First Lesson…

Can't we please hit snooze just one more time....

Can’t we please hit snooze just one more time….

My office should just have a turnstile instead of a door.  Unless I close and lock it, most of the management team briefly knocks, walks in, and plops down in a chair.  Over the course of the week, many of them would walk in, pause to study the kennel, and then lean over to peer in at Lulu.  A few of the brave ones would even unlock the door before I had time to object.  Her responses to everyone over the course of the first week were many and varied, but they almost always began with her shaking and cringing in the back of the kennel.

Mark had not even paused before striding over and opening the gate.  In turn, Lulu had not even paused before bolting into his arms and soundly washing his face.  He immediately dropped to the floor where they both laughed and wrestled.  I had worked with Mark for months, and I think I had seen him smile once.

On Tuesday or Wednesday, Jose had come around my desk to sit in a chair next to me so we could take a look at a spreadsheet on my computer.  Lulu had wedged herself in between our chairs and sat staring up at Jose silently.  He slowly stood and moved back around to a chair on the other side of the desk.  Lulu proceeded to walk around and seat herself in the chair next to him.  The meeting was not long.

One day I had been in an office down the hall.  I sprang from my chair upon hearing her screaming, as if in a horrid dog fight.  Jim stumbled from my office as I sprinted around the corner, and I noticed everyone standing in their cubicles, straining to peer through my office door.  Poor Jim had gone behind my desk to work on my computer monitor.  Apparently, he had crossed a perceived boundary.  She was screaming and raging from her kennel, with this crazed, rabid look on her wrinkled up face. Oddly, she never had a problem with anyone entering my office while in her kennel, but she would go crazy if they went behind the desk.

She had howled at the contractors, growled as drivers passed, and sang at any four legged or wing bearing creature that passed my floor length office window, usually in the middle of conference calls.  I had the location of the mute key memorized on the keyboard.

By the end of the week, I had no way of determining who she would or would not like.  I was also tired of being dragged around by this small, buff bundle of muscle, so it was time for some help.

I had spent several hours on the internet, with my door closed at work, searching for some type of assistance.  I had sent out several e-mails and finally received a response from an organization in Berkley, CA called “badrap.org.”  They were going to let me bring Lulu to their Saturday morning training class in Berkley, free of charge, since I had rescued her.  I was becoming a little desperate, so I was thrilled!

One of the conditions of attending the class was that I use a prong collar on Lulu.  I finally found one at the pet store one night after work.  I stood holding the lethal looking collar for five minutes before finally paying for it.  How could this not hurt the little dog?  She was already so reactive.  Wasn’t this just going to make her even more frantic?  Not only that, but it would make her look so tough and vicious.  She did not need another reason to have someone call HR on me.  I was pretty sure we were already close to the call that would end her office stay.  I was no dog expert though, and barely knowledgeable about behavior.  I decided just to let them show me how to use it before putting it on her.

We arrived and parked on the street.  Looking through the eight foot iron fence, I saw 10 very large pit bull type dogs.  They were all at least double her size.  Maybe Lulu was more mixed breed than Staffordshire or Pit bull.  I got out of the car and walked around to the entrance gate where I met Donna and Tim.  They were both very welcoming, and Tim offered to go back to the car with me to evaluate Lulu before I brought her in to meet everyone.

I opened the door to the car, where Lulu had of course moved to the driver’s seat.  Tim slowly extended his hand and Lulu began wiggling.  I sighed softly in relief.  Good….a person she found acceptable.  He rubbed her, handled her, looked at her ears and teeth, and all this she accepted with a big grin and increased wiggling.  He then got another prong collar, as mine was made for a 100 pound dog and not my 35 pound dog.  “Let’s go” he said.  I clipped the leash to her collar and we headed for the parking log to meet some new friends.

We entered the parking lot where Donna greeted Lulu, and all of the other dogs sat watching, in a loose circle.  Most of them were seated or laying down, and they were all spread about ten feet apart.  Tim took her leash to walk her towards the other dogs, and she rushed to meet them.  The prong collar snapped tight, and Lu let out a scream as she whirled to fend off whatever had bit her on the neck.  Tim immediately let out the tension and grabbed Lulu, who was lying on the ground shaking.  I felt horrible!  He stroked her and talked to her calmly as she slowly stood.  He began to walk back towards the other dogs, and she stayed right next to him, not pulling one time.  I was amazed at the different dog walking next to Tim.  She had her head up, and was alert, but the small bull dozer was gone.  I was still up in the air on the collar.

“Why is she so much smaller?” I asked Tim.

“She may actually be closer to the original heritage of her breed than many of these other larger dogs.” he said as he reached down to scratch her head.  She looked up at him grinning, and then started to do a little dance as she took more notice of the other dogs.  Tim told me to go stand in the corner and watch as he worked with the dogs, and Lulu and I walked over to sit in the shade of a bush.  Donna came over to stand with me, and Lulu laid at my feet eyeing the other dogs about thirty feet away as Donna and I chatted.  The circle began to move counter clockwise, and as the first dog approached us to pass, Lulu let out a low throaty growl.  Donna and I both said “NO” at the same time.  Tim looked over quickly in surprise.  Lulu on the other hand just gazed up at me with her tongue lolling out, and a “what, me?” expression on her face.

A few minutes later, having heard no more threatening sounds from Lu, Tim invited us to join the circle of dogs.  Lulu was attentively studying the other dogs, and I was hesitant, but I was pleasantly surprised as she walked beside me and stopped in line obediently.  Tim showed me how to hold the leash, what commands to use, and how to walk with her.  It was at this point that she decided she did not like the back of the dog in front of us, and with no warning she lunged.  The other dog was a young female, and her owner struggled to hold her as she responded in turn.  The ever embarrassed parent, I attempted to control Lulu, who may as well not have had on a prong collar, while apologizing at the same time.  It was at this moment that Lu decided it was time to “sing.”  This prompted several others to begin participating in the “sing a long,” and we were promptly expelled from class for being disruptive.  I was such a bad parent, and embarrassed at my lack of control over this small dog.

The sidelines were not much better.  There appeared to be feral cats in the bushes, and Lulu went wild as we headed towards the edge of the parking lot.  I did not see the cats, and just assumed my dog was a freak possessed by the devil as she lunged and screamed at nothing.  A woman seated on the sidewalk explained there were cats in the bushes, after watching Lulu’s antics for a few minutes first, so we headed back to the other side of the parking lot with Lulu pirouetting and singing the entire way across.  I was exhausted, and we were only 15 minutes into our first lesson.

We spent the rest of our lesson on the sidelines watching the other dogs.  Lulu alternated between rumbling, and then turning her head to look at me with a perplexed and innocent expression.  She had no idea where that sound was coming from, her expression stated.  I just sighed and continued to tell her no each time it occurred.  The rumbling slowed, but it was decided Lulu would just watch for the rest of her time with her “new friends.”

Lulu was exhausted.  I was tired.  This experience had not gone well, but Tim encouraged me to return the next weekend.   We headed for home, and I sat back and drove as doubts about my current situation played across my mind. I had finally started to relax when I felt a weight on my leg.  I looked down to see Lulu had stretched across the seat, and car brake, to lay her head in my lap, and immediately fallen back into a sound sleep.

I looked at the deceptively innocent face, and wondered if past actions had created her behavior, or if these were just characteristics of the breed.  A little voice in the back of my head murmured it was not the sweet angel’s fault she behaved like a possessed demon.  She had been mistreated, and I just needed to “fix” her, because that was what I did well.  I fixed those things that were broken, and created structure and process where none was before.  That was it, she just needed a little discipline and structure.

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