I don't know what's in the air today but Abbey and I were under attack twice during our Sunday morning stroll.
Abbey is a "recovering" reactive dog. In the months that she has been a part of our family she has come a long way, in part because we confront our demons every day and go towards our problems, so that we may work on them. I try to encounter dog-full situations at least once a day. During our walks in and around parks and neighborhoods, we not only pass politely when faced with other leashed dogs, but we have to have a plan when unleashed dogs are before us.
Most dog owners take note when they see me working to focus Abbey's attention on me. On narrow paths I move off to one side, turn her to face me and put her into a sit until the loose dog has passed. Sometimes I announce pleasantly, "We need a little space, if that's O.K. with you?" What I really mean is, "Can't you see I need you to reel in your effing dog?" The ones who are the most oblivious actually answer, "Oh, my dog is very sociable" Then I am obliged to be more specific 'My dog is not, and I am trying to avoid a problem". (Moron, not said out loud).
This has occurred often enough that I have pre-calculated certain situations in my head. Based on the fact that there are city ordinances, backed up by clear signage stating that all dogs must be leashed, if Abbey were to bite another un-leashed dog, (that got into her face) she would be in the clear. I certainly don't want that to happen but some of those "I'm on the phone and clueless" dog-walkers really get on my nerves and you just know that any children they have are equally spoiled and ill-mannered.
This morning, as we were peacefully walking along in a residential area near our home, I heard frantic calling, barking and the scrabble of dog nails on cement, that was accelerating towards us from a long driveway that we had just passed. Two Chihuahua mixes of the "teeth on a leash" variety had seen us go by and escaped the control of a woman and her young son to hurl themselves at us with the worst of intentions.
We've had moments in the past when another dog rushes up barking and provoking. We maintain our forward momentum and I keep Abbey on a tight leash, telling her to watch me, not the other dog, which is usually enough to diffuse the situation.
Today was a bit different. Our six-pound adversary was snarling and hurling himself at Abbey, with the encouragement of his ten-pound, "Show me where you want me. I've got your back", pack-mate. Ferocious Piraña-Teeth gnashed my shoe laces undone and grazed my shins on his way to latch onto Abbey's furry rear end. We were spinning, to keep them from being engaged face to face and the centrifugal force whirled our protagonist on an orbit, a couple of feet off the ground until he landed and spat out the bushy tail hair that he had detached from my poor girl.
Several clear thoughts went through my mind as I decided what I was going to do. "Protect my dog" was one. Even though Abbey outweighed her attacker by seventy-five pounds, she was leashed, expected to live up to be the dog we aspire her to be and there were two of them, so pack mentality rules were against her. I started kicking out anytime I could target one of the other dogs. I connected a few times but, after each short flight through the air, El Jefe kept on diving back in.
There was a moment when Abbey had the Chihuahua in her jaws and pinned on his back. Thought number one "He deserves to die". Thought number two "My dog doesn't need that on her resume" and we were up and spinning some more. By then the dogs were tiring, and/or getting tired of being kicked and they were a few feet away looking for an unguarded opening. The owner and her son had caught up and were each able to grab a dog.
Profuse apologies followed and, thankfully, no physical damage was done in the melee. As soon as the other dogs were corralled by the owners, I was amazed at how docile and relaxed Abbey was. She was obviously a bit perturbed by what had happened, looking for reassurance that she'd done the right thing but, as obviously, willing to accept that I was her guardian and she didn't have to take charge.
Our second scary moment was a mile or so later when we came upon a couple of dogs playing together on a front lawn. I know both dogs and owners by sight. They are novice dog owners with sturdy young untrained doggie hooligans. One is a Rottweiler mix and the other a German Shepherd mix. I could see them before they saw us and I called to the man who was with them to ask if he could get them under control so that I could pass. As soon as the dogs noticed Abbey and I they ran over aggressively barking and threatening. The one owner who was present had no apparent influence over either dog and yet he had unleashed his dog so that it could play with the other one on a public street.
If Abbey had responded with any aggression we would have had a serious battle on our hands. Those dogs were both bigger than her, although they were not as dastardly as the Chihuahuas. They were more bullying to see what trouble they could start. My technique, in a tight spot, is to keep Abbey moving and distract her with commands. I can't use treats in a close quarters situation in case the presence of food makes the conflict worse. We walk a few steps and turn to heel and repeat, staying in one spot so that the other human can catch up and get his wits about him. Canine protagonists often lose interest if the dog they are after does nothing to engage them. It worked in our favor this time and they went back to wrestling each other on the grass.
This encounter made me really mad. This was not an accident, it was negligence and could have ended badly. I told the man he had no business having any dog off leash in public if he didn't have it under voice control, which he so obviously never would.
So much for a peaceful Sunday stroll. I wasn't out looking for an adrenaline rush, but that's what I ended up with. The more I think about it, the more pleased I am with Abbey. She had ample opportunity and excuse to take a bite out of someone today. She actually had that darn Chihuahua in her mouth, and yet there was not a mark on him. I'm a proud Mama. Abbey is a good dog.