My dog has a problem and, by extension, I have a problem. Basically, he’s too high-strung and could probably benefit from psychotherapy of some sort. Don’t laugh; our vet suggested that could be arranged. I realize that small, yappy dogs are characteristically excitable and, at times, unpredictable, but Jack is ridiculously so. Anyone who has met him knows the awful truth — he’s either Jekyll or Hyde. There is no in-between. Granted, he is loveable to us not to mention adorable — especially after he’s been groomed, his hair cottony soft and white as snow. Although he is a mere 14-pound ball of fluff our family has adored (and even spooned) for more than a decade, he has another side — one that is decidedly unhinged.
The trouble is, we never know which side of him will manifest when he meets someone out and about — thereby making me beyond the point of anxious when we go for walks. Naturally, when he starts growling, barking and clawing at the pavement like a fool, I reel him in as if he were an oversized marlin, apologizing profusely to the passerby. Of course, he or she can’t possibly hear my apology over the incessant barking, snarling and gagging. So I just smile with embarrassment and attempt to drag the beast away as quickly as possible, knowing full well that we will encounter this very same person and have the very same experience in roughly three minutes when we meet on the other side of the neighborhood circle. Some days I simply don’t have the strength or patience to deal with his foolishness, so we skip our walk altogether which saddens me greatly.
It doesn’t seem to matter if my stupid dog encounters someone walking, jogging or whizzing by on a bike or scooter. Even baby strollers freak him out to some extent. Other dogs, too — except the ones he is fond of. He nuzzles those, and in no time our leashes end up a tangled mess, which I’m sure he thinks is terrific because he gets to spend even more quality time with those dogs and the people attached to them — usually the ones bearing treats. Against all logic and understanding, there are certain people (with or without dogs) for whom he will immediately drop to the ground and roll over, demanding a belly rub. And I am astonished EVERY SINGLE TIME this happens.
I suspect part of my dog’s neurotic behavior may stem from being overly protective or perhaps territorial. By those standards, I suppose he is an overachiever, making perfectly composed dogs look like slackers. Even indoors he goes berserk, barking like a madman whenever someone knocks at the door or steps inside. Oddly enough, people who visit must pass some kind of strange muster. He sniffs them and looks them over as if determining whether they are “dog people,” thereby worthy of his admiration and affection. Once they have met with his approval, they are free to move about the house. If not, I have to scoop him up and carry him under my arm like a large and unwieldy purse — because the universe hates me.
Not surprisingly, he even acts insane when he gets a glimpse of people through a window — people who have the audacity to walk on HIS STREET — the one he must defend to the death. Needless to say, the barking makes my head throb, and I sometimes worry that he’ll topple off the back of the couch during one of his frenzied barking sessions.
I really wonder what goes on inside that pea brain of his. Clearly, he is delusional in that he thinks he weighs 200 pounds and could eat a Rottweiler for lunch. But I suspect that down deep he may suffer from an inferiority complex — if a dog could, in fact, suffer from such a thing. It’s not as if we haven’t praised him for appropriate behavior. Lord knows I talk to him as if he were a tiny person, reassuring him that whatever happens to be freaking him out at the moment won’t result in the Apocalypse.
Who knows — maybe we just need to spoon more often.