When you know a neighborhood dog is reactive, you make allowances for his behavior. But what if his person isn’t reactive enough?
The Un-Neighborly Dog
If you’ve been reading Something Wagging for a while, you know I’m enchanted with dogs and the bonds we form with them.
But there’s a dog in my neighborhood who gives me a bad feeling every time I see him. Let’s call him *Yaakov.
Meeting Yaakov in the neighborhood
When I moved into my neighborhood about 10 years ago, we struck up a conversation with a neighbor while walking Agatha and Christie. The neighbor, let’s call her **Karla, said she had a dog too and asked if we would we like to meet him.
After ten years living in a Philadelphia neighborhood where dogs were more often seen as protection than pets, we were happy to meet her dog.
As Karla went inside to get Yaakov, we made Agatha and Christie sit in preparation for a controlled greeting.
Boy, were we surprised when a blur of fur charged out the door without a leash or collar right at Agatha and Christie. To give our dogs room to respond and maneuver, we dropped our leashes just to have the snarling mass of three dogs head out into the street. I stopped traffic while my husband and Karla corralled the dogs.
After asking Karla what she was thinking by having Yaakov charge out of the house, she explained that he got away from her while she was trying to leash him up.
We decided to chalk it up to a bad experience and move on.
The song remains the same
Over the years, despite trying to avoid Yaakov and Karla on walks, we would frequently find Yaakov off leash. At our approach he would launch at Agatha and Christie with bad intent.
At one point, I wrote a note to Karla and left a reference to a dog training book in her door suggesting she had some work to do with Yaakov.
I really lost it when I was walking Agatha shortly after Christie’s passing. I saw Yaakov off leash with Karla a few steps behind us. I immediately went to cross the street when Yaakov took off after us with Karla yelling, “Yaakov, come here.”
Of course, Yaakov only had eyes for Agatha and Karla had to physically pull him away.
Not normally a yeller, I shouted, “What are you playing at? Why do you have your dog off leash when it’s obvious he can’t handle it?”
With real distress in her voice, Karla replied, “But he’s doing so good. He stays with me all the time.”
When I got home I spoke to a nice animal control officer at the Tompkins County SPCA. She was committed to education that would keep dogs and other animals safe. The office called me after she spoke to Karla and assured me that Karla understood and would not walk Yaakov off leash again.
For several years I only saw Yaakov off leash with Karla at a distance–near the marina when I was without my dog and occasionally getting into the car with her.
The only other time we encountered Yaakov was when he would charge the fence or windows as we walked by. I just got into the habit of avoiding that side of the block.
But lately Karla has been doing some renovation work at the neighbor’s house and Yaakov has accompanied her.
I live in town so the neighbor’s house is close. And the renovators were working in my backyard to get access to the garage they were repairing.
Imagine my surprise when I took Honey outside for a break to see Yaakov sneaking around the corner on his long lead and sticking his face through my gate to start snarling and barking at Honey.
Is it just me? Or is it unreasonable to think your dog should not have to be afraid in her own yard?
And the past couple days, Yaakov has been sitting off leash in front of the house while Karla works. And, of course, every dog that walks by drives Yaakov to go barking and snarling after him with Karla shouting, “Yaakov, don’t make me come over there to get you. Come back here right now!”
As I write this, I hear Yaakov going after another dog with Karla yelling behind him.
Praising the reactions of people with reactive dogs
I know how hard it is to have a reactive dog.
I remember walking Shadow at 5 a.m. to limit scary encounters with other dogs. And I know what it’s like to get distracted or misjudge a situation and have your dog go insane on the end of a leash barking and pulling.
When I witness someone who’s unable to manage their reactive dog, I try to be patient. I’ve been there myself and know that no one can do everything perfectly all the time.
But I’m astounded at Karla’s denial of Yaakov’s weaknesses. The last two times I left the house, he was sitting on the porch of the house next door with his leash dangling loose.
So to everyone who has a reactive dog and is constantly reacting appropriately to him, thank you. Thank you for managing every situation to keep it from becoming a SITUATION. You are my heroes.
I don’t think anything will get through to Karla. Someday Yaakov will cross the bridge and dogs will walk safely in our neighborhood again.
And on that day, I hope Karla decides to get a gerbil.
Have you had a similar problem with an obviously loving dog person who is totally deluded? What did you do? What do you wish you could do? Please share!
*A variant of the dog’s name used to protect the innocent. I hereby apologize to any perfectly nice dogs named Yaakov.
**Also a variant, I just can’t bring myself to write about a real person without her permission.
[Photo by Bogdan Migulski.]