As I said to my younger son, if you’re going to have a problem child, better that it be the dog. Our beloved but selectively compliant grand dog, Winston, is back again for another of his multi-month sojourns at Camp Grammy and Grampy.
We adore Winston even though his breed is known for emitting loud snores from one end and noxious streams of post-digestive kibble emissions from the other. Sometimes both Olof and I wake up in the middle of the night simultaneously exclaiming, “Geesh, Winston!” It’s like sleeping with a flatulating white noise machine.
Winston’s positive traits, however, are many: he loves people albeit a tad over-enthusiastically (think slobber facial). He is wonderfully gentle with our tiny grandchildren and our neighbor kids. A more affectionate dog you couldn’t find.
Well, that is until a dog walks by our front gate at which point he launches into his Cujo imitation. I don’t know what Winston thinks he’s protecting us from, but he’s pretty clear we need it. Ironically, as soon as you get a dog on our side of the gate, he’s Winston’s new best friend. Dog owners who don’t know Winston can be forgiven for not wanting to take my word for it.
Our son and daughter-in-law don’t have walk-by traffic at their house but we see a dog every five minutes. We have spent a fortune in trainers in an effort to persuade Winston to be less territorial at our house. In fact, the third trainer finally referred us to a “behavior collar” trainer whom I wrote about previously. Winston definitely improved during that stay with us, but using that collar truly took more out of me than him. (A letter from Winston’s attorney says he begs to differ.)
When Winston arrived for his most recent stay, I couldn’t help but be totally dazzled by a woman in my neighborhood who walked by my house every day with – count ‘em – FIVE dogs off leash. Chatting with her one day over the fence (I could barely hear her over Winston’s massive snarlathon while her canine entourage sat obediently) she offered to take Winston for a test walk the next day with her chihuahua.
I could only assume she didn’t like the chihuahua and wanted to get rid of it. But post walk, she reported that Winston had behaved just fine. When he started to “alert” to other dogs they encountered, she corrected him.
“With what?” I said, “A two by four?”
It became instantly clear who the alpha entity was in Winston’s and my relationship. And it wasn’t me.
And thus we ended up hiring Trainer No. 5. No, not the neighbor. She is obviously a natural dog whisperer (and I would have hired her in a heartbeat). She doesn’t do training but knew someone she really thought could up Winston’s game.
Winston initially rolled his eyes when the new trainer arrived, as if to say, “Are we really going to do this again? For all that money, you guys could have bought me a lot of chew toys. Or yourselves a whole new dog.”