Friday, March 19, 2010

Why Not Squeaky Voices?

Ok, now everyone will know for sure that I am a grade-A, certifiable curmudgeon. But it’s time to take the gloves off. No more Ms. Nice Gal.
It’s a lovely afternoon, and my Lurcher, Grace and I are walking to the local market. Everybody knows Grace. They know me too, but a much larger percentage of them like Grace than me. I have bad knees. My dog knows this. She is very good about keeping a loose lead and not crashing into me. She knows that these things are likely to make me fall down. And, by the way, lots of people know this too.
Everything is going well, until we’re almost at the store. Then one of “The Squealers” comes into view.
The Squealers are a pair of nice people who are very fond of Grace, and tolerate me because they sort of have to if they’re going to get to interact with my dog. They are in Greyhound Rescue and I got her from them. As soon as they catch sight of her they start to squeal. Their normal speaking-voice vanishes, and is replaced by a high-pitched, singsong of obnoxious phrases that would make a spoiled toddler blanch in disgust. To me it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.
To my dog it’s the signal to act like a complete fool. Bam! She runs out to the end of her lead and gyrates like a go-go dancer on amphetamines. She pulls and scrabbles at the pavement like she’s never heard of leashes. She only stops at the end of the lead because I, having noticed The Squealer before her, have tightened my grip on the leather until my knuckles are turning white. I plant my cane firmly in front of me, establishing a nice firm tripod balance, and try to speak to my dog in a normal tone of voice. But she doesn’t hear me – partly because she’s too distracted, and partly because I’m being drowned out by the squealer.
Sometimes I drop whatever I’m carrying when Grace slams into the end of her lead. Sometimes I come close to losing a finger to a suddenly-tightening leash. This tends to make me cranky. I try to think of it as a training opportunity – the words planned distraction pass through my mind, but here’s the problem. No matter what I do to correct the dog, (and it has to be something fairly dramatic to capture her attention,) it is viewed as either evil or funny to The Squealer.
Now understand, under any other circumstance my dog maintains a belly of slack in her lead. She doesn’t try to go around the other side of a no parking sign or tree when reading her pee-mail. She is a perfect lady.

Squealers as a group seem to have the notion that a dog can do nothing wrong. They seem to find delirium in an otherwise sane and well-behaved dog to be the most delightful thing imaginable. If I correct my dog, physically or even verbally, for behaving in such an annoying manner I am seen as some sort of dog-hating Nazi. This leads them to the next phase of their program. They glom onto the dog, petting her, stroking her and continuing to squeal, they say to her, “Ohhhhhhhhhh, it’s not her fawt, she’s dust happy to shee me!”
I’m not making this up. It happens with some regularity.
Now don’t get me wrong. My dog is allowed on the furniture. She gets a massage every day. We play ball. We roughhouse. I love her, and I want her to have fun. But I don’t want to have my personal safety at risk every time I take her for a walk.

When The Squealers do manage to speak in a normal tone of voice, they tell me how wonderfully well behaved my dog is. They praise her obedience. She comes when she’s called – every time – right away. This is pretty darn good for a sighthound, well half sighthound. She sits on command and remains seated until she gets a release command. She leaves the garbage alone. She doesn't jump up on people. She doesn’t beg at the table. I’m always hearing, “Oh, I wish my dog would be so good.”
They tell me that their dog “won’t let them cut her nails.” They have to put their dog in a straitjacket to go to the vet. Their neighbors are complaining about the barking. But I’m the bad guy for correcting my dog for acting a fool and nearly causing me a fall.
Someday I may figure this one out. Maybe I’ll get smart enough to devise a strategy that will extinguish this temporary insanity each time it occurs.
Perhaps I can set up a situation with a non-squealing friend in which we can work on this problem in a more controlled setting. (Except she only does this with The Squealers.) But the thing I keep coming back to is - why do they do it? I’ve told them all how it affects her. They can see it for themselves – but they don’t stop. Go figure. I hate them…

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