Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Coming At It From Another Angle

And then he went for the chickenOne of the subjects I've been kicking around but haven't been able to get out of my head and onto the blog has been people and how much they annoy me. Lately it's felt like all of the irksome behaviors have clustered around me and I'm being smothered by them. There were a couple of days when I considered doing one post each on the oblivious/mean woman with the unneutered bulldog, the evil/crazy anti-photography woman who is back again, and a roundup of every single person in Brooklyn who watches me pull my dog aside for training and crowds us anyway. My persecution complex fantasies were cranking up to threat level red*.

I couldn't get the words out, though. All of these interactions were tedious to live through and I couldn't even manufacture a desire to re-live them in the writing. I tried to sketch out a few of my woes in an email to jrh and petered out before I could be bothered. No one wants to read about stupid people doing nasty things. We get our fill of that first hand in everyday life.

Leave It Today I'm writing, though, because someone did something with intelligence and understanding when they really, really didn't have to. I am both impressed by and grateful to this unknown soldier in society's army. I want to name him Grey Worm and have him lead my hoards of purchased followers**.

Last year Ed decided that people should not be allowed to play tennis on the tennis courts in the park***. When they left the doors open he would charge the court and be very hard to remove. I worked on this half heartedly but mostly just kept him away from the trigger. This year I've been lucky that the courts were resurfaced, making them unusable for several weeks, as the weather was warming up. This past week, though, the courts have been playable and I've been working very hard to keep Ed at enough of a distance from them that he can be successful in ignoring the players. I've used all the appropriate counter-conditioning protocols to the best of my ability at 6:30 in the morning.

This morning I ran into a friend before we approached the courts and, since I hadn't seen her in a couple of days, I had some very important human social information to relay to her. We walked along the path and parallel to the tennis courts before I thought the route through. Suddenly Ed was barking at the fence. Tennis players were surprised but not afraid. I followed the rules and didn't chase him. I pointed my feet in the direction I wanted him to go and urged him to chase me instead. I offered him treats and kept calling. I wasn't close enough, I didn't have high enough value treats, and he was way over threshold for this stimulus. I have, honestly, only myself to blame. When he found the gate I watched with my breath caught because this is a dog who will cry in the hallway rather than push a bathroom door open if it's ajar and yet, with the promise of reprimanding the man with the tennis racquet, he stuck his head through the gap, wriggled his shoulders through one by one, and charged the dude.

This Way All play on the courts stopped. The man used his racquet to shield his ankles. I pelted for the gate and called out that he wasn't a dangerous dog but he was persistent. I'm lucky I didn't brain myself trying to fling the heavy chain off the fence links to get inside. By the time I got to the problem I knew I had to do something better than chase my dog around this guy like a deeply under-rehearsed Keystone Kop. I said, "I'm going to try and chase him to the door." I couldn't explain further. I didn't expect help. I was hunched over waiting for the threats and anger to rain down.

**Insert choirs of angels singing here because with that one sentence and without hesitation this man performed an act that would get him sainted if I had anything to say about it.**

The guy ran for the door himself. The dog was chasing him specifically. He understood both that and what my strategy was and he acted instantly to help me execute the plan. I am actually choking up thinking about it because it was such an incredibly kind and productive thing to do. He didn't have to do anything to help me (though it was also helping him get on with his game) and he certainly didn't have to do it with good humor but he did and, thank goodness, we were both rewarded for it.

The guy squeezed out the gate and Ed followed right on his heels (not touching him, never touching him, it's the same policy the dog has for squirrels) until the guy was on the other side of the door then my pup pulled up short unable, I guess, to perform his Houdini act on the gate gap in the opposite direction. I scooped him up and just apologized and apologized and apologized in a continuous stream with all the breath I had.

Do you know what the tennis player replied to me?

"It's OK."

Sir, I honestly didn't think it was OK when I got up this morning but now I'm willing to entertain the possibility. Thank you. I needed that.

*I blame this season of Mad Men.
**Very sad that Game of Thrones is done for another year.
***More accurately I believe he's seeing people wielding weapons/racquets as a threat and reacting accordingly.
****For the dog nerds, I moved a safe distance away and leashed the dog. We did not leave the park but he was not unleashed again. I am not exactly sure what my strategy will be tomorrow, whether we'll go the other way or I'll increase the distance slightly and bring better treats. Thoughts welcome.

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