And, sometimes it's hell


It's not all bliss. Take the other day for instance. Sure, I described the Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs event as heavenly, but life with dogs isn't always peaceful even in Paradise.

After strolling the grounds and browsing vendors, I was eager to make my way back to the Round Barn to hear Luis Carlos Montalvan talk about his book Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him. Amidst talking to other dog owners and taking in the sights and sounds, I lost track of time and was already 20 minutes late for the discussion. As I approached the building, I realized the event was still going strong. I could hear the author talking in a low, steady voice. I reached the doorway and started to lead my pugs inside what seemed like an intense and serious environment.

The basement of the Round Barn was exactly that -- a basement. I don't know about most dogs, but mine have never liked going into basements. I always wondered if they feared being trapped or if it was something else, but on this occasion, Alfie slammed on the brakes and wouldn't proceed. I can't say I exactly blamed her. As much as i wanted to hear Montalvan talk, the atmosphere didn't seem entirely welcoming. I don't mean to give the impression that it was unfriendly, but the subject matter did not seem to be eliciting a bunch of laughs. I managed to get Alfie through the doorway, but she would not move beyond a certain point to let me sit down in a chair. I stretched as far as I could, trying to move a chair so it would be closer to Alfie, but it was a long reach.

At this point, Waffles too, seemed to be picking up on the nervous tension in the room. Luis Carlos Montalvan was still talking in a deep, low voice about trauma and how we are all going to experience it at some point when Waffles started in on her banshee scream. I love my new little pug. She is sweet, quiet, petite, almost cat-like in the way she studies the world, but she has created some challenges in training her -- anyone know how to stop a pug from overturning trash cans -- and she has a wild cry, not typically heard in nature.

Prior to getting Alfie I had read about the pug "whohoohoo," a gentle barking noise. None of mine had made this, but Alfie did, and I loved hearing it the first time. Waffles, on the other hand, has a screech and a scream. It isn't pretty. She started in during the talk, barking at another dog sitting quietly beside its owner's feet. It didn't seem to disturb Montalvan's drone, but just to be sure I tried to move her out of view of the other dog. This would have been easier if Alfie and she weren't coupled together on one lead. When I tried to pull Waffles left, Alfie moved right and pulled. She exercised enough energy to slip her harness over her head. She was loose.

Those of you who have well trained dogs may not understand the implications, but I live on a main road and there is little safe space available to train my dogs off lead. Add to this the fact that Alfie associates being caught with doing something she doesn't want to do. Yes, I know, there are rules you should follow in training her -- give her food, don't put her in the crate each time you catch her, etc. But Alfie knows that food comes with a price and it's not just her crate she doesn't want to go in, she doesn't want to go anywhere she's being MADE to go and she knows how to avoid this -- Don't Let Them Catch You!

So, Alfie heads for the door at a run with her harness hanging from the other end of Waffles' lead. Waffles jumps as the thing waves beside her and begins a second chorus of screams. A woman outside yells "Loose Dog."

I trip over a chair trying to get outside where I see Alfie following a little girl. "Hey, can you hlep me?" I call. She stares at me blankly.

"If you sit down I think my dog will come to you and I can put her harness back on," I said.
The girl doesn't move.

"Hey!" I tried again, trying not to let panic rise in my voice. "Could you please help me catch my dog?"

What's the matter with this kid? I thought. It wasn't until I got home late at night that I thought about the warnings we all give our kids. Don't trust a stranger even if they offer you an icecream or a chance to pet their dog. This poor kid who I was getting so angry at was probably just well trained or very smart. Heck, I probably wouldn't have trusted this frantic lady dragging a little black dog and an empty harness down the sidewalk either.

Struck down by the girl, I turned to a vendor packing up her supplies. Yes, her hands were full, but she was the closest to me and my dog was quickly moving away. "Could you please help me with my dog?" I asked, thrusting Waffles lead into her hands. I then fell to the ground, trying to attract Alfie's attention. She saw me, but remained just out of reach. "Come here," I murmured.

"Do you have a snack I could give her?" Now, I was screeching like Waffles. The woman I asked was sitting at a table full of bags of dog treats, but she didn't answer me.

"Do you have a snack I could give her?" I repeated. When she didn't answer I jumped up and approached the table, ready to grab a bag myself.

The woman holding Waffles shouted. "She's right behind you. You're dog is right behind you."
I knew this, but I also knew that if I turned around and tried to grab her she would just back up and move further away. But, to this woman I probably looked clueless. Just as I was getting ready to rip open a treat bag, the woman behind the table sprang to life and handed me a liver treat from her pocket. I tried to lure Alfie with it, but she only backed up.

"Make her come to you," the woman instructed as if I had never thought of this.

Alfie came, but not close enough. Anyone who questions an animal's intelligence should know that they understand advanced mathematics. Alfie demonstrates this over and over by being able to calculate the exact right distance she needs to maintain at all times to be just out of reach. This time, however, I was lucky and was able to spring upon her fast enough to grab her fat, round body.

Holding a pug is just about as easy as holding a slick pig. There is nothing to grab on to, no handles so to speak, and they wiggle their chubby forms right out of your hands. Fortunately, Alfie has a lot of fur so I just grabbed on.

"You better get that  harness back on your dog," the woman holding Waffles barked at me while simultaneously snapping at the barking Waffles to calm down. I barely got the first strap closed before she was handing Waffles back to me. By this time, I was a sweaty mess with a migraine. Also, I was fearful about getting Alfie back to the car now that her harness had been stretched out of shape and could even more easily slip off. And, I desperately needed to go to the bathroom.

Yes, spending time amidst dogs can be a taste of heaven, but sometimes spending time with them can be a bit of hell, too.