Sunday, August 11, 2013

Where's Hathaway?

Where's Hathaway?

That, of course, is an innocent enough question unless you are in the parking lot of the dog park and only one dog jumps out of the car.

Then it becomes something of a high-pitched shriek tinged with panic. Hathaway has not jumped out of the car. That can only mean he was left in the driveway. Outside. Alone.

We have a habit when going to the park: I open the door to the back seat, then get into the driver's seat. The dogs jump in, I reach back to close the door, and off we go. Now and then, I'll stand at the door while they jump in, but often when that's the case Hath wants a boost even though he's perfectly capable of jumping in on his own. My aging back doesn't like that, so I started getting in myself. He jumps in. I close the door.

I would like to think I would exhibit grace under pressure. You know, show that calm reserve that assures everyone that everything is OK and under control. But today taught us that -- when it comes to my dog -- there's not a chance in Hell that'll happen.

During and after the shrieking and swearing I was trying to simultaneously get in the car to speed home to my boy and call the house to have my son see if the dog was outside. But since using the iPhone is not my strong suit on a steady-handed day, as I was trying to phone home (Step 1: touch picture of telephone; Step 2: touch word "Home") every other app started flying open as each was inadvertently touched and swiped. No camera. No Shazam. Where's the stupid seatbelt. No Bejeweled Blitz 2. Pedal to the metal. No Clock. Punch. Punch. Punch. Phone! Yes! CALLING HOME.

Thankfully, Josh picked up on the first ring. "Yo."


It is 1.7 miles from my house to the dog park. It takes about 7 minutes to get from Point A to Point B, depending on the stoplights and traffic. In the first two-tenths of a mile, I was having visions of Hath trying to follow the car to the park along the busy street and the state highway. And of course, there was that scene from "Vacation" when the trooper holds up the end of the lease and says to Clark Griswold, "Poor little guy. He probably kept up with you for a mile or two ... " over and over and over again.

At the second red light -- 5 minutes after I realized he was missing, 15 minutes since we'd left him -- it dawned on me that I could have sent Josh outside to find his beloved bully hit by a car or some other fate. I was trying to be calm and rational, but between the tears and the thought that I drove off without my dog, neither calm nor reasonable was on the current agenda.

As I was breaking the ninth or 10th traffic law, the phone rang: "Home."  "Hello?" (violation No. 11)
Josh: "It's OK Mom. He's inside now. What did you do? Drive off and leave him?  The poor guy was standing by the door, looking out at the driveway."

I got to the house a few minutes later and when I walked in the door, Hathaway was right there to lick my knees, looking relieved and maybe a little hurt ("You left me behind, Mom!)

We eventually made it to the park and had our walk. I probably looked ready to be carted off, quietly having fits of tears or laughing or both (I mean seriously, picture Hathaway running alongside the car trying to keep up once he'd been left behind.)

Down the road, we'll probably joke about it. ("Hey, remember that time when Mom drove off without the pit bull? Um, d'ya she ever did that with us?") But, you can bet, I will not pull out of the driveway again without taking attendance first.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lessons learned

My son was bit on Tuesday, right on the lip, by a dog we didn't know. Let me answer your questions in the order they occur to you::

1) Cocker spaniel
2) He's OK, just has a fat lip.
3) No, he didn't do anything to provoke it.

As a "dog person," in general, and a pit bull owner specifically, the first question I always have and always hear after a biting incident is: "What kind of dog was it?"

It was startling, bloody (oh how head wounds bleed!) and a bit painful for Josh. It was startling and concerning for me -- not only had my son been bitten, but if this had been a pit bull or a "pit bull-type dog" as too many mutts are now called, it could have been headline news. Ultimately, though, it just presented a whole lotta teachable moments.

Josh knows his way around dogs of all kinds and all sizes, even though he's not quite 12. He and his sister had to learn about the characteristics and behaviors of pit bulls before I even considered bringing Hathaway home. Both kids are knowledgeable and conscientious, but they're also kids and sometimes they forget.

Josh loves dogs and they love him. He was not doing anything obvious to make a dog feel threatened and bite (teasing, startling, cornering etc ...) He gave it his hand to sniff. The spaniel licked it. He bent over a little to pat it on the head and the dog jumped up and bit him. No growl, no warning.

Thankfully, it was one bite, not an attack, and it didn't happen to a more delicate part of his face. It was a reminder to him to keep his face away from strange dogs and to ask the owner if it's OK to pet the animal. It's also a reminder that different actions are threatening to different dogs: Maybe his bending down scared it. 

The woman was shocked when I told her her dog bit my son. Her first question was "Did he have food?" (No) and then "Can I see?" (Uh, sure, just please don't touch his blood-covered face.) I also explained that there are a lot of younger kids at the park at that time of day that will be much less cautious about approaching her dog than my kid was. Hopefully she got the message.

For me, the incident reinforces my belief that EVERY dog -- regardless of breed -- has some trigger that will cause it to bite a person, and it's the owner's responsibility to learn what it is (or assume what it could be) and avoid that situation.

My dog has not bitten anyone and I don't think he would, but I watch as if he might. I have always handled my dogs this way, and always will, whether I have a house full of pit bulls or pugs.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We need a bigger bed

It's been three and a half years and there's still a pit bull in my bed. But like any couple that's been together for awhile, we don't always see eye to eye on certain things, and that has nothing to do with Hathaway being only knee high. For instance, he thinks it's his bed. (He can get his own blog.)

More often than not these days, he takes up all the bed, or at least two-thirds, leaving me a little tiny sliver of space with not enough blanket to cover my bottom. It's winter in New England, it can get a little drafty.

I'm not really sure how he manages to nudge me out as much as he does. I get in bed first, and stake my claim close to the middle of the bed. He has his own pillow and part of the fleece blanket he so loves, but I have most of the bed. Once he finally moseys upstairs, he snuggles up in either the crook of my knees or in what would be my lap -- the yin to my yang and all that metaphysical stuff.

But during the course of the night, he manages to inch me further and further from the center toward the edge, and I wake up on the short end of everything. Have you ever tried to move 70 solid pounds of stubborn dead weight? You need a plan.

What has evolved is our own little midnight waltz that involves strategic timing and hip checks so I actually get some space, some covers and a pillow. If I squirm enough, he is roused from his beauty sleep and has to reposition himself. When he starts to move, I throw a hip check one way, perfectly timed with pulling the covers the other way. Voila! Back to center. Often, I end up with a pit bull on my hip, but it's a bony hip and not very comfortable for him, so he has to move.

He doesn't move far, just repositions himself in one of those niches where he feels safe. At least until he scoots up and stretches out. Most mornings I wake up to whiskers and a cold nose on the pillow next to me, attached to a warm pit bull contentedly snoring away.