Sometimes, occasionally, not very often, but sometimes, I get bored with my TV boyfriend, Dan Abrams, and have to go in search of something else to watch while I eat dinner. Lately, I’ve been watching The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. For those of you unfamiliar with the National Geographic Channel, their programming seems to fall into three broad categories: crap I don’t care about, shows about dogs, and shows that set out to prove that Leonardo DaVinci was the coolest man to ever walk the face of the planet.
The Dog Whisperer, obviously, is one of their shows about dogs. The premise of this show is very simple: most folks don’t give their dogs the structure they need in order to know and feel secure in their place in the pack and so their dogs are giant monsters who need a visit from a stern, yet insane, man in order to set things right.
I totally dig this show for two reasons. 1. It makes me feel much better about Mrs. Wigglebottom, who, for all her faults, is not biting kids at the park. and 2. The whole message of the show is that the problem with almost all dogs lies with their owners. I have no idea if this message is true or not, but it feels good to me, because that means that all Mrs. Wigglebottom’s problems are not her fault, but mine. If only I could change, Mrs. Wigglebottom would be better. It’s really a genius message, because, as an American woman, I’m so ready to hear it.
Egad! This is about to take me off on a depressing tangent; let’s get back to the dog.
So, anyway, the fact that Mrs. Wigglebottom leaps up onto everyone who comes over in an annoying (to my guests) and frustrating (to me) manner has always been the largest bone of contention between me and the dog. But The Dog Whisperer has inspired me to try harder to train her to keep all four feet on the ground when we have company.
Lately, we seem to have been making real progress. The Redheaded Kid came over last night and though Mrs. Wigglebottom barked as he struggled to open the door, she could not be bothered to get off the couch. And, I think the Professor can attest that she’s not been so “jump-up-y” lately. Also, the dog doesn’t even get excited when The Guy Who Gets Laid comes by.
I thought we were making real progress. I thought that soon Miss J. would be able to come visit me without wearing protective padding. Oh, soon, thanks to the dog whisperer himself, I would have a perfectly behaved dog.
But, no, Mrs. Wigglebottom still exhibits what I fondly refer to as “person specific behavior,” which means that, rather than learning that we don’t jump on ANYONE who comes to the door, she’s just keeping track of who she no longer has to bother with. Some folks come and go without her giving a shit and other folks must be greeted in the most annoying manner possible.
My dog, apparently, cannot generalize.
I have only two small dreams for my dog. One, I’d like for her to not leap on anyone when she’s excited to see them. The realization of that dream is going poorly. And, two, I wish she knew our names. Other people can say to their dogs, “Go get Legal Eagle” for example, and their dog will go bounding up the stairs looking for said person. I say, “Get the Butcher; get the Butcher” and Mrs. Wigglebottom immediately runs up and licks my finger.
Clearly, she knows there’s a word that we call her, but again, because she can’t generalize, I don’t believe it’s ever occurred to her that we all have words we call each other. In fact, I’m convinced that she thinks the name “the Butcher” actually refers to my finger.
Here is Mrs. Wigglebottom’s limited and somewhat defective vocabulary:
Car/Park–I’m not sure she knows the difference between these two words, so I’m also lumping them together as one.
Grass–This we use as a verb to mean get out of the road because there’s a car.
Butcher–Which she thinks is my finger. It’s sad that the cats understand pointing, but the dog does not. I’m not even sure why the dog thinks we need a word between us that means “Lick my finger.”
Roll Over–though she only does this for the recalcitrant brother.
Ball/Bone–She cannot differentiate between the two. If you say “Get your bone,” she’ll come back with a bone or a ball.
We also have two whistles we use. There’s a two-toned one which means something like “pay attention” which I use when she’s lagging behind and is about to reach the end of the leash or when she’s about to tangle us around a tree or when I need her to lick the plate, and a one-toned one that means “you’re about to yank the leash out of my hand or choke yourself out at the far end if you don’t stop.”
And, sometimes, Mrs. Wigglebottom, when she’s feeling sassy, will walk around the livingroom going “Oroorooroo” as if she thinks we’re just the noisiest apes, filling up much of our lives with senseless nonsense which must, occasionally, be mocked. “This,” she says as she prances around the living room howling, “is what you sound like to me.”