Lately, I've been absorbed in reading about the struggles Laurie's been having with Riley and his propensity for barking and lunging at random passersby. I especially found it amusing to think of how many arms are required to perfect the Victoria Stillwell method of dog training.
Our dogs are fairly well-trained, but it's nothing to do with me. If they've any manners at all, they've gotten them from Peter, our in-house dog disciplinarian. As a result of Peter being the Enforcer and Big Boss, I do sometimes run into trouble when I'm walking the dogs alone.
Mild-mannered Toby can turn into a slavering, barking menace of a horror film dog if he is confronted with a dog he does not like. He seems not to like unleashed, unneutered dogs, of which there are many in the Middle of Nowhere. He also takes offense to random small, fluffy dogs, which is always embarrassing, especially when said throw pillows are attached to little old ladies.
Callie loves people and dogs. She just wants to meet and befriend anyone, to the point of whining incessantly if she's not allowed to make go make nice.
I try my best to control the dogs when we're out in public. But I discovered a few weeks ago that if we were approached by a loose dog that Toby wanted to kill and Callie wanted to love, the best course of action was to drop Callie's leash. She would then run off as our emmisary in the doggy world, bearing good wishes. In actuality, I think she scared the collars off a lot of these macho country dogs, just through her sheer size and exuberance.
We commonly had problems with the landlord's sister's dog, a squat black lab called Harry. But when Callie met Harry, he decided that perhaps he didn't really want anything to do with us, ever. When we pass now, he skulks behind farm equipment or stays on his perch at the top of the hill, gazing at us with trepidation.
Allowing Callie to be our bouncer has worked out so well, I probably grew a little bit complacent. As long as we weren't on a main road, I thought I'd always have the drop-her-leash option available to me. I was wrong.
Yesterday afternoon, I took the dogs for a walk as the sun was setting. It was the first day we've had that made you believe that spring could be just around the corner, that our seasons really are going to change out of the dark, dismal, rainy winter. (We've had about 10 inches this month alone.) So there we were, out on a quiet country road enjoying the weather.
We'd just approached the postmaster's daughter's house. I know they've two dogs: a pedigreed hunting dog who lives in a kennel and a black lab who prowls the yard loose. The lab, whose name is Spree (or, this being the Gaeltacht, it could be Spraoi), is a cheerful dog who is exceedingly good about staying within the bounds of his property.
I spotted Spree hanging out on the front step of his house. Then I spotted an older lady walking a grey-muzzled black lab on the road. The woman waved me off, as if to say that her dog was not friendly. I had an inkling who this was and that the dog really hates all other dogs. I could see the dog straining and fighting at the end of the leash, pulling the woman along.
I gathered up my leashes and dragged Toby and Callie as far up the driveway as I could, but I didn't want to go too far because I didn't want to add Spree into this mix. The woman called out and asked me to push in further. I took my dogs right up to the last fence post of the outer yard, parked Toby's face in the corner, and hoped for the best. It was clear to me that there was no way I could drop Callie's leash in this situation as she'd probably scare the pants off the woman, if not end up in a fight with the leashed dog, who was giving Toby a run for his money in the horror movie dog competition.
As the woman approached, my dogs started to react to her riled up dog. Callie and Toby both turned and started lunging toward to woman's dog. I did the best I could to control them, but before I knew it, they were dragging me. I dug in my heels and dropped my body as low as possible. I was pavement surfing behind the dogs, suddenly and painfully aware that I was not only outnumbered, I was also outweighed.
They dragged me at least 30 feet before I was able to stop them. If we'd been in a cartoon, I'd have had piles of ripped up asphalt under my feet, so fiercely did I dig in my heels during my struggle. It ended alright, with no contact between the warring factions, although I was well and truly mortified.