Calvin is a German Shepherd mix breed belonging to my neighbors. I have known Cal since he came to live with "the parents" when he was about a year old. Their son, then a student at Syracuse University, acquired him as a pup. One can only assume the life he led in a house filled with young "enthusiastic" college boys. "Hmm, let's get a dog." "yeah dude, what a great idea...he can be the house dog." If memory serves me, his litter mate got hit by a car and died as the two of them went flying across a street. Anyway, to the dismay of most of the neighbors, Cal came to be a permanent resident on our Capitol Hill street.
And Calvin lived up to the hype of German Shepherds. He couldn't be trusted around other dogs or people for fear of a bite. His barks and growls were not for show, but a warning of what could follow. As he got older, his territory became more sacred and thus his guard instincts stronger. One could not walk into their house without being accosted by a barking growling dog.
But that does not mean he did not have a sweet side. I myself never had a problem with Cal. Nor did my numerous dogs over the years. Even my cats got along with Cal. The trick was to socialize him outside of his house and without the P's anywhere near. He got along with Tisha, Teddy, Scout, Andy, Ellie, Pig, Madison, Stevie and Jack. And when the P's bought a house in the country, his list of friends and doggie companions doubled.
He did have his moments though. Many times Cal would come over and stay at my house while the P's were out of town, or it was the maid's "day." Because I didn't have a problem with Cal and no one in my house had a problem with Cal, well we went on as usual. That caused more than a few problems. Mainly my fault. My neighbor Billy tried to hit Cal upside the head with a two by six when I accidentally left him out in the front yard unattended. My mother, in the middle stages of Alzheimer's, came out to garden. And while Cal had left her alone while she was in the yard, the second she was outside the yard pulling weeds through the fence...well he growled and guarded and would not let her back in the yard. Billy went wild. My mother was fine, she just wanted to come back in the yard and finish gardening. Billy, on the other hand, was a shaken mess and demanded the dog be put down right then and there. Fear does terrible things to people.
Then there was the time when I was walking Cal and I mistakenly thought the man with the boxer pup said the two of them were friends. I let Cal off his leash and in one svelte swoop he was on top of that poor dog. I did what you should never do and stuck my hands and feet in the middle of the fight to drag Cal off him. I still have the scar from that mishap.
But I chalk most of these encounters of aggression as being my fault. I didn't see him as a threat so I didn't take the necessary precautions that the "P's" did. The Maggot has changed all that. I'm always aware there is a chance that she may do that head twist and spew, so I always keep a close eye on her. It doesn't diminish my love for her, or the extra effort needed to walk her and take her to a dog park.
A fellow blogger recently asked me "if it should be that hard to have a dog?" I wondered if we had been talking about children, or relationships with others if that question would arise. We love whom we love and we put effort into the relationships we value including our not so perfect pets.
I walked Calvin last night. He is thirteen years old. His bark is no longer ferocious and his gait is weak and wobbly. His hips are not strong enough to hold him through his bowel and bladder releases, so he has what I call the travelling pee and poop. Remembering how hard it was to euthanize my 16 year old terrier mutt a couple years back, I recently asked one of the P's if she had anxiety about Cal's age and deterioration. In her typical pragmatic fashion, which I love and admire, she commented that it was what it was and when his pain began overshadowing his quality of life, well then it would become a different situation.