Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Sandy Incident

I have always viewed my neighbor as possessing a special touch with dogs. When we first moved into our house, I was repeatedly impressed by his pet’s obedience despite the absence of a leash. While my dog would use such an opportunity to escape from her life of moderately-priced dog food, his canine seemed perfectly content to remain faithfully by his side despite the temptations that a suburban neighborhood provided. We would talk in my driveway for extended periods of time without his dog wandering more than a few feet away. It was amazing.
It was during one of these chats that I mentioned my desire to be rid of Sandy for the afternoon so that I could complete some yard work without her interference. He kindly offered to watch her for a few hours, so I went inside to retrieve her and attach a leash. Despite his protests that a leash was unnecessary, he agreed to take it and led the two dogs back across the street for a fun filled afternoon.
I called him several hours later and told him that he was free to bring Sandy back over whenever it was convenient. He told me to watch him as he emerged from his garage. As I looked out of the front door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was my neighbor, being flanked by my suddenly obedient and noticeably unrestrained pet. Although I cannot say definitively one way or the other, it is possible that a tear found its way down the side of my cheek as I watched this scene unfold. He had spent two hours with my dog and already she was a whole different animal. I opened the door to meet my newly-rehabilitated pet and imagined the possibilities leashless obedience would bring to our lives. I would probably be able to sustain our existence on the Purina commercials alone….
We stood outside the front door and exchanged pleasantries for several minutes and I was astonished to see Sandy sit calmly at his side for the duration of our conversation. Never had I experience such broad reform in such an abbreviated period of time. Then, just as I was about to take her inside, she spotted the only thing that could break the magical spell: a squirrel. By the time I realized what was happening she had already put 150 feet between us and was following her prey toward the four lane road that runs by our house.
Although Sandy is fast the squirrel had a head-start and quickly found refuge in my neighbor’s oak tree. With the squirrel safely treed, I watched in horror as she continued her adventure by darting between cars on her way toward a group of people across the street. In any circumstance, my dog running toward an ill-prepared group of pedestrians would be troublesome, but this had the potential to be particularly disastrous as I live directly across from a cemetery and the gathering was for a graveside burial service.
While not vicious, my pet is about sixty-five pounds and in her unbridled excitement she tends to jump on people. This is especially problematic for men whose height exceeds six feet as their proportions place her paws in direct contact with their “man croutons.” As my neighbor and I continued the pursuit, I had a vision of Sandy knocking down the grieving widow and briefly barking at the casket before engaging in a game of tug-o-war with the minister’s robes. I was almost certain we would be asked to move.
After finally crossing the street, we took several moments to catch our breath while making judicious use of profanity before we continued our pursuit. In my head, the next few seconds unfolded in slow motion to the Chariots of Fire soundtrack as she made her way toward the solemn faces. Fortunately, for both the bereaved and myself, something else piqued her interest and she detoured around the service and headed for a thicket that served as a border for the graveyard and residential area beyond.
Momentarily relieved, we broke into a sprint again and continued up the sidewalk until we had reached the opposite side of the bushes. The first thing we noticed as we rounded the corner was a terrified older woman who was backed against the outside wall of her home brandishing what appeared to be a hand trowel. She seemed oblivious to our appearance and it wasn’t until we followed her sightline that we noticed what had triggered her defensive posture. It was Sandy; she was balanced on two legs with her front paws perched on the brick planter box at the edge of the poor lady’s patio studying this reluctant new playmate she had discovered.
My neighbor attempted to explain that the animal was not dangerous and that she needn’t be concerned for her safety, but this did little to console the shovel lady and she exploited a momentary lapse in Sandy’s attention to run into her house. With her new friend gone, Sandy began exploring the neighboring properties while simultaneously ignoring our pleas for her to approach us. Over the next several minutes, we both attempted ill-timed flying tackles but she proved too agile to be caught by such a rudimentary method.
My neighbor and I held an impromptu conference and decided that a team effort would yield more favorable results. I would flush her toward his position allowing him the best chance to grab her. Eventually, he was able to tackle her midsection and place her in an improvised half-nelson allowing us to grab her collar.
Needless to say my deal with Purina never materialized, but I haven’t given up hope…..

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