The sun is shinning down on me and my 12.5 year old rottweiler mix mutt as we slowly, slowly, make our way around the block. Harry has more than just a little gray around the muzzle and he spends most of his days napping on the couch. Adopted at age 7, I planned on being his retirement plan. These days that's just what I am. I am a living breathing plan of how he can easily enjoy his golden years in comfort and with class.
It must be the slow pace at which Harry and I walk together that leaves us open to interruption, and today was no exception as we meandered a middle age man in blue collar garb walks towards me hollering. "Hey, my dog wants to meet yours. He sees you walking by and he just wants to play" He calls out from about 30 feet away as he and his big black lab begin a slow approach. His lab is bouncing feet in the air and doing all he can to get his person to start moving faster, after all Harry just peed on his mail box.
I am quick to start with a hello, but call back that my dog is not friendly with other dogs.
Sorry, Harry, we both know this isn't true, but in his senior days he has become less and less adaptable and more irritable. A few years ago he might have put up with a young ruckus dog bumping into him, now his arthritis gives rise to defensiveness. Fair enough. It is with this in mind that I recently made the conscious decision to no longer introduce Harry to new dogs. This is not a steadfast rule, and on occasion I break it, when I meet a calm dog, or another senior, but this dog didn't meet the standards, so I lied.
As he came closer I noticed his slurred speech and wondered if he'd had a few beers. The black dogs big black balls hung low almost hitting the ground as he continued to lung on end of leash. I repeated that my dog doesn't do well with other new dogs, that he's old, arthritic and doesn't like other males. I suggest maybe we could introduce one of my younger dogs to his dog and they might have a higher likely hood of getting along. The neighbor now holding his dog by the collar reaches out to shake my hand, and I return the gesture. No sooner than our hands let loose, Harry at my side, loose leash, sniffing the ground, he lets go of his dogs collar grabs his big black head in both his hands, squeezing it and pulls that big slobbery head face to face with my Harry and says, "There now meet face to face like you should!"
Both dogs hackles immediately went up. Tails changed positions as well, the big lab had been wagging, now his tail was stiff and held high. Harry's tail had been relaxed and was now mimicking the labs tail. They stared wide eyed directly at each other and I saw the lip lift begin on the side of Harry's mouth. This interaction lasted about 4 seconds. I knew at second # 1 that this was just plain trouble. I made a distracting noise and pulled Harry away just as the lab snapped at his face, only missing by an inch or so.
The lab baring teeth and snarling ,the neighbor struggling to contain his dog, they settled on the fact that I was right, clearly MY dog didn't like other dogs. (humph!) Then the man puts both hands around his labs muzzle tightly and then forces the dog to sit beneath him. All the while his struggle for control continues and I am left stammering over my small talk while I say a secret prayer that this man does keep 'control' of his dog. "Oh he just wants to play" The man says again. " He's been in his share of fights. But don't worry, I aint afraid to get in there and pull 'em apart. Wouldn't be the first time. Hell, he got his ass beat by another one of my dogs awhile back. I've got about 20 dogs, and I could throw tennis balls all day and they'd never be satisfied, I swear."
I try to hide my dismay, this guy is, while not 100% neighbor (his mother lives in the house whose yard he is currently standing in) is at least some percent neighbor and I feel obligated to be neighborly.
He gives a laugh. "I'll have to bring him over to your place on of these days. He loves to play. Yeah, I'll just stop on over sometime." He says as I walk away.
"Enjoy the sunshine." I say. "It's a beautiful day." While that's is true, what I'm really thinking,.. is "oh crap"