Tasha, my dog, about whom I have written here: http://open.salon.com/blog/bnzoot/2011/06/24/one_step_at_a_time, is normally cheerful, friendly and welcoming to all. She can be aggressive with other dogs if they exhibit aggressiveness first, but generally speaking, she wags in a friendly manner, goes through the usual doggy sniffing of butts and necks, and is happy to have made a new friend.
Except for Cassidy.
Cassidy is the tiny dog downstairs walked every morning by the little boy who lives there with his parents. Cassidy weighs maybe 8 pounds, looks like a tiny terrier of some sort (not a Yorkie – short hair), is silvery in color with big, round brown eyes and erect, alert ears. She also possesses the shrillest, most piercing and generally obnoxious bark I have ever heard.
Dillon, the little boy, is about 9 or 10. He’s husky and tanned, with a blonde buzz-cut, an overbite and a terrible stutter. He seems a bit lonely to me, and I try to take time to at least say hello, ask about school, listen patiently to whatever he wants to tell me and just be friendly. Something in his solitary wanderings around the complex tells me that school and friends, all that stuff, might be a challenge for Dillon. But Dillon is not good at controlling Cassidy, and it’s becoming a problem. Not an insurmountable one, but one I must resolve.
Tasha is 50 pounds of pure muscle and cheerfulness, and while generally an eager-to-please dog, when she has her Irish up she is strong and hard to control, even with the harness I use with her leash. When I see Dillon and Cassidy out and about, I rein in the leash tight, restricting Tasha’s movement. Tasha approaches with tail erect, in a trembling pre-wag, and starts the canine sniffing ritual. She is easily 150 times larger than Cassidy. Cassidy seems to approach in a cautious but friendly-enough fashion, sniffs and then positioning herself directly under Tasha’s head, begins barking and snarling. Tasha lunges and snarls, me pulling her back with the harness and her rearing up on her hind legs, incensed at Cassidy’s rudeness. Dillon ineffectually pulls at Cassidy’s retractable leash then lets her go, so it’s up to me to keep Tasha from killing her. I pull with both hands, she lunges and then I’m lifting her off her front feet, walking in the opposite direction, and she’s twisting and lunging. Using my Mean Mom voice I tell her, “NO!” while walking us away. Once out of the danger-zone, I smack her butt and say, “Bad dog!” which breaks my heart and temporarily sends her ears down and flat to her head, before she resumes grumbling and growling. (Tasha likes to have the last word.) I try to explain that it's up to her to be the bigger dog here, to remember her manners and treat Cassidy with the disdain she deserves, but thus far appealing to Tasha's better nature has fallen flat regarding Cassidy.
Behind us, Cassidy shrilly carries on and on, her voice piercing bricks while Dillon pulls and lets go, pulls and lets go saying, “It’s ok….” However, it is not ok because if I don’t use every bit of strength in my body pulling my 50-pound dog away, with her walking on two legs, lunging and rearing like a circus horse trying to get back at the horrible Cassidy, we will have blood in the creek bed.
For a time, I had hoped the two dogs would be friends; we are neighbors, after all. Tasha and I have encountered other dogs of all shapes and sizes in our wanderings and none of them have elicited this reaction from her. After this morning’s episode, I resolved to get Tasha out earlier and avoid the issue entirely. It is an easy fix, requiring only minor adjustments on my part and I am, after all, the grown-up in this situation. But, I feel bad throwing in the towel on this. Establishing a new pattern will mean I can’t smile at Dillon and wish him a good day in the mornings, and I worry about him. But I have no doubt that starting the day off with a doggy bloodbath would end in a truly terrible, no-good, very bad day.