Head West Young Man

Part 4 of a series.  Read part 1 here: https://honorthedog.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/249/

How did it happen?  Honestly I don’t know when the fights and the aggression really started.  It all seems like such a blur now.  While I was happy to have moved from Detroit to the Northwest, fulfilling a personal dream, things weren’t as great as I had envisioned they would be.  As is usually the case, these things go hand in hand.  I was not happy with the turn my life was taking, even though I should have been happy to be now living in the place I had dreamed of living, and the dog situation was going downhill quickly.  Fights between Jackie and Roxy.  Roxy biting us when on walks because she couldn’t get to a dog who dared to enter her 500ft bubble.  If off leash someplace, and another dog were to show up, she would be off in a hearbeat, charging at them so she could take them down.  Just the smell of another dog off in the distance would be enough to start a frenzy.

I remember one instance in particular.  We were out with all 3 dogs at the schoolyard across from our house playing fetch.  I throw the ball for Roxy and as she is running back towards me with the ball in her mouth, I see the look.  It’s a look which had become very familiar to me by then.  It’s the same look I imagine a wolf has when it’s about to take down a deer with its pack.  Before I could do anything, she was by me in a flash, and as I turn around all I see is a white blur of fur leaping off the ground and body slamming a Rottweiler that had come into the area.  And since this is Roxy, it didn’t stop there.  She continued to go after this dog that was literally 3 times her size, refusing to back off.  All the while this poor Rottie didn’t know what hit him.  He was so dumbstruck that he just kept trying to backpedal and get the hell out of dodge.  I finally managed to wrangle up the little fur ball, and the Rottie seemed no worse for wear.  His owner showed up right behind him and took him off to another area to play.  Luckily she was a very gracious individual, which was reflected in her dog’s nature.

There is a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I’ve always felt sums up Roxy:

“O, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd;

She was a vixen when she went to school;

And, though she be but little, she is fierce.”

I can now look back at that incident and laugh.  I mean, just the sight of this 40 pound terrier rushing and launching herself into the air towards a dog 3 times her size is a pretty comical image.  But the circumstances that created it aren’t funny at all.  Add to this a rapidly increasing aggression towards humans, and now you’ve got a real problem.  And that’s just what we had, a REAL problem.  As poetic as it sounds when described through a quote from Shakespeare, the reality of it wasn’t quite so appealing.

“What am I doing?” was a question I asked myself time and time again.  How could I continue to live with this dog who is wreaking havoc on my life.  I mean, she’s a 40 lb Terrier after all.  Seriously?  Could I not see the absurdity of this situation?  Why did I want to continue to punish myself this way?  I of course know the answer to that question now, but it wasn’t so clear to me back then.  She was fighting, but she wasn’t fighting other dogs, she was fighting for me.  She was doing what she was supposed to be doing, the thing I had “hired” her to do, but when the time had come for her to do her job, I got cold feet and started backing down.  I was too afraid to see it for what it was.  I had spent so much of my life trying to be the good guy, that I had locked away my heart’s desires where no one could touch it.  It was locked away so tight, that I needed the bad girl to help me jailbreak it.  The girl who talked smack and smoked 2 packs a day, who never backed down from a fight.  That’s the girl I needed and that’s the girl I got.  It said so on her resume after all……..Terrier.

It took me a long time to see all this for what it was.  During the time between then and now, I floated around a lot.  I was really lost.  The only thing that was certain in my life was that I was certain that my dog was a wreck.  Ironically, she seemed to be the only thing that was consistent and real.  The thing that created the most havoc in my life was also the thing that kept me on track and on task.  She was my 4 legged GPS, and she knew the way home if I could just get out of my own way.  Apparently she had had enough of waiting around for me and took matters into her own hands and forced the issue.  She had been getting into more and more fights with Jackie, and they were getting progressively worse.  Due to a leg injury and slow healing, Jackie had to wear an E collar for about a month, and on the day she was finally able to take it off, that’s when it happened.  The change in Jackie’s demeanor and energy triggered a collapse in Roxy, and a fight broke out between them, the worst one to date.   Jackie was finally able to be free of her cone, and the last thing I wanted was for her to get hurt again.  So I did what you shouldn’t do, and reached down to try to separate them, and that’s when she got me.

It was a wake up call that required an emergency room visit and stitches.  To this day I still wear the scar as a reminder of just how hard my dog fought to snap me out of emotional paralysis.  This was also the moment that brought me back to NDT in a more fully committed way.  In my haze of confusion, up until this point I had decided that since I didn’t know what I was doing, I was going to do nothing.  With this renewed focus I started reaching out to anyone I could who was involved in the NDT community.  I got in touch with Lee Charles Kelley and Neil Sattin, both of whom were tremendously helpful.  In fact, they were the first people I had spoken with who were actually able to start to put my mind at ease about what was happening.  But it was what Kevin had written in his book that had rung so true to me.  It was his words that captured my heart even though I couldn’t quite grasp the depths of their meaning.  I had to talk with him, so I finally did.  It was that conversation that made me realize that a trip to Vermont would be in order, and as much as Roxy’s fight and bite had done to start breaking down the walls to my heart, it still wasn’t enough.  But that was ok, because she had brought me this far.  It was my wife who would take me the rest of the way………………


3 thoughts on “Head West Young Man

  1. This is a great story, and I love the photo of fierce Roxy. Your thoughts make me think about why I chose Cholula. I didn’t even open her photo on the shelter’s website because she was labeled “sharpeii” and I had no interest in a sharpeii, and yet she was the one I ended up bringing home. I thought I was bringing her home because of her calmness– ha! It’s so interesting to think about the unconscious pull that happens before you know anything about the dog at all…

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