I did it to myself: I am chum in a shark tank.
Because I love dogs and will rescue them, we now have three dogs and a cat. Mornings around here are comical. The minute my feet hit the floor, the animals are vying for attention and demanding things. They want out, then they want in, and then food, and treats for doing all the right things in the right order. And they want attention, and then out again because they’ve eaten. They want to bark at anything that moves because they just slept through the night and are anxious to get started on their day of barking and running and barking. They go outside and bark at the air because we are early risers and not much is moving yet. Most of the activity out there is the animal kingdom: the squirrels are very busy this time of year, and you can tell that the birds are ramping up their housekeeping and mating chores, and the turkey continue to roam across the driveway.
If I sit down, all three dogs and the cat come for morning scratching.
When I get up for my second cup of coffee they herd me toward the table that holds their treats. They actually bounce off my legs trying to get me to move in the right direction.
Have you ever seen feeding time in an aquarium? It is mayhem! And that’s what morning looks like here. It’s a cross between sheep-herding trials and shark feeding time, with my legs as the pseudo-sheep or shark food.
Trying to get out the back door with all the dogs is even worse. Dogs are pack animals. Usually they recognize one dog as the leader, or alpha, of the pack, and that dog is given the respect of being pack leader in all regards, like going out the door first. My dogs step and crawl over each other, including me, to get out of the door first! Apparently they don’t recognize me as the lead dog in this pack.
Which creates a problem for me. I want them to listen to me. I want them to follow directions, especially when we are out in public. I don’t want to be the woman that the dog is dragging down the sidewalk, all the while yelling, “Stop! Heel! Stop!” But since they don’t listen, that is exactly who I have become.
So the dogs and I had a talk. The bossiest one of all and I sat down for a heart-to-heart talk. He didn’t listen. I wish I could say that the television was on and he was just distracted. But the TV was off, so he had no excuse. I tried bribing, cajoling, and stern talking. I realized that I needed to start thinking like a dog.
So I looked him in the eye and gave him a command. When he, predictably, ignored me and looked off into another part of the room, I growled and jumped out of my chair, tackling him and pinning him to the ground. I put my neck over his neck while he was pinned, growling the whole time. He was still struggling a little so I nipped him on his ear (don’t anyone write to me about dog abuse. First of all, I only nipped enough to make the point. Secondly, I think it’s people abuse when he drags me down the street ignoring me). When I did that, he immediately froze. I held him for a minute, and then we both got up and looked at each other.
He threw himself onto the floor, tummy up, and gazed at me, his eyes saying, “I give, I give. Uncle, uncle, uncle.” And all was well in our house for about two weeks.
Then my husband came home from overseas. The dogs decided that none of them had to listen to me. That non-listening group included my husband, much to my chagrin.
So we had a chat one evening. I explained to my husband that because he was home and not listening to me that all the dogs had regressed to not listening to me either, and that we had to rectify that immediately. To do that, I had to act like the lead dog toward my husband, with all the dogs watching so that they would understand that they did, indeed, have to mind me.
My husband was amenable to this, as he was getting tired of me repeating myself and yelling at the dogs.
So we set the stage. My husband was in his chair, I was on the couch, and all the dogs were laying on the floor in front of us. I said something to my husband, to which did he not respond (this is not really play acting for him), and I stood up and growled at him, leaned over and nipped his ear, and then smacked him across the back of his head. He slumped lower in his chair and spoke in submissive tones. What he actually said in those submissive tones was, “hey, you didn’t say you were going to hit me!”
The dog’s eyes were huge and they were all looking from him to me, back and forth, waiting to see what would happen. When they heard the submissive tone and watched me stand over my husband for a few seconds, you could see the light bulbs go off over their heads!
The next time I said something to them, they hopped to as if their lives depended on it. And from their perspective, I guess it did.
Apparently, in our household, we are emulating the movie “Groundhog Day.” We have gone through this same scene several times. The lesson will be learned and retained for a few weeks, and then the dogs are back to ignoring me, at which time we all have a ‘chat,’ and set our household right once again.
Mornings are still a frenzied time, though. Someone called one morning and asked how I was. I responded, “I am chum in a shark tank.” My husband heard me, and when I got off the phone, laughed and said that yes, he agreed, it was indeed a sight to behold!
Sincerely yours, Chum
Copyright © 2012, Maura White. All rights reserved.