July 2, 2019

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

-Ambrose Bierce


I know I’m prejudiced, but Waldo is one of the best dogs I ever saw. He’s friendly, happy-go-lucky, sweet and loving. He learns quickly and is a joy to share long walks with. Mostly.

During the colder months, I developed a habit of getting up early, taking Waldo out to do his business, then returning to feed and water him and feed and coffee myself. Because I’m wimp enough to want to wait for the day to warm up a bit before spending too much time outside, I then return to bed for an hour or so to take a nap. Waldo’s crate is next to my bed in the bedroom and all I have to do is motion toward the crate and say, “Go to bed,” and he walks right in and lays down. No fuss. It’s gotten to the point where, an hour or so after we return from his morning ablutions, if I’m still in my chair, he’ll get my attention, then go lay in his crate as if to say, “You coming, or what?” When I nap, we nap. No whining, no complaints from Waldo. With the warmer temperatures, the only thing that’s changed is that we nap after our walk instead of before.

And that’s just one example. There are so many others. When we get to a curb on a street, he will (mostly) wait until I tell him it’s okay to cross. When he’s on leash and walks so there is a tree, a sign post or anything between him and me, I’ll say, “This way,” and he’ll back up and go around the obstacle so the leash doesn’t get all wrapped up. He’s really a great dog.

Then there’s the dark side. Waldo knows very well what “sit” means. Yet, when trying to train him to sit and wait until I tell him it’s okay to go through a door, he acts as if he doesn’t know what I want him to do. I take him out for an 8.6 mile walk, we come home and one hour later, he wants to go out. I take him out and one hour after that, he’s jumping at the door again. When on a walk, if I have the leash attached to his collar, he goes to the end, 8 meters away, hunches down and pulls hard. I stop, wait for him to stop pulling, start walking again when he does, and then he’s back at the end of the leash, pulling hard. He finds something rotting on the ground, he puts it in his mouth and tries to eat it. He gets his mind set on something and there’s no connecting with him. I can’t redirect his attention, even by offering him a treat; he just ignores it. I put a dog door in the sliding door (there is a glass panel with a dog door at its bottom you can buy on Amazon that fits into the space provided by the partially opened sliding door) that connects to our balcony. He likes to go out there and just look around. It gets him out of my hair so I can get some writing done. For a few days, I heard him gnawing on something. I thought he was chewing on his bone and ignored it, happy he was keeping himself entertained. Then I checked. He’d been chewing on a wooden part of the outside wall and damaged it as high as he could reach. That one, I’m still working on how to repair. For now, Waldo is locked off the balcony unless I’m there with him. All this drives me crazy and, sometimes, it really pisses me off!

I lose my composure, especially when I’m tired or distracted, and yell at him. I swat him on the butt (not hard) and push it down until he sits. Sometimes I tug back on the leash harder than I should. I yell at him to wait and don’t let him out for a while (but usually give in before too long). I lock the dog door so he can’t get onto the balcony. None of this is good training practice, it’s because I’m angry. I’m feeling, Goddamn it, dog! Just do what you’re supposed to do! None of it is abusive, but I’ve lost it and Waldo knows it. He can hear it in my voice and see it in my face. Damned dog gives me a “What did I do?” look and I melt. It’s then that I realize that being mad at him is inappropriate and ineffectual.

The thing is, he’s not making me angry. It’s all coming from me. He’s just being Waldo, just being a dog. My anger is due to me failing to adjust to Waldo in a positive manner, not him failing to toe the line.

I am so damned lucky because, you know what? Waldo forgives me and goes on being the happy, loving puppy he always is. I take a deep breath, count to ten in Chinese, even though I don’t know how to count in Chinese, and reset my mood.

We love each other despite ourselves.

I really like my chair.

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