The Other Side of the Fence
Last week, our mail was delivered to my place of employment. It seems that Toby and the mailman had had a few words, all of which came from Toby and started with "grrrr." I was mortified and apologised profusely and promised to put Peter on the case. You can't have 30 kilos of madly barking Alsatian greeting visitors.
When we adopted Kodiak, the woman who gave him to us told me that he would bark ferociously at anyone who came to the front door, but that all he wanted to do was check them out. After he'd had a sniff and assured himself of the person's worthiness, he was fine.
The woman also told me that Kodiak didn't like Latinos. I thought to myself "Great, now my dog's a racist." Deep in the heart of Republican DuPage County, I didn't think Kodiak was going to run into many Latinos. On the rare occassion that he did, he showed no ill will towards them. In retrospect, the area where the woman lived was a little rough and a lot of the residents there were Latino, so it's likely that Kodiak was responding to the woman's apprehensions about certain individuals.
Since I was terrified of those killers who talk their way into your house, I found Kodiak's doorman act reassuring. And what an impressive act it was too. Kodiak was actually a great big teddy bear of a dog, but he was huge. In a few instances, I had people cross the streeet or go out of their way to avoid walking past him. So when the doorbell rang, we had an 8 stone (50+ kilos) dog, barking and lunging at the door. If you came to the door with bad intentions, you sure weren't going to stick around to carry them out.
Sure, he came across all fierce and terrifying, but once he'd had that sniff, he was fine. In fact, he was so fine and friendly, I doubted, in the event of a real intruder emergency, that he'd protect us in any other way than with playful licks and offerings of toys. Peter often assured me that Kodiak would "rip the throat out" of anyone who tried to hurt us, but I just had a hard time reconciling that image of a protective avenger with the goofy, happy dog with the propeller tail.
On the weekend that my parents came to collect Kodiak to take him to his new retirement home, we received a delivery of a half-ton of small granite boulders. The rocks were about the size of a baby's head and I wanted to use them to line the flowerbeds. The yard looked a little worse for wear, but I figured it was nothing that woodchips and attractive rocks couldn't hide.
When the guys came with the rocks, I met them in the front of the house with my wheelbaroow. My parents, Peter, and Kodiak were all working away in the backyard. (OK, Kodiak wasn't so much working as supervising.) The delivery guys were two young Latinos who didn't seem to speak a lot of English. I tried to help them load the wheelbarrow, but they were having none of it, so I returned to the backyard, leaving the gate open for them.
When yer man came through the gate, wheeling a load of rocks, Kodiak realised that he had guests to vet. He raced over to the guy, barking his greetings. I called to the guy reassurances that Kodiak just wanted to check him out. This all happened rather quickly, but I will never forget how the guy reacted. He dropped the handles of the wheelbarrow, clamped his hands over his privates, and closed his eyes. He was probably praying, too, but I wasn't close enough to hear that.
I nearly thought it funny, until I remembered Kodiak's alleged problem with Latinos. My heart was in my throat and I rushed over to grab Kodiak. True to his past behaviour, once he'd had a good sniff, Kodiak was happy to escort the guy around the yard, propellor tail in full effect. I helped the guy unload the wheelbarrow, apologising to him even though I wasn't sure he could understand me. The other guy brought in the next wheelbarrow load and the delivery was quickly completed without incident.
I used to be one of those people who would blithely say "Don't worry, he's not going to bite you." But seeing that guy's reaction, I suddenly saw things from the other side of the fence. Having a big, menacing-looking dog bearing down on you is no picnic, no matter how much the owner reassures you that the dog is fine. So that's why Peter will be working with Toby and mailman to broker a detente. Or at least, he'll be training Toby to leave the guy alone.