Dog’s Eye View: Dogs along the highway
A recent lengthy road trip with my husband and our bull terrier, Stuart, offered me some unexpected and refreshing interactions with people and their dogs. I wasn’t thinking in advance of this trip that I might experience some sweet and bittersweet contacts, but that’s what happened.
In Illinois, my sister’s neighbor has two dogs; one is a 3-year-old scottie/hedgehog mix named Sadie,and Sadie’s housemate, Loli, is a rescued miniature pinscher that’s not quite a year old. I kept hearing little dogfights breaking out in her neighbor’s driveway, and the neighbor asked me if I thought it was all right to let this happen.
When I saw what was really going on, I had some suggestions. They were “blaming” the scottie, being a feisty dog, as the instigator. In reality, it was the interloper, “new kid on the block” that was at the root of the fighting. Loli would pester Sadie, jumping at her and snapping at her until Sadie finally had to growl and snap at her to get her to stop. This started an all out fight. What’s a scottie to do?
The owners were fingering the wrong punk. Poor Sadie was exhausted by this constant bullying. I helped the neighbors learn to step in before the pestering started. They began to recognize when Loli’s body language became still and low with her eyes fixated on Sadie; that’s when they could intervene and redirect her to go lie down or go in the house or whatever would break the cycle. Sweet Sadie finally got some relief.
Down the road, on Interstate 80, I met a beautiful 12-year-old pit bull/boxer mix named Lili, whose owner, a young woman, confided she was making a life-changing journey across the United States. Her older brother had come to pick her up and was driving her, along with her few belongings, including Lili and a pet rat, to his home for a new start in life in California.
Lili was thrust into the role of caretaker, healer and rock. This older dog embodied the gentle sweetness of a dog whose entire being was at the feet of her owner. I wondered if the young woman could have made the trip without her.
At a rest stop in Nebraska, while walking Stuart, a middle-aged man walked toward me and asked what breed Stuart was. He stopped and reached to pet him then stepped back and stood there, looking at him. I said it was all right to pet Stuart.
The man said that, a month ago, he had to put his senior dog down, a labrador retriever, and wasn’t sure he was ready to let another dog touch his life. He walked away toward the information building.
I was still standing there when he came back. Again, he stopped by Stuart, hesitated and gently brought both of his hands to rest on Stuart’s body. I heard a soft stifled sob that seemed to come from somewhere deep inside the man. He slowly stood, looked at me and with tears in his eyes, turned and walked away.
I felt honored to be there with my Stuart. It’s so lovely to see the many ways in which our dogs are inextricably braided into our lives.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC, with more than 30 years of experience.
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