Until last Tuesday I had a difficult life. My harsh, no kissing, no fussing, no speaking dog-training routine was not working. My dogs were darlings at home, but monsters when out and about. Every morning I rose at first light and schlepped both dogs out for walkies, separately. They were too frightful to go out together….
Until last Tuesday I had a difficult life. My harsh, no kissing, no fussing, no speaking dog-training routine was not working. My dogs were darlings at home, but monsters when out and about.
Every morning I rose at first light and schlepped both dogs out for walkies, separately. They were too frightful to go out together.
That meant two-and-a-half hours on red alert, arms wrenched out of their sockets and returning home emotionally and physically wrecked for a few brief hours of respite until tea-time.
Then out for more ghastly walkies, keeping to the quieter streets, because I had become a pariah, feared, loathed, ostracised and occasionally even screeched at by local dog persons. What sort of a life is that?
It isn’t the dogs’ fault, of course. “It’s you,” says everyone who knows better. “You’re anxious. You’re making them anxious, which makes them aggressive. Just relax.” Oh, ha ha. How do I do that, with Miss Foaming Chops on one side and Miss Snap-Jaw muzzled on the other? Why not muzzle both, you may ask. Because one has a deformed jaw that no muzzle on earth will fit. So I was stuck in a cycle of anxiety and aggression.
Then I heard of a dog miracle worker. He had cured a dog that screamed with fear at anything that moved in the street. Within minutes, he had that dog strolling along the high road, completely mellowed out. Could it be true? Can this fellow succeed where others have failed?
Can he stop my older dog from eating lurchers and the younger one from having a go at any dog in sight? Can he stop them bonking each other in front of visitors, squabbling over chewies, raging into the street ready to kill or maim and draining my life of all pleasure? I doubt it, but I am a desperate woman, so I give it a try.
The dog magician turns up. He has some rattles, some leads with jingly bells on, some dog snacks and four of his own dogs. He jingles and twitches a lead, shakes a rattle, slams a door, gives an instruction and a treat, and bingo, the dogs obey. Now I offer my dogs a snack and they turn their heads aside until given permission.
I open the front door and they quietly contemplate the street. No bristling, no snarling. Fabulous. My dogs meet his dogs. No pulling, no rigid, threatening pose, no growling, no bonking, no fighting. Not a flicker. He has turned my dogs into saints. How did he do it?
But what will happen when he’s gone? Can I do this alone? Will the tricks work for me? I go for a walkie in the street. Yes they do. Magic. Now nearly a week has passed. The magic is still working. I go for a walkie with my friend Rosemary. Violet, the ex-killer, trots along beside her like a subdued lamb. Rosemary is gobsmacked. So are the vet, visitors and all dog-walkers. It isn’t often that I can dredge up a happy ending, but I feel confident that this is one.
This week Michele read A Girl’s Guide to Modern Philosophy, by Charlotte Greig: “A student in the 70s has difficulties with work and love. Funny, thoughtful and gripping.” She also read Yiddish with Dick and Jane, by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman: “Exquisite. I wept with laughter, especially through the glossary.”
Michele Hanson is an author and Guardian columnist.
And I was the “Magician”