A Dangerous Job: Perimeters, Porties & Police
I took a bullet for a dog today.
Okay, not really. But it kind of sounds cool, doesn’t it?
I was at my last training session of a rather arduous week of bad weather, difficult situations, cranky people and a few dogs with unusual issues (who really needed more help, but their owners were in a bit of denial). This last training was a 3-month-old Portugese Waterdog named Gaspar (meaning Treasure Keeper) that I was training for Invisible Fence.
The home is a multimillion dollar house over-looking a lake on a secluded property at the end of its own street. It has glass and stucco modern architecture with two-story ceilings, slate floors and rustic décor fit nicely on the rather steep lot that was kept mostly natural, except for the small front garden entry. Usually houses like this sit on lots with manicured lawns cared for by a professionals, but except for the front garden this property was intentionally left wild.
The homeowner gave me the garage code and assured me the alarm system would be disarmed. But as I opened the door to the mudroom, the automated security voice announced, “Garage door open.” Damn! The voice continued to announce my arrival for about a minute before the sirens started blaring with announcement, "Intruder at garage door.” After leaving a phone message for the homeowner, there was nothing I could do but work with Gaspar and wait for the police.
Did I mention that the property was kept wild and sat on a hill? Gaspar and I made our way through the tall weeds, fallen branches and young trees that were growing wild on the hill. I was never so glad that the weather today was cool enough to be wearing jeans in August!
Because this was our first training outside, Gaspar was on a 30-foot leash which kept getting tangled as he went one way around a sapling and I another. The leash was helpful, though, when the pup lost his footing in front of the retaining wall and slid down the ravine about 10 feet. I hauled him back up, only to discover that I was standing on the largest anthill I’d ever seen, and the ants were now crawling inside my pant leg! The jeans I thought would save me should I come across poison ivy or burrs now held the ants out of sight and made it difficult to brush them off, especially considering the slope Gaspar and I were perched on. We carefully, but quickly, moved off that spot, and I shook out my pant leg, turning the bottom half back on itself and shooing away the black army of intruders. I suppose when they went underground the ant buzz was about how they climbed the leg of the intruder and sent her packing…They can stick to their story, I’ll stick to mine.
We finally made it to the front of the house again as the officer arrived. I explained the security breach and she asked me if the dog was a "labradoodle." Good guess, really. We chatted briefly about the breed of the "First Dog" and she said, “So this is what you do, go to people’s houses and train their dogs?” After the day I had, I said, “Yes, and I usually love it, but after all the issues with this property, I would have rather not come here today…But I shouldn’t complain--at least it’s not so dangerous a job that I have a risk of being shot!” She smiled and asked for my license to call in the alarm.
I finished working with Gaspar and the officer handed me a note to leave inside for the homeowner. Since opening the door would start the alarm blaring again, she waited for me to put Gaspar inside. As I attempted to put the pup in, Bruno scooted out. This was not an issue. I’d met the 13-year-old Portie a few days earlier and we’d hit it off--a pocket full of treats will endear you to almost any dog with a sense of smell. And, after all, Bruno had just let me take Gaspar out for the afternoon training.
I called Bruno to come back in, but he was now exhibiting signs of being fearful and skittish. Not good. Not good at all. I tried bribing with a treat, but he would have none of that. I could see by his body language that he was scared. Actually, freaked out might be a better description. But he didn’t have his Invisible Fence collar on, and I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving the property without him safely in the house anyway. As the officer waited I slowly managed to get close enough to Bruno to grab his too-loose leather collar. Bruno was then close enough to grab my hand with his teeth. He was scared and bit down hard, making huge indentations on my left hand several times with his age-rounded canines. But I held him fast, because one wrong move and he would back out of his collar. And who knows what a frightened, threatened dog would do after that. I asked the officer to grab a leash out of the back of my truck, thinking that I was dumb to not have grabbed one before starting to catch Bruno. With my right hand, I looped it over Bruno’s head and escorted him back to the mudroom. The poor boy was still shaking when I left.
Perhaps under normal circumstances, Bruno would have returned to the mudroom without even needing me to "catch" him. But I suppose when a stranger enters your home while your people are gone, takes your puppy housemate out for a while, leaving you without respite from the blaring security sirens; then when you finally get outside to see what all the hubbub is about, the normally clear driveway is blocked by a police cruiser, and another stranger in a uniform is looking large in your garden and you realize being elderly, there is really nowhere safe to escape. Fight or flight becomes your only two viable options. I really felt bad for the old guy.
The officer noticed that my hand had been bitten, said, “Are you okay? Who's got the tougher job now?”
I’ll be fine. After an evening with the ice pack and a little arnica, the teeth marks are barely noticeable and the swelling is down considerably. I’ll have a bruise by morning to be sure. But short of not letting Bruno out, I’d do it all over to keep him safe. Perhaps if the officer weren’t waiting on me to leave I’d have taken the "capture" a little slower, but I’m still not sure I’d have been able to retrieve him without grabbing him by the collar. Sometimes the more you try to work an older dog, the more stressed they become, and that might have been worse in the long run. We’re all home safe and sound tonight. Monday will start a new week!