Thursday, September 29, 2011

The sound of sighing


Today, I had a bad case of "one of those days". With a little bit of "I hate my job" thrown in there for good measure.

First of all, I am exhausted. In less than 48 hours, I have covered more than 3/4 of the exceedingly large country that is Canada by air. Early Monday morning, I left the East Coast (where I spent a long weekend losing an embarrassing amount of golf balls during a round of 18 holes, eating far too much seafood, and hanging out with a bunch of football fanatics), only to arrive in Calgary 10 hours later for work-related meetings, only to catch a homeward-bound plane Tuesday afternoon, only to arrive home sometime in the middle of the night. Running on nowhere near enough sleep, and sucking back a nowhere near large enough coffee, I barely had time to give my husband (who I've not seen in nearly a week) a good-morning kiss before I had to get my ass across town to yet another work meeting that was being held at what my jet-lagged ridden body considers to be an uncivilized hour of 8:30. Neither my body nor my mind have any idea what time zone they are currently in...

Second of all, this morning's meeting was brutal. Capital B-R-U-T-A-L. I'll spare the boring details, but suffice it to say that I found myself on the defensive for the entire three hours. Not to mention under a considerable amount of stress.

Now I've already admitted to, at times, having certain difficulties when faced with stressful situations (see http://herdinthehood.blogspot.com/2011/08/i-hate-yoga.html and http://herdinthehood.blogspot.com/2011/08/taming-screaming-banshee.html). My tendency to over-emote has led some to accuse me of being a tad melodramatic. Still, I am, after all, a professional. So although I wanted very much to climb up on my chair, hurl a jug of water at someone, and yell more than a few unmentionable profanities, I kept my emotions in check.

How, you might ask? Well, a little trick that the Beast taught me. Deep breath in, followed by long exhale out. A nice big sigh.

I love that sound! After a vigorous run, an intense play date, a satisfying dinner, or simply at the end of a long day, the Beast will sink down into a lay-down position and curl up at our feet. Sometimes he will chew on his antler for a few minutes. Sometimes he will pay rapt attention to what is on t.v. (he seems to really like baseball and football). Inevitably, he will turn over onto his side, and after a few seconds, we will hear his great big sigh.

Now a human sigh, as we all know, can mean many things. Some are negative - exasperation, boredom, dissatisfaction, frustration. But many more are positive - satisfaction, gratification, relief. I imagine that the Beast's sigh is nothing but positive. With every deep inhale and long exhale, I imagine that he is telling hubby and I, "Thank you for giving me so much exercise and so much mental stimulation, for introducing me to so many doggy friends, and for shelling out for the really good dog food. I feel really good about my life with you guys!" He is one happy and satisfied puppy!

But ultimately, that sigh symbolizes release. It is the Beast's way to finally abandon the last remnants of the vast reservoir of energy that he carries within his little self. With each sigh, this go-go-go puppy surrenders himself to a moment of rest and relaxation, allowing himself to just be. He becomes the puppy vision of zen.

...Until the doorbell rings and he is up like a bat out of hell, barking all the way to the front door. (That's what I mean by "vast reservoir of energy...")

But that's another story...

Back to the point of this story... Trapped in an emotionally intense meeting, I found myself channeling the Beast and using his release technique to calm myself down. Before answering difficult and accusatory questions, I would take an audibly deep breath, let it all out, and proceed. And although I could not make the ball of anxiety that was squeezing my chest disappear completely, I did succeed in shrinking it a little. And I kept myself from throwing something at somebody. Always a good thing when meeting with difficult stakeholders.

When it was finally over, the facilitator, who had been sitting immediately to my left, remarked on the tone of the meeting. Despite the moments of tension, he felt that we had achieved what we had set out to achieve. And he congratulated me for successfully navigating some difficult moments and keeping my own comments and responses professional and respectful. "What's your secret?" he asked me.

"Oh," I said, "just a little something I learned from my dog." ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Forgiveness

A few days ago, the Beast and I were involved in a rousing game of fetch in the neighbourhood park when a man and his dog - a beautiful Rottweiler - came along. We'd seen them once or twice before, but the Rottie was the nervous sort, and didn't really engage in play with the always-energetic-and-sometimes-too-pushy Beast. So on we went with our game of fetch.

A few minutes later, the gentlemen approached me and said, "I think I just made a connection."

Um, huh?

He must have seen my puzzled look, and proceeded to ask me if (a) I have a husband/partner (b) who bikes down the path alongside the river with my dog. I told him that yes indeed, my husband does take him out biking every now and then. Perhaps he had seen them when he was out walking his own dog?

"Well, sort of," he said. "Did your husband tell you about a bike accident, by any chance?"

And then the light went on for me. So this was the guy who was walking his dog, who lunged at my dog, who went flying into the back tire of my husband's bike, which led to two weeks of cone-induced recovery, which led to (I must admit) a little bit (okay, a whole freaking lot) of resentment on the part of hubby and myself against this mystery dog and his mystery owner, both of whom were now standing here in front of me.

But I didn't have time to feel much anger or much resentment. Partly because he was clearly very upset. As he recounted the entire story of the accident in vivid detail, his voice was actually shaking a little. He told me that he had been so worried for the past few weeks that our dog had been seriously injured, especially since he hadn't seen us around the park for a while (the accident has now happened over a month and a half ago...). And he apologized profusely for his dog's behaviour, explaining that his Rottie is nervous and fearful and must have been caught off guard by both a bike and a dog running beside him.

But the real reason my anger quickly dissipated is because of the Beast, who I had spotted out of the corner of my eye, engaged in play bowing, wrestling, and chasing with the Rottie. Both dogs were having a blast, playing nicely with one another, panting and smiling as they galloped through the trees and over the small hill in the middle of the park.

And it hit me. Why should I be angry at this poor guy and his dog, when the being who was the most wronged by the whole accident, the Beast, had clearly forgiven the Rottie for scaring the shit out of him and causing him to go ass-backwards into the rear wheel of a bike? He was far more interested in living in the moment than in the past, and could see no reason in holding a grudge against a dog that was clearly satisfying his immediate need to play and be chased. If he could overlook the fact that this Rottweiler had sent him into cone-induced-exile for two weeks, why couldn't hubby and I?

So although I had always imagined that I would have very choice and colourful words for the owner of the dog who caused my Beast's accident, I just couldn't bring myself to say one harsh word. Instead, I reassured him that the Beast had sustained no more than a minor scrape and that he was back to being his usual crazy self. "They're dogs," I said. "It's not like your guy did it on purpose, so please don't worry about it, and I hope we see you around sometime."

And I slipped the Beast's leash back on and went home.

When we got there, hubby was puttering around the kitchen. I told him that I had met the dog who lunged at he and the Beast while they were out biking, and my husband's back stiffened a little. I told him to relax, and told him that the Beast had just spent 10 minutes or so running around and having fun with this dog. If he had gotten over whatever happened between them, so could we.

So there he goes again... The Beast is teaching me yet another lesson...

I think of all the grudges - big and small - that I have bore for people over the years. Like the fact that I still hold it over my sister's head that she ruined my absolute favourite pair of shoes in high school, after I had saved up all of my babysitting money to buy them. Or how I like to point out to my best friend that she once called me a "fat bitch" in university. Or how, even though he and I have since become friends, I still haven't quite forgiven this one guy for the way that he lamely ended our relationship over the telephone instead of in person...

And what's the point in harbouring all of this resentment? Has it brought me anything?

Absolutely not.

Perhaps I should just call all of these people whom I have not yet forgiven for their indiscretions and ask them if they want to come over and play fetch with me in my neighbourhood park... Certainly, it's way more fun that holding onto all this resentment...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crankiness

Today, the Beast and I participated in a 5k charity walk for the local Humane Society.

For weeks, I have been convinced that this event would provide me with ample blog fodder. I mean, I own an extremely excitable Aussie-collie mix. How could he not go off the wall surrounded by 2,000 other dogs, dog food and dog treats everywhere, screaming children, and an overly-excited radio host cooing about all of the good-looking dogs in the crowd. I was sure that there would be some kind of epic meltdown worthy of a hilarious blog post.

Well there was no epic meltdown. Quite the contrary. The Beast was a rockstar. He barked a little when he got out of the car, but aside from that, he was eerily well-behaved. In fact, we got a lot of compliments for his on-leash etiquette. He showed up most other dogs there, teaching them a thing or two about how to walk nicely beside their owners and how to look to their humans for direction. He was a rockstar, I tell you! And I was seriously proud!

Proud, that is, until a little later in the day, when the epic meltdown finally came. And it was a good one.

Hubby and I decided to go for a coffee. And since it is such a beautiful day, we decided to take the Beast. A little bit of family time together on a great fall afternoon.

Getting to the coffee shop was pretty uneventful. But all hell broke loose almost as soon as we got there.

Now the Beast suffers from separation anxiety. If he is with both of us, and one of us leaves to, say, get a coffee from the local coffee shop, he gets noticeably agitated. He paces back and forth, whines a little, maybe lets out a yelp or two, but eventually settles into a super-upright sit, ears straight up, staring in the direction from which he expects his person to eventually come. Although he is clearly impatient, he is ultimately able to hold it together.

Not today. Hubby went in, and the Beast went nuts. He skipped the whining altogether, and went straight to his shrill, glass-shatter-sounding bark, causing a little girl sitting on the patio to jump approximately seven feet into the air and to let out an equally shrill shriek of her own. The two of them then spent the next minute competing with one another for the title of most annoying noise-maker on the street. Believing it best to move away from the patio and wait for hubby a little further down the street, I made my way towards a bench, causing the Beast to lunge maniacally toward the door of the coffee shop, whining and yelping as though he was being led to his death by an axe-wielding murderess. Just as I finally got him to assume a "sort-of" sit and replace his orchestra of dog sounds with something in a lower pitch, he caught sight of hubby through the coffee shop window and resumed his desperate crescendo. At this point, having abandoned all hope of calming the Beast down, I did the only thing left that I could think of. I prayed. I prayed that the barista would hurry the f$&k up and give my husband his espresso so that he could get his ass outside and take some of the heat from the coffee shop goers who were clearly getting upset that this crazy dog was ruining their perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon.

Mercifully, as soon as the Beast saw hubby emerge from the coffee shop, he ceased his downward spiral and went back to looking like a perfectly normal, well-balanced puppy. Opting not to sit on the patio, where everyone wanted to shoot the Beast (or possibly even me), we made our way to the opposite side of the street and another bench. We weren't even three minutes into our coffees when the Beast started acting up again. First, he made a grab for the pastry that my husband was eating, something that he would never dare do if we were at home. Then he started barking and lunging toward everything coming in our direction. First dogs. Then humans. Then, embarrassingly, at an elderly gentleman in a motorized wheelchair. Too mortified to be seen in public with an ageist dog that has a problem with persons with disabilities, I decided to just call it quits and take the Beast home, where he could continue his hysterics in private.

As we were walking home, I desperately tried to figure out how the Beast could be so well-behaved one minute, and so not the next. And then it hit me. He was tired. No, actually, not just tired. He was exhausted. And so he was simply being Mr. Crankypants. 

A simple 5k walk, even among 2,000 other dogs, is not normally enough to exhaust my dear Beast. But combined with the rest of his weekend, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Because here is how the rest of his weekend looked:

Saturday
8:00 - 5k run along the river to brand new dog park
8:30 - Fetch, chase, wrestling in the dog park
9:30 - 3k run (the more direct route) back home
9:50 - Take a peek in the park one block from home to see if there are any dogs
9:55 - No dogs so we go home
10:00 - Chill out a bit
11:30 - Crate time so I can go to a yoga class
13:30 - I come home from yoga and find the Beast playing fetch in the back yard with hubby
14:45 - 2k bike ride to the local doggy watering hole
14:55 - Swimming, fetch, wrestling and chase with all the other doggies at the watering hole
15:45 - 2k bike ride back home, with a pit stop at another dog park along the way so the Beast could wrestle with his best friend, a German shepherd, who just happened to be there
16:30 - Home for an early dinner
18:00 - Barbecue at my neighbour's place, to which the Beast was invited, where he spent the next six hours barking every time someone new came, playing with a 13-year-old boy, roaming around the backyard waiting for someone to drop a piece of hamburger, and generally being showered with attention
24:00 - Bedtime 

Sunday
7:00 - Wake up
8:00 - 2k walk to the place where we pick up the car from the car-share service
8:30 - Drop hubby off at the grocery store and drive to the charity event
9:00 - Arrive at the charity event, register, and spend an hour wandering the grounds where approximately 2,000 dogs have been marking their territory. Lots of sniffing, lots of greeting other dogs, and lots of begging the vendors for treats.
10:00 - Walk begins and the Beast and I make our way to the front of the pack (because let's face it, all the little miniature dogs walk to slowly), and we complete a brisk 5k
11:00 - Leave the event and go to the dog park
11:15 - Fetch, wrestle and chase in the dog park
12:10 - Drive back home and drop the Beast off
14:00 - Go for a family walk to the local coffee shop
14:10 - Have an epic meltdown

Just typing this makes me exhausted. No wonder my dog was cranky today!

The Beast is a high energy dog who needs a lot of stimulation and exercise to avoid boredom. And from the beginning, I have been convinced that his first family did not give him enough of either. So I am determined to do better by him and to make sure that all of his needs are met. I'm also prone to feeling slightly guilty for leaving him in his crate during the weekdays when we're not home, so I like to give him lots of stuff to do when we are with him on weekends. 

Obviously, I've taken it all a little too far...

This is pretty typical of me. When I started lifting weights to get healthier, I became a full-blown bodybuilder, going to the gym three times a day and eating nothing but chicken breast, tuna, and minuscule amounts of brown rice for 16 weeks. Now that I brought home a dog who needs lots of exercise, I find myself filling his social calendar to the brim and pushing him to go-go-go so that he will be fulfilled at the end of each day.

I think I need to let my foot off the gas, just a little bit. Because no matter how well-intentioned this is, it's just too much for the little guy. I mean, it's Sunday night, which means that he would normally be pacing back and forth between the living room and the front window, patrolling the 'hood as everyone puts their garbage to the curb for tomorrow's pick up. Instead, he's been splayed out in the exact same position in front of the door for the last three and a half hours, and only moved once when hubby came home.

So my promise is this: I'll get better. I'll get better at figuring out what is too much and what is just enough. I'll get better at accepting that it's okay for the Beast to spend some downtime in the middle of the day during the weekend when we are home with him. And I'll get better at reading his signs before he has a meltdown and chases down an old man in a wheelchair.

I'm sure that we will do this same charity event next year. But I'll make sure to keep his entire Saturday and his Sunday afternoon clear...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happiness

I just came back from a very short business trip to Vancouver.

I love Vancouver. The seawall, noble Stanley Park, shopping on Robson and Burrard Streets, good Okanagan Valley wine... Sigh... If only I could afford to live there...

If I could afford it, there is no doubt in my mind that I would live in Yaletown.

For those less familiar with Yaletown, it is an uber trendy neighbourhood in the southeast corner of downtown Vancouver, recognizable from a distance by the high rise condo towers that pepper the Vancouver skyline. It likes to dub itself "little Soho", a nod to this NYC mecca of fabulous restaurants, hip night clubs, and off-beat shops.

My husband insists we go there every single time because his favourite wine store, which carries impossible-to-get-back-home BC wines, is there. I insist we go there for everything else: shopping in unique and trendy stores, fantastic seafood restaurants, a local brewpub that makes a mean wheat beer, and the best opportunity for celebrity sightings in Canada outside of the Toronto International Film Festival. (Although I've yet to sight a celebrity, a good friend of mine can point out the exact Starbucks where she saw Scarlett Johanson and Ryan Reynolds. How cool is that!!!!)

So during my very short less-than-48 hour sojourn in Vancouver just this past week, I made sure that I crammed in as many trips to Yaletown as I could (as well as an 11.5k run around the Stanley Park seawall at sunrise, which was freaking AWESOME!), where I bought some Okanagan wine for hubby, drank some local beer, did some window shopping, hung out with a great friend, and got a pedicure.

I also did a lot of people-watching, one of my favourite hobbies. And aside from the excitement of possibly spotting a celebrity, people-watching in Yaletown is doubly fun because of all the dogs.

Take a stroll through the streets of Yaletown and you could be forgiven for believing that the expression "everyone and his dog" has its humble origins in Vancouver. Everyone in Yaletown has a dog. Everyone. It's like the City of Vancouver passed a bylaw stating that all dog owners must live in Yaletown. Or that all Yaletown residents must own a dog. If a person is walking down the street without a leash in their hands, they are either walking home from work and on their way to being reunited with their dog, or they are tourists like me.

And everyone in Yaletown looks, well, happy. People smile at one another as they pass by on the street. They laugh as they get tangled up in one another's leashes while their puppies say hello. They coo and "aaahhhh" and giggle at doggy antics. And they swap stories about the best place in town for a doggy paw-dicure, or the best dog walker, or the best vet clinic...  It is just so clear that they love their dogs deeply, and that their dogs bring them immeasurable joy.

Hubby and I experienced something similar when we were travelling in Spain earlier this spring, just before the Beast came home to live with us. We were in the Basque capital of San Sebastiàn, nestled in the Pyrenees, known mostly for it's incredible food - especially tapas - and its Old World charm. What the travel books did not tell us was that this is a dog lover's haven. Much like Yaletown, everyone who is not a tourist seems to own a dog. Most of them are even off leash, loyally and obediently right beside their owners. I spent entire afternoons watching people and their dogs. Like the boxer on the beach who stood looking out over the water, tongue dragging on the sand, waiting to attack the next wave as it rolled onto the shore. Or the Dalmatian who played soccer with a little boy, actually kicking the ball back and forth to him along the beach. Or the hound who signalled to his owner that he wanted a drink of water by sitting nicely at the water fountain, and then standing on his hind legs to gently lap water up while his owner pushed the little button.

I just felt happy, watching other people love their dogs.

And it got me thinking. Exactly what is it about dogs that makes humans so happy?

I suppose I could spout off the regular list: unconditional love, loyalty, playfulness, joy for life. And I'd be right - those are all valid reasons for why dogs make people so happy. But the truth is that there isn't a one-and-only thing about dogs that makes people smile from ear to ear and break into gushing baby talk whenever a puppy is around.

Take my new life with the Beast, for example. There are thousands of things about him that I love, little quirks that inspire me to feel true and meaningful happiness in the moment that I observe them. Like how each morning, he comes up to me for a "hug" by putting his head in my lap for an ear rub, bum checking me a little, and giving me one or two licks on the face. Or how he gets this goofy smile on his face when he wants to play. Or how he rolls onto his back, exposes his belly for a good belly rub, and then starts to do yoga poses by slapping his front paws together in front of his heart. Or that his ears give away his every thought and mood. How he cocks his head to one side when he sees something new for the first time - like the DVD player opening up - and tries to figure it out. How he gnaws on his deer antler with more focus and determination than an Olympic athlete chasing down a gold medal. How he loves to swim, even though he is so bad at it that all the other dogs lap him every time. How he wags his whole bum because his tail is bobbed. How he paces back and forth across the living room floor until he finds the perfect spot to lay in. How he could play fetch for hours on end, and then finally collapses in a heap when he's had enough. The sound of a big "sigh" when he finally releases all of his energy at the end of the day. The way he breaks into a beautiful, graceful gallop across the park when I let him off his leash. The way he sometimes runs too fast, then tries to turn around a sharp corner, only to clumsily stumble over his own front paws. That everything in life is so fascinating to him, and that he has to be part of every single action taking place in the world around him. How his entire body wiggles with excitement whenever he figures out that my husband is about to walk through the front door.

I love a thousand more things about him. And even on his worst of days, when everything that he does seems designed to drive me up a wall, all he has to do is one of these small little things, and I smile from ear to ear.

I already had a beautiful, rich, and fulfilling life before the Beast walked into my home. But the fact of the matter is that I am happier now that he is a part of it. And I simply can't imagine life without him and all of his quirks and issues.

The only way life could possibly be better is if I were to move to Yaletown...

Or better yet, to San Sebastiàn.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The bully

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In junior high, I was bullied. 

"Emily" (a name I've chosen out of the blue) was a typical "mean girl". She was the most popular girl in school. She was the captain of the ringette, baseball and track and field teams. She always wore the latest teen fashions (at the time, Club Monaco sweatshirts). And she had a following of other "mean girls" who did her every bidding and wanted to be just like her.

Emily made it her mission to make my life a living hell. I could write a book about all the mean things she did to me. Like the time that she convinced the guy I had a major crush on to ask me to the junior high dance, and then to dance with every other girl except for me. I spent that entire night hiding - and crying - in the girl's washroom, with echoes of cruel laughter ringing in my ears. In fact, I spent most of the seventh grade hiding in the girl's room...

There is no doubt about it, being the victim of a bully sucks. A lot.

So you can imagine how devastated I was to find out that my dog can be a bit of a bully himself.

When you are the owner of an Aussie shepherd-border collie mix, it is tempting to make excuses for some of your dog's less-than-preferred behaviours. He is, after all, bred to herd. So of course he stampedes into the middle of a pack of dogs, runs loops around all of them, bites at their necks, barks like a maniac, and bum-checks them into submission. He's simply doing his job, telling everyone where to be, what to do, and when to do it.

It's also delusional - and extremely irresponsible - to think like this.

I quickly realized that the Beast was not acting like a normal, happy-go-lucky herding dog. He was actually making it his job to find the weakest dog in the herd, and to torment the shit out of it. He would bark, nip, bum check, and bark some more, pulling out every weapon is his domineering arsenal to completely isolate one poor puppy, and to draw attention to the fact that he had the upper hand.

He was the canine version of Emily. 

And I was in no mood to put up with it. 

It is hard work to train a dog, but it is especially hard work to train him while he is in a dog park, surrounded by temptation in the form of toys, smells, and other dogs. He isn't necessarily interested in listening to a thing that you have to say when he is so focused on, say, constantly nipping another dog. So we weren't having an awful lot of success getting the Beast to play nice with others. In fact, every trip to the dog park left us feeling demoralized from spending way too much time yelling commands like "Beast! Off!" or "Beast! No barking!" to absolutely no avail. It was hard to want to come back with our hyperactive, domineering, bullying jerk.

But consistency is key, so we faithfully went back to the dog park every Sunday, resolved to get through to the Beast one way or another. And then, fate intervened - in the form of a slightly aggressive dog.

The Beast was orchestrating his typical dog park game, barking and running circles around all the puppies until they all stood in the centre of the park. Whenever one would try to escape, he would bark and nip at it until it came back to the herd. But one dog just would not listen to him, and the Beast was getting increasingly agitated. His barking got more and more insistent, almost desperate. I stepped forward with the leash, calling him to me, ready to put him on a time out. But before I could get to him, he nipped at the other dog's neck, and...

... well, she threw the gloves off. 

There was no warning growl, no warning snarl to tell the Beast to back off. No - she went straight in for the kill, baring her very sharp teeth and aiming straight for his neck. The Beast had no choice but to defend himself. Within seconds, we were witnessing a full-blown dog fight. And it was NOT a game.

If you have never seen a dog fight, take my word for it when I say that it is a very scary thing. There is not a damn thing that you can do to get your dog's attention when he has a set of jaws clamped down on him. I was absolutely paralyzed, futilely repeating his name over and over again, panic taking over my every faculty.

Hubby, thankfully, was moved to immediate action, as was the other dog's owner. Both reached down to grab and pull these new arch-enemies off of one another. After a few seconds, all parties retreated to their separate corners, where anxious humans examined their dogs for injury. Luckily, no canine wounds could be found. Unluckily, hubby bled all the way out of the dog park, and all the way to the walk-in clinic where he received a just-in-case tetanus shot... (As for me, I self-medicated my anxiety with a large glass of wine when I got home...)

It was tempting to never return to the park again. But we knew that this was not an option. The Beast still needed to learn how to play nice. So he needed to go back to the scene of his crime. 

There was a noticeable difference in the Beast's approach to the park. He didn't burst through the gate in his normal, frantic way, leaping into the middle of the pack with a great, big "I'M HE-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-R-E!!!!!!!" Well, at least not totally. He exploded into the park, but hit the brakes about 2 meters away from the other dogs. Keeping this respectful distance, some of the braver dogs started to approach him for a sniff. And he did something that I had never seen him do before. He turned around and let one of the dogs sniff his bum. The ultimate sign of sweet, beautiful, perfect submission.

It lasted for about five seconds before he bolted away, beckoning with his loud, shrill bark, telling everyone where they should be and what they should be doing...

But it's gotten better. Visit by visit, he's become less and less of a jerk. 

His days of exploding into the park seem to be behind him. In fact, he waits for me to move forward - and even to urge him on - before he jumps into a group of dogs. And for now, the one-note cacophony of barking is no more. He barks once. If he gets interest, he hops into the middle of a game of chase or a rousing wrestling match. If he gets no interest, he actually turns around and walks away, rather than pestering the dog until it would rather jump in front of a moving bus than stand there at his mercy. 

He has actually learned how to play nice. I hardly recognize him. Neither do the humans who have witnessed him tormenting their dogs on Sundays past...

I also know that I hadn't a damn thing to do with the Beast learning this important life lesson. Dogs learn best from their own kind. Stripped of human emotions - like anger, frustration, and panic - dogs can communicate far more effectively with one another than we can with them. They teach each other clear and concise rules, boundaries and limitations. It is why doggy socialization is so very important. 

Of course, a sharp set of teeth help move the lesson along...

Who would have thought I would be grateful to another bully for putting my Beast in his place...