aggression

A Dog’s Vacation is Never Done

The past two weeks have been inhumanly difficult.  Not a dog’s life. Impossible, really.  And Izzy has known it.  Every night, he crawls up on my lap and lays his head on my hand.  If I try to work at night, he insists of being beside me, paw pulling my hand away from my laptop.  He stares at me with his dark, round eyes as if begging me to pay attention to him.  He knows that I don’t normally stay in anxiety mode when I get home.  I know yoga.  I know how to breathe.  I know how to relax.  But this past two weeks have required working non-stop and anxiety is my middle name.

It’s the perfect time for a stay-cation.

And Izzy knows that, too.

This morning, he crawled up on my lap while I was still in bed (doing my checkbook — yup, I know.  Enough with the nonstop work.) and insisted I pay attention to him.  You’ve been in another place for weeks, his gaze seemed to say.  You owe me.

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Last night, his eyes drooped as I stayed up until 1 AM reading.  This morning, he pulled me determinedly as we walked up Main Street, and he understood when we had to make a u-turn because I heard the old guy’s cane tapping as he walked his pittie mix a block ahead of us.  I didn’t want to deal with the dog’s growling and barking and pulling at the leash to get at Izzy.  I think Izzy understands when we have to make detours.  He knows who his friends are and who aren’t.  The black pug and the girlie boxer and the raggedy Shihtzu and the little Maltese are his friends.  He understands their names when I speak them, and he loves being able to say hello to them when we’re on walks, but he doesn’t mind at all when we don’t say hello to the pittie mix that hates us. Izzy’s smart that way.  He realizes that not everyone has to be your friend.  I need to learn that lesson.

This morning, Izzy kept close until I finished eating a late breakfast and took out the laptop again.  Then he looked at me, gave a little nod and moved into the other room to wait for the mail delivery.  This is our weekend routine, even though it’s not the weekend.  He knows our weekend pattern:  breakfast in bed, catching up on TV, some reading, then I go out for a while:  visit my grandson, see friends, come back every four hours or so to check up on Izzy, more relaxed, not stressed like during the week.

By the end of this little stay-cation we’re about to start, I will have let loose of the anxiety. I will write and read.  I will see friends and family.  Izzy and I will have walked long walks at least twice a day.  He will have visited the groomer and will have shed at least five pounds of fur.  He will have cuddled with me on the couch for hours.  He will have greeted some of my friends who will visit.  He will have taught me the meaning of vacationing.  He will have simply enjoyed being with me.  Living.

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Pitbull

Izzy spends the weekend days and nights at my screen door, looking out on the street and letting me know if anyone comes too close to the house 🙂  He’s a guard dog as long as he’s behind the door, but if he’s out on the street, he just wants to meet all the new dogs in the neighborhood and greet those he already knows.

I spent Saturday writing, so I was in my office and looking out on the same street Izzy sees from his door.  It’s early Fall and the day glowed with that special light autumn days embody.  We made excuses for more walks than our usual, mostly because I needed to stretch after sitting in my office chair for so long — and Izzy had to see the people and “other beings” who had walked by the house during the day.  The last week at 10 PM presented the gift of a star-filled sky, high-flying planes that competed with the brightest stars, and a glimpse of what I think was Venus near the half moon.  I breathed deeply, sure that all was right within my world and comforted by the thought that there is so much more than what exists within the perimeters of Roxboro.

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Izzy took his seat again on Sunday afternoon as I did my laundry and ironing.  The weather, as gorgeous as Saturday’s, enticed more people to take a walk, and I really didn’t pay much attention to what was going on unless Izzy growled or did his squirrel dance (on his back two legs) in front of the door . . . until I heard a tinkle-clink-clank-tinkle-clink like a broken ice cream truck going by.  Izzy came to where I stood at the ironing board, dancing and whining, then went back to the door as if trying to tell me something.  Curious, I followed him and heard the sound but didn’t see anything.  Still, he wouldn’t calm down.

A couple of minutes later, he still hadn’t calmed down and kept going to the back door, then coming to the dining room like he does when he wants to tell me to take him out.  Though we had gone for a walk only half an hour before, I gave in and put him on the leash.  He scrambled through my gravel driveway, choking on his collar and trying to get me to walk faster.  I could tell he had picked up the scent of something and thought it was the groundhog we have in the backyard (that has pretty much destroyed my garden).

On the way down the street, Izzy was at “high alert” but I still didn’t see anything.  Then a van coming toward us slowed down and stopped in front of us.  The window rolled down and a heavyset, older woman in a flowered dress leaned out.  “You might not want to walk up that way,” she said, motioning toward Izzy.  “There’s a brown pitbull wandering around up there.  He’s dragging a 6-8′ chain, so I think he got loose from someone’s yard.  He’s kinda big.  Your pup wouldn’t stand a chance.”

I thanked her and wondered whether it was the same one that my friend, the old man, was having trouble containing when Izzy and I walked earlier this week.  Then I realized he never had a chain on that dog.  And I realized instantly where the loose pitbull had come from.  The night before when Izzy and I were out, I heard howling, barking and growling from beyond the railroad tracks.  I’ve heard it before, and it’s obviously a group of dogs that are either caged or within close proximity of each other.  I’ve seen several pitbulls with some rather large guys who walk them up my street and can barely hold onto the dogs when they see Izzy.

I think there’s a dogfighting ring close by . . . and I’m feeling two emotions:  fear that my Izzy wouldn’t have a chance if any large dog became violent and compassion for those dogs who are chained up in a yard or made to fight when they should be in a loving home.  Now my journalistic curiosity is aroused.  I need to find out what’s going on.

Walking Habits

Walking Habits
Izzy and I have established a routine: 5 walks each day, sometimes one more on the weekend. We leave the house around 6-6:15 AM, often in time to watch the sun rise, like this morning. A fairly banal sunrise today, but the sky did pinken a little, which always raises my spirits. That’s the long walk of the day. The streets in Uptown Roxboro are quiet, except for the trash truck making its rounds mid-week. We can count on seeing the retired school teacher who sits on his porch smoking his morning cigarette, as well as the old Black lady who lives in the group home up the street and also smokes nonstop. Sometimes we run into a couple of our dog friends: Peaches, the female boxer who does a GI Joe, belly-to-the-ground when she sees Izzy, or the new little Terrier who belongs to the retired school teacher’s wife (and is still a puppy so rather crazy).

We come back to the house and Izzy lies on the guest bed in my office (see the pic) until I get out of the shower, then we go out again for a quick walk up the street, one last pee before I go to work. Izzy always knows when I’m ready to go and races me to the door for that brief walk.

Then I’m home for lunch. He has slept all morning so is ready and waiting at the back door, his nose pressed up against the glass. He bops around, wagging his tail, tongue hanging out, ready to walk. We do a quick walk up the street, and the energy level is definitely different than our early morning walk. I eat my lunch, he sleeps on the rug and watches me, and he knows that when I go to the door this time, I’m gone.

After work is another long walk, and this one is the busiest. We sometimes pick up my next door neighbor/friend, Deb, and we talk as we walk. Izzy is actively sniffing all the other dogs that have recently left their scents on the street and most of the time, we meet one of them. Last night was one of those meetings, and it didn’t go well.

One of our favorite dogs was an old Shipperneke that had been the long-time companion of a kindly 80-something gentleman who’d been through several strokes. The dog was blind, fat, and slow, but she loved seeing Izzy, and her ‘dad’ and I talked about the dogs, the weather, and his health whenever we met on the sidewalk. When Lacey, the Shipperneke, passed over the rainbow bridge, the old man was bereft. For a long time, I didn’t see him, then one day, we passed his son on the sidewalk with a new dog: a young, reddish, Pitbull mix with lots of energy.

The old man still walks with a cane but now he has his “new girl” to accompany him. Unfortunately, she’s got way too much energy and no manners whatsoever. I worry that she’s going to make him fall one of these days. Last night when we came up to them on the sidewalk, Izzy was excited to see his new friend. She sniffed him, then turned and suddenly, she bared her teeth, growled and lunged. Though she’s a small pittie, she’s strong and it took all the old man’s strength to hold her back.

“I think we’d better go the other way,” I told him, as he struggled to hold onto his dog.

Izzy looked from the dog to me and pranced from one foot to the other, as if confused.

Deb, Izzy and I retraced our steps, with Deb and I looking over our shoulder at the old man and the now frantic dog.

“She needs exercise and training,” I told Deb. “He’s never going to be able to handle her unless she learns how to behave.”

And as I said that, I realized that Izzy, who had once had aggression issues, was now acting like the model dog.

As Cesar Millan says, once you master the walk, you master the dog. I agree!