer with wonder and mischief in his little eyes. The problem is that he gets too excited. He wants nothing more than to jump on a new friend, cover them with kisses and then roll around and play. While he may only want love and good times, he can sometimes look pretty intimidating when soliciting them.
When my aggressive looking bulldog gets excited around new people, he can’t contain himself. In fact, he gets so excited that he scares other dogs, small children and sometimes even full-grown adults. He’s got so much energy coursing through him that he can’t handle it and often times he’ll squirt out a few drops of pee to top it all off.
While it’s cute that he is so enthusiastic about making new friends that he can’t contain himself, it’s not cute when he completely spazzes out. When his energy snowballs, he causes a chain reaction with the Chihuahua and then other dogs, usually while I’m trying to bag dog poop or talk to a potential new human friend. It also doesn’t help that my muscle-bound dog not only flips out, but also likes to dart off in an attempt to incite play when he freaks out. This is most unfortunate because, as a strong animal, he can come fairly close to dislocating joints when he whips around on a leash. It’s comical, but it’s painful if you’re attached to him by a rope around the wrist.
On my most recent walk with the boys, I noticed something. My husband, the two dogs and myself were walking at a leisurely pace, down the street when Christoph* and I noticed another dog and some people off in the distance. We both paused for a moment, looked at one another, looked back at the approaching party and then finally looked down at our bulldog. Without a word we both decided to cross the street to avoid any kind of unpleasant encounter. We were tired and we didn’t really want to deal with the bulldog getting overly excited and causing drama.
The Bulldog’s intimidating, but he’s also pretty cute. He’s got an adorably round head and soft floppy ears that make him look like a rabbit sometimes. He’s also a very cool mixture of dark colors (mostly black) and he’s solid as a rock. He’s a good lookin’ dog so I’m not surprised when people squee and rush to pet him. I am surprised though, when people approach him without asking and proceed to rile him up to the point that he starts to run off in multiple directions, at lightening speed reeking havoc on the sidewalk. Because the Bulldog is so strong, he’s a handful when he can’t control his excitement. Losing control leads to horrible times when you’re standing in the middle of several dogs, all jittery with overexposure to my compact, high-strung love bug.
Instinctively crossing the street to avoid any kind of confrontation with other people or animals made my husband and I realize that we were now the people with the out of control dog that makes everyone else’s walks suck. It made us sad because he’s a great dog at home and after he gets used to guests in the house, he’s pretty good about respecting space.
I live in a great neighborhood. People say hi to one another, they make eye contact and sometimes they chat. Lots of people have dogs and everyone walks them. The dogs here are all really well trained. Most people don’t even leash their dogs when they walk down our residential streets. To live in such a cute neighborhood with cute pets and be the owner of the “asshole dog,” sucks. It’s embarrassing.
Sometimes I’m moments away from making a new friend and boom; the bulldog freaks out another larger and more skittish dog and then I’m left trying to keep my shoulder in its socket as I wrangle my ball of muscle and energy. That sort of thing can make it impossible to carry on a conversation, which in turn makes it difficult to make friends.
Essentially my dog has become a friend-making cock blocker and this simply cannot continue. What I need is for my dog to be a friend-making wingman. I work from home so the opportunities for non-creeper friend making are limited. The tragically ironic thing about this whole thing is that the bulldog pushes people / other pets away because he’s got too much love to give. He’s so excited that there’s someone new to interact with (receive belly rubs from) that he simply cannot contain himself or his urine.
I’ve reached my breaking point though. I want to need to be able to walk the streets of my neighborhood, with my dogs at my side, holding my head high. I must make new neighborhood friends. My “asshole dog” and I can no longer continue to ruin the walks of the innocent. Something has to change.
My dramatic, but necessary epiphany just now has caused me to review several training options I’d previously researched. It looks like the time has come to take some dog training classes, people. My husband and I thought we could do this on our own, but we were wrong. Fortunately for us, we board our pets at a really great spot. They take excellent care of our black babies when we have to travel without them. The folks at the kennel love our dogs and we can tell. Our dogs are never jumpy, jittery, depressed or otherwise unlike themselves when we pick them up from this place. For me, that’s huge. I once left my Chihuahua at a trusted kennel and when I got back, he wasn’t right for a week. I don’t even want to know what went down to make my dog borderline catatonic for so long. The little dude just kind of sat there and looked at me shooting daggers from his eyes. Daggers proclaiming, “how could you? How DARE you?!”
Since the kind folks at our California kennel seemed to know a lot about dogs, my husband Christoph* and I were excited to see that they also offered training courses. We asked about the training classes and they told us a little bit about their program. My husband and I were intrigued so we took a brochure. We made mental notes to look into the classes, but being the ultimate procrastinators that we are (Epic Boss Level), we hadn’t gotten around to calling and enrolling.
And so ladies and gentlemen, it looks like it is now one of those times in life where I either put up or STFU. Today I recognize publically that I’ll never get anywhere complaining and I need to take action. Today I walk the walk and fuck the naysayers on the way. My bulldog will be a reformed accidental (but never racist) bully and I will beam with pride and marvel at his achievements some day.
Let’s do this...
*Drops laptop; walks off to find dog training pamphlet.*