Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Age of Ultron

This past Sunday on my walk with Tess, I discovered that just when one thinks one's beloved pooch has become an obedient, robotic extension of oneself, said pooch goes and behaves so abominably that while she might still resemble a robot, she's actually gone and turned herself into Ultron.  And believe me, I did not morph into the Avengers.

Tess has been so good lately, running offleash with no incident, getting along with dogs at the dog park, coming back immediately when called from straying into people's yards.  The other night she leaped after a rabbit and as soon as I yelled her name, she froze, mid-step, then turned and ran back to me.  I was impressed.  In the past, if a deer or rabbit crossed her path, she'd take off chasing it and nothing I said could stop her.  She always came back after a minute or so, as she is not a dog to stray too far from home.  Still, I've never been able to stop her in her tracks before.

She's almost been more robot than dog, albeit an extremely intelligent one.  She operates like clockwork and follows directions with no argument.

There's nothing like an incident at the dog park to remind one that their dog is still a dog and only canine. Dogs, like people, will have their off days.  Or maybe Tess has just gone rogue and allowed her AI to take over.

We took our usual cold day route - along the snowpacked river bank and down to the dog park so she could chase a few cars through the fence.  When it's really cold, I like to cheat and let her run off her excess energy chasing cars, before taking her back home so I don't have to freeze my ass off on an hour-and-a-half long walk.  It helps that the dog park isn't very far from my house.  Tess is happy and exhausted when we get home, and I get to enjoy my hot chocolate and pretend I actually accomplished my workout for the day.

The dog park was deserted for about twenty minutes after we got there.  Tess sniffed and marked the trees, ran a few laps around the enclosure, and then went into her routine of waiting for the cars so she could take off early and cheat herself into winning.  I, meanwhile, got so grossed out by the numerous piles of dog poop littering the park that I grabbed the shovel and a handful of complimentary dog poop bags provided by the park.  Tess galloped happily along the fence and I started shoveling.

I don't like to brag, but I am a certified shit jockey.  I shovel all day long - cats, dogs, apparently other people's emotional shit.  I'm really quite good at it.

But I digress.

An older couple and their puppy soon joined us.  I actually know the older couple, as the lady used to work with me.  Tess behaved rather well with the puppy so I continued to shovel.  I never worry much about puppies because they think Tess is amazing and she can boss them around.

Then more people showed up: a man and his son with their German shepherd, and a lady with two creatures I think might have been part grizzly bear.  With new dogs I find it a good idea to leash Tess and make her watch for awhile until she is calm enough to join the fray.  She usually accepts this with no issue.  Other shepherds especially are tricky as shepherds in general are alpha.  I never know if Tess will start something to prove she is top dog, or ignore another shepherd completely because she doesn't feel like she has anything to prove.  Big, fluffy, good-natured grizzly bears usually don't bother her as they are goofy and happy-go-lucky enough not to be threatening.

This time she became utterly embarrassing.  She barked and whined and threw the doggy equivalent of a tantrum. I commanded her to sit and she ignored me completely.  One of the grizzly bears tried to come over and say hello, and she growled and then snapped at him.  He wisely backed away.  The dogs then ignored her and went about their business which usually serves to calm her down and leave her to take in the scene.  She handles dogs better when they give her a wide berth rather than getting all up in her face.  Not this time.  The more they ignored her the more her behavior escalated until she was outright barking, like she was warning away some intruder.

My dog is not a barker.

She pulled at her leash and noseguard, something she never does as she always defers to me onleash. When she showed absolutely no sign of calming back down to her usual calm-assertive personality, I decided it wise to take her out of the dog park and take her home.  the last thing I needed was to start the brand new year with a dog fight. Last year started badly enough.  Tess continued her bad behavior as I led her to the gate, going so far as stopping in her tracks, balking and resisting her leash.  Once outside the dog park she continued to lag behind, trying to pull back towards the park, whining and grumbling in her throat until we walked two blocks away and she could no longer see the other dogs.

She hasn't acted that way since I first adopted her eight years ago.  She morphed back into that one-year-old nightmare whose operating system I spent four months trying to reprogram.

She was perfectly fine by the time I got her home except for the moment when she poked her nose into the wine cabinet and tried to knock a bottle out.  Apparently she needed a drink after a stressful day.

I gave her a dog biscuit and put the wine back.

I guess the nut doesn't fall too far from the tree.

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