Marty on his role as a reluctant master
My dog Bella is fascinated by the dishwasher. To her, it’s a big metal box filled with delicious smells and drippings that should rightfully be licked up. Her particular favorite part of the dishwasher is the cutlery tray.
Obviously, licking sharp knives is not advisable for anyone so I have no choice but to make the dog stop. And the only way to make Bella stop is to be loud and stern. She will always step back but the next time she is left alone with the open dishwasher the same scene will be played out again.
My concern for Bella is purely for her safety – she could easily slice her tongue open on one of the knives in the tray. But to her canine brain I can only imagine she sees it as a territorial struggle. By shooing her away, I’m making it clear that the delicious food left clinging to those knives and forks is mine. Maybe I have plans for the peanut butter on that spoon – and since I’m the king of this castle she had better back off.
If that’s the case, my dog must think I’m a jerk.
It’s a conclusion I don’t feel all that comfortable with. After all, I’m an animal lover and Bella is a big, sweet cuddly dog. We are always gentle with each other and I would never be abusive. But still, there are elements of our relationship that I find disturbing.
For example, when I pull out the leash she gets very excited, eager for me to snap the clasp around the collar she wears around her neck so that I can parade her around the neighborhood attached to a tether that I control. Is there anything more twisted and perverse than that relationship? The only thing missing is a leather hood with a zipper where her mouth is.
Bella doesn’t see it that way. She’s thrilled to be taken out for a walk – pride and humiliation are not on the itinerary. But when we’re walking down the street and Bella loses focus and starts darting after crows and yanking me in all directions there is only one way to correct the behavior – and it definitely doesn’t involve talking through it.
All I can do is become…well…kind of a jerk. I have to show her who’s boss – make loud grunting noises and assertively pull on her leash. That’s what she responds to and I guess that’s what makes her feel comfortable. It’s the reason why every reality show about dogs and owners comes down to the same thing: you have to show the dog you are the leader of the pack.
It’s the kind of behaviour that’s frowned upon in elementary school. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it bullying, but it is the kind of social system that emerges in prison life.
- post by Marty Strong