This dog trainer was not exactly a whisperer but his voice was reassuring and certain. We agreed to meet at Jefferson Park. Foxie acquiesced immediately to being handed over to this clean cut, tan skinned man who resembles Dwayne Johnson, a movie actor and semi-retired professional wrestler who goes by the name of The Rock and always makes the world safer for those he loves.
It was quickly clear that for a pack animal, Foxie has been running in a very small pack, with no other dogs to play with and only one old woman who is inconsistent with any sort of discipline. She tends to give the dog his druthers while walking it on the leash. She incorrectly crosses streets when dogs approach so as to prevent her dog from leaping at large dogs or snapping at any other dog whose scent he finds objectionable. And bicyclist beware, runners move over, men who hop out from behind trash cans in the dark of a morning, I can’t guarantee the safety of your pant leg and god help you if you reach out a hand in friendship. Foxie does have one dog friend, Cooper, who lives upstairs and is always on a leash of his own and keeps different hours. You can’t exactly call the two dogs and three owners a pack.
Immediately Dwayne (not his real name but good for this purpose) suggested Foxie begin to make dog acquaintances. But always, and this is a big always, he ordered, I must ensure the SAFETY of my little creature. I have no objection to safety. I believe in it strongly, especially once Dwayne suggested that my creature’s aggressive behavior grew out of fear. But my nature had me disregarding this possibility and I would have taken chances with Foxie’s wellbeing at the fenced dog park we went to the second day Dwayne came to us for our training hour. I was blithe. I suggested we let Foxie off the leash and see what happened. Dwayne knew it was a bad idea and said so because Foxie is even inconsistent about coming when he’s called. My dog, if bitten or attacked, would suffer a terrible setback in trusting me and his two days of training would be erased.
Immediately red flags went up around me and I knew something was lacking in my own sense of the world. Flashbacks of my oldest son as a baby! An untended iron falls off the board onto his leg and leaves a small triangle burn mark! His foot tangles in the back wheel of a bicycle behind me! He carries a glass bottle back to the store for the refund and trips, slashes his thumb and we spend the evening in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. It’s a moment in which I want to give Foxie to Dwayne and tell him to give my dog a safe home. But the moment passes. Meanwhile Dwayne is checking in with me constantly, “Do you hear what I am telling you?” “Are you paying attention?” “What did I just say to you?”
How different my life might have been with a father like Dwayne whose concern was to ensure safety in his children’s life. Maybe I wouldn’t be living alone, feeling most safe in my living room. Yes, it’s the past, and right now it’s Foxie’s turn to be made to feel safe. And he might enjoy getting along with other animals. With this in mind and Dwayne’s strong voice in my ear, we are signed up at the SPCA for a course in Small Dog Basics.