23 October 2012
Reaching the boiling point, which is first little bubbles, then big bubbles, then boiling over, and then you have a mess.
Otterpop has always been a boiler. She's never been entirely happy in her own skin. Years of training have taught her how to manage her fears and keep her emotions in check. But not make them go away, just put them onto simmer. Her oodles of tricks and mad skilz of attention and focus are this evidence. Instead of boiling, she has agility and running in the forest, working on the ranch and her frisbee.
But shit can happen.
When her pot used to boil over, it was a loud, barky explosion. Historically, the punchline involved chasing a semi truck down the road or charging the massive, intact pitbull. The magic of dog training took this boiling point to where we barely ever saw it, so was just tiny little bubbles. Disguised to look like the ones that floweth through your Lawrence Welk accordian flavored champagne. But bubbles nonetheless.
All bubbles are something trapped, creating surface tension that stretches the surface until it gets so tight that it has to POP.
Otterpop developed, a few years back, what dog trainers call redirected aggression, so when her pot did boil over, something caused her to redirect the freak on to her beloved sister, Ruby. I remember the exact moment it started. Why her beloved sister? I don't know. I guess this happens to girl dogs sometimes when they get older. The thing that triggered it? Very predictable. Anything that sounded like a dog fight. So a dog fight over there, that could cause her pot to boil and she would turn to Ruby, who, normally she loved like no other, and try to attack her.
Ruby never tried to fight back. Ruby was never injured, but we were all totally freaked out. Otterpop would try to nail her, and then it was over, and then they worked their way back to normal. I talked to many dog trainers and read many articles for help. Many people told me about similar and much worse situations in their own dog families. I implemented training ideas, lifestyle ideas, used careful management techniques, and eventually our family went back pretty much to normal.
Pretty much because the bad, ugly thing could pop up, but it was rare and finally we had 16 months of perfect, happy dogs. No bubbles that I could see. I thought maybe it was gone. Life was finally, actually, really back to normal.
Until this past August, when Otterpop got attacked by a big dog. Something in her brain went snap. Soon after, Sister Mary Ruby, who doesn't do anything to anybody and who can't hear or see good, got attacked by a big dog. And then Otterpop tried to attack Ruby, again.
Our lives ever since are like someone had been standing there quietly shaking up the champagne bottle, all those months of happy times, and then popped that cork and all those bubbles all came up at once. Except not champagne. Champagne's so pretty and suggests black and white Carey Grant and Katherine Hepburn standing around gabbing about the snooty society beauty who slipped and fell - in love. Otterpop's bubbles are gassy and dark, more of what burbles up through the wound when you stab the zombie through the eyeball and jerk the rebar back out for future use. Otterpop's hair now always stands a little bit on end. She's not a happy girl.
Ruby is fine, except for the fact that me and Ruby are scared that Otterpop might hurt her. Nobody's allowed to hurt my Ruby. Our household exists in a state of low grade paranoia, rather than our old times of blissful, groovy dog frolicking. Well, except for Gustavo. He is immune to all of this and cheerfully frolics around no matter what. Having a Gustavo is like having your own baby unicorn. That's housebroken. And doesn't stab people with it's antler. And has no teeth.
We have changed how we do things. Who plays with who, who is on a leash, who sleeps where, who is outside with who. There is no new puppy in our lives. Dog trainers say management always fails, but I am doing everything I can to manage our lives so that in any instance where the potential for Otterpop to redirect aggression back to Ruby is eliminated. Even though most of the time they look like happy, love-each-other sisters, I am mentally pre-planning for what if there was a dog fight nearby, or a dog charged us from that alley, or from behind those bushes, or ran out of the agility ring. I look at everywhere we are very differently. What would happen if someone brought a new dog into work? Or two strange dogs got into it in front of my house? What if Ruby hurts herself and starts crying?
Basically, I am looking at the world through paranoid, slitty eyes, just like Otterpop does. It's a lot of pressure. I can't imagine what it feels like to be Otterpop, always living in a pressure cooker. Maybe like those poor lobsters with their claws tied down, thrown into a cold pot straight from the trap, and the water starts to heat up and gets hotter and hotter and hotter. By the time it starts to boil, the lid clamps down and then they get boiled to death. I think some people even eat their livers. Lobsters have 10 legs, 3 of which are also claws, but they can't get out of the pot.
It's hard to be Otterpop. And it's hard to be Ruby. And it's hard to be me, because I now spend equal time making sure Ruby's life is not scary or dangerous and that Otterpop's feels happier and calmer. This is what we do now. I carry around a lot of responsibility, when I used to just have pet dogs. This isn't very happy to write or talk about. At a trial recently, I was asking someone about how she handled a similar situation. Another competitor overheard our conversation, and the rest of the day continually asked me if the dog I had with me was the mean one. Having this going on makes you feel like a very bad dog owner. But I have learned that it's, sadly, not a rare situation in multi dog households. Just no one talks about it, so you think like it's just your dogs.
So if it's your dogs, too, sorry. I know exactly how you feel.
by team small dog at 5:27 AM