Friday, March 8, 2013

Doggy Bullies

Lately, poor Tess cannot seem to walk down the street or go to the dog park without someone's nasty little dog trying to take a bite out of her.  A couple of weeks ago it was two different dogs, two different times, both with blue heeler mixed in there somewhere. Tess does not like heelers.  She had a very bad experience with one I misguidedly adopted a couple years ago with the naive idea that "Hey, Tess would love a little sister!"

I tend to fall for the big brown eyes and floppy ears and wet nose a lot.  That's how I ended up with several of my ex-boyfriends.  Upon visiting the animal shelter a couple years ago I ended up adopting a thirty pound blue heeler/pit bull mix that was completely adorable and completely impossible.  I named her Harley.  After she tried to kill Tess (a fight she initiated and then lost badly) I named her "Out of Here."  There is nothing more frightening than witnessing one's baby with her throat between the jaws of an animals that one minute was fine and the next minute went into a psychotic frenzy for no reason.  The only reason I managed to loosen Harley's jaws from the throat of my beloved was because she loosened a bit in order to get a better grip and I managed to yank her away, a practice I would not recommend to rational people.  A red zone dog can very easily switch its attack from the dog between its teeth to your hands, but when one sees one's baby being so viciously bullied by another nasty brat, one goes into the red zone herself.  The next ten minutes I was sure the cops would show up, alerted by one or other of my neighbors as I sat on Harley's head telling her what exactly she could expect if she ever touched my baby again.

She never did touch Tess again, though after that first incident Tess wanted nothing more to do with her and acted like she didn't exist despite her efforts to engage Tess in play and "sisterly bonding."  She also taught Tess how to chase cows and nip heels, a practice which almost got Harley shot by one of my aforementioned exes.  Picking fights, stealing food, leading a normally "good kid" down the path of self-destruction...Harley was the proverbial school bully right down to starting the trouble and then pinning it on Tess.  Harley also did not get along with the other dogs at the dog park and she began picking on Percy too, so eventually she found her way back to the animal shelter.  As per Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, one should not take a dog's behavior personally.  After seeing Harley's jaws locked around Tess' throat, I was no longer able to not take it personally and there was no hope of Harley and I ever forming a bond.  I make no excuses for this.  It is what it is.  I returned her to the shelter where she was adopted by another family that was strictly told "No other dogs, no cats, and watch out for young children."  As heartless as it sounds, I'm just glad she's not my problem anymore.

For some reason when it comes to insecure aggressive dogs, Tess just becomes a target.  A couple of weeks ago at the dog park, poor Tess just wanted to lope around the enclosure and chase the cars through the fence, maybe play with a dog here, sniff a dog there.  She is an extremely well adjusted dog who gets along with all people, other well adjusted dogs, and cats.  I have never seen her get aggressive.  If she tries to make friends and the other dog wants none of it, she goes along her way, no worse for wear.  For some dogs, however, this is  not enough.  They need to dominate her as well and as their human counterparts, they do not like being ignored.  So as Tess was doing her thing, she had this small insecure creature with a Napoleon complex follow her everywhere, barking, and trying to block her path.  If she weaved around said dog, it would jump straight in her path, bark some more, and try to shove her with its shoulder.  Finally Tess turned and snarled, snapping her teeth at the dog and turned in another direction.  Her warning went unheeded as small and yappy ran right back up to her and this time tried to mount her.  It did not end well for small and yappy and even then it did not get the point.  This happened on two different occasions, with two different dogs that behaved in a similar way.  Where are the owners you ask?  Both the owners of these two dogs just said that it was fine if Tess taught their dogs "a lesson" as their dogs didn't get out and socialize much.  At least I wasn't dealing with angry dog owners but at the same time if your dog is being a nuisance, perhaps you should intervene.  The "lesson" clearly is not being taught.  And I have warned several dog owners if your dog gets up on Tess and tries to hump her I will not stop her from putting the dog in the ground.   Tess does not like being mounted or humped and she will not tolerate it.  The culprit usually ends up in the ground with Tess' teeth in its face, though she never makes contact and she never bites.

I figured such behavior happens at the dog park from time to time because there are a mess of dogs who are off lead, don't see each other very often, and are in a frenzy of excitement.  So of course tempers will flare and dominance will have to be established.  I didn't expect the same on a walk.  Saturday I was walking my dog down a rather busy street and suddenly this black lab launched itself from the bed of a pickup truck, taking me totally by surprise, and ran right up to Tess and tried to take a bite out of her hindquarters.  Tess snapped back and then tried to keep walking.  The dog attacked again and I stomped my boot and hollered at it.  It immediately backed up and cowered away from me, yet still continued to try to get at Tess.  When I hollered at it again it back up and we were already walking away.  Tess doesn't start fights but when engaged she will try to finish them as I was witness to when Harley decided it was a good idea to try to rip her throat out.  A black lab is more her size though and the last thing I wanted on my leisurely walk was to try to pull apart two dogs, one of which I didn't know and wasn't sure how it felt about attacking people.  I was pretty mad though.  Part of me wanted to call the police, give them the license plate number of the truck and the exact location, and tell them what transpired just out spite.  Once again I had the burning thought of "No one goes after MY baby like that!"  I decided to let it go though since the dog caused no real damage and at the most scared the living daylights out of the both of us.  It is dangerous, however, to leave one's unbound dog in the bed of a truck if it is prone to act this way.  For future safety's sake I probably should have called the police.  If it happens again, I will.

This was not the end of it, unfortunately.  Monday, I was walking Tess again, back from the dog park.  We were two blocks from home when a tiny brown rat terrier came barrelling into the street yapping and growling like a demon possessed.  The lady who was obviously its mistress yelled from the yard "Billy, come here!  Come here now!"  The dog, of course, paid her no attention, ran right up to Tess, and tried to take a bite out of her leg.  I yelled "Get!" at him and he backed up a little.  He finally turned and ran back to the house and the (ineffectively screaming) woman.  We continued.  A moment later, here he came again, barking, growling, throwing the biggest fit for such a small dog.  Tess looked at it like he was completely insane.  She didn't even snarl or growl back, just stared at him in amazement.  Once again I heard "Billy, get over here now!" and off he went.  Suddenly a third time, he was back, with the same tired act as if the first two times weren't enough to drive home his point.  I might have felt sorry for him if we hadn't been across the street, nowhere near his "territory" and he hadn't been such an ass towards my dog who was doing absolutely nothing wrong.

Tess is secure enough and big enough that she can handle the bullying.  As her parent, I have a little less tolerance for it as no parent likes to see their child get picked on.  Tess has plenty of other friends next door and at the dog park that are as happy and well adjusted as she is and she's not afraid to stand up for herself when challenged.  It does make for an interesting afternoon when a walk to the dog park turns into a warzone and the dog park itself turns into a schoolyard teeming with bullies.  For now I'll let Tess handle most of her squabbles but if she comes home with a black eye, I may have to start calling other parents.

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