Jøhnny Fävòrítê (johnnyfavorite) wrote,
Jøhnny Fävòrítê

tertiary influence

the next door neighbors have a couple of boxers. it's a committed lesbian couple, they use the dogs as kid substitutes. the women don't treat them very well. they have this idea that the dogs are going to be perfectly mannered, without having trained them at all, so their interaction with the dogs is mostly inconsistent yelling. not surprisingly, the dogs are pretty neurotic.

when i got here, they only had one boxer, named ringo. it was less than a year old at the time. the one thing they did right was get somebody else to do "invisible fence" training. you get this wire planted in the ground at the perimeter of your yard, and the dog wears a collar that gives her a mild electric shock if she goes outside the safe zone. eventually, you can eliminate the collar altogether. it's surprisingly effective. it never seemed to enter the dog's mind to stray beyond the boundaries of her yard. when the owners would take her for a walk, they'd have to pick her up, lift her over the "fence," and set her down on the street, all to perpetuate the illusion.

because the dog had gotten all these mixed signals from her owners, it was difficult to get along with her. the first few times i saw her, she was throwing vicious 'tude. i'd be standing in the driveway, thinking about going somewhere, the dog would be hiding behind her owners' cars. then she'd run out at me, barking ferociously. she never scared me, of course. i don't startle easily, her collar wouldn't let her leave her own yard, and i know a coward when i see one. so i'd just stand there smirking at her. then she'd back away, whipping her head from side to side, pretending like she couldn't see me. i guess the message was "oh, PLEASE. i wasn't trying to scare YOU. my terrifying display was for somebody ELSE. and that OTHER guy got so scared he pissed his pants and ran away, that's why you don't see him here."

the dog and i went through that scenario several times. i decided to take pity on her. i chose to interpret her outbursts as a cry for attention. the next time i saw her, she came running at me as usual, spittle flying. i waited for her to calm down, then i squatted down so i'd be at eye level with her, and started talking sweet. "ringo, why are you doing this? you aren't going to scare me. you don't even want to scare me. you want to be friends." but she was having none of it. by failing to take her angry face seriously, i was making her angrier. she felt it was an insult for me to be trying to poke around behind her facade. she'd glare at me impotently for a second or two, then run away to some part of her yard where i couldn't see her.

at some point, she finally broke. i don't know where ringo spends most of her time, but it isn't in the front yard. i pretty much never saw her, except for those few seconds when she was running from her hiding place, trying to scare me. then her habits changed. suddenly she was in the front yard all the time, as close to the edge of our yard as the invisible fence would allow. she was sitting down, another big change for her, since she typically only wanted me to see her aggressive standing-up self. she would sit there for hours with a long face, staring at the spot on the driveway where she'd seen me before.

i watched her through a window for three days. finally i felt guilty and went outside to see her. her expression changed, and i bet she was thinking: "it worked! i summoned him! i stared at the spot long enough, and he appeared!" she wasn't wrong, really. for the first time, i crossed the invisible fence line that she couldn't cross, and she covered me in twelve gallons of slobber. with that, we were friends.

in the days and weeks following, ringo still came running when she'd see me, but now it was because we were friends and she wanted to slobber on me. i could never get there fast enough to suit her, of course. so she'd stand right at the invisible fence line and fight with it. straining every muscle in her poor little doggie body, shaking with the effort, just DYING to get across that line and slobber on me. but her training was too strong. she wasn't even wearing the shock collar anymore, but she could not cross the line. the "invisible" fence could not have been any more real to her if it was made out of steel mesh and razor wire. adding a material component would have been redundant.

this is a bit sadistic of me i guess, but watching the dog fight the imaginary fence in her mind was a real hoot. i would intentionally walk towards her a lot slower than she wanted me to, so i could take in more of it. it's like all those difficult conversations i have with myself, with conflicting goals and ideals and shifting allegiances, made flesh. i don't think i would have been much more impressed if she could fly.

like most of my stories, this one doesn't have a happy ending. they'd never admit it of course, but the lesbians are ticked that their dog likes me so much. they've restricted her to their back yard for the last year or two, where she has no access to our yard. i feel bad that i played all those mind games with the dog, and now i never see her. what she must think. but fixing the situation would require interacting with the lesbians. they are loud, tactless, and annoying. i avoid them as much as possible.

that was a different phase of my life. i had just discovered that all those family problems weighing me down were not so bad after all, and i felt like i could achieve anything. i changed that dog's behavior by sheer force of will. now that phase is over, and i know i don't have a family anymore.
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