Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What I Would Have Said

Given the fact that I have had FIVE leashed dogs attacked by unleashed dogs, it's not surprising that I am still mentally reviewing my Walk In The Park yesterday. I am more grateful than I can say that I am not spending today home-nursing two traumatized, stitched and drained dogs. Or worse, visiting a wounded, bewildered dog fighting for its life in intensive care.

Only someone who has done all that can possibly know how much I never want ever, ever to have to do any of that again.

But until the general level of knowledge about dog behavior and differences bred into various groups and breeds of dogs is raised, I must accept that every time I harness and leash my beloved Bingley and Magic and take them out for their favorite treat--a walk--one of them, both of them, or all three of us, might very well end up in an emergency medical facility because some other dog owner has failed to exercise common sense or has failed to follow the law.

As I was shouting to the Boxer's walker "Leash your dog!", "Keep your dog away from my dogs!", "Don't come any closer to me!", she was walking toward me, shouting "You need to train your dogs better!", "My dog is perfectly trained!"

Aside from the fact that I doubt her dog would have remained calm and obedient if it had been leashed and had an unleashed dog charging directly at it,there are other facts that cannot be "shared" when one is literally fighting for the life of one's beloved canine companions.

I would have explained that Bingley and Magic are Sighthounds, and, as such, were bred for a very different purpose than her dog, a Boxer.

Boxers belong to the Working Group, dogs who were developed to work alongside humans, looking to humans for guidance and direction. Their work required a tough, strong body and jaws that rival those of the large terrier breeds.

I am very glad that the Boxer in question has been to obedience classes. If Boxers are not trained and socialized early in life, they can be as serious a canine menace as can be imagined. Well socialized, they are wonderful companions and family pets.

Sighthounds are just about as different from Boxers as can be imagined and still belong to the same species. Sighthounds were bred to run. Fast. They were not bred to "take directions." They were bred to follow normal canine instincts as efficiently as possible.

Greyhounds are the crowning achievement of canine aerodynamics. Greyhounds have long, slender bones, long, fine muscles, that are covered in the thinnest layer of skin and hair. Their skin is so thin that in some places not only can it not be stitched, it cannot even be cauterized. Direct pressure is the only way to stop bleeding. A Greyhound that has been attacked by another dog requires immediate veterinary care to save its life. Even that was not enough to save my beautiful Portia.

Greyhounds--and other Sighthounds, Magic is a Greyhound/Scottish Deerhound--are bred to respond to movement. They will chase ANYTHING that moves. Furthermore, their long distance vision is superior to humans', so they will see something moving before the keenest-eyed human sees it. The running/chasing response to movement is instantaneous. It cannot be trained out of their behavioral repertoire. AND within two strides, the Sighthound is moving so fast and their heart is pumping so loudly, they cannot hear even the loudest shouted command. It is nature's ultimate over-ride of training. Not only does the Sighthound not hear commands, it does not see anything but the object of the chase. Not the tree it is about to hit, nor the car that is about to hit it. An unleashed, unconfined Sighthound is very likely to be a dead Sighthound.

Now. Imagine that you are the fastest breed of dog in the world. You love your walks, but your greatest joy in life is running unrestrained. However, you cannot run unrestrained very often because your human is concerned about your safety. So, you settle for walks. And every week you get to walk with some other dogs who look a lot like you and live in similar circumstances. It's the highlight of your week.

Then, one day, you see a dog across the park who gets to run free. But it cannot run half as fast as you can. You really want to show that silly dog how running should be done! But you've got on a collar, a harness and two leashes and your human isn't responding to your urgent request to run after that clumsy excuse for a running dog.

You get the picture.

But yesterday, it got worse. The loose dog's human let it run DIRECTLY at my two excited, aroused dogs.

I supposed it's unrealistic to ever expect other dog owners to understand the unique vulnerabilities of my sweet Magic, and especially of my sweet Bingley.

But leash laws are there to protect Magic and Bingley. And Franklin and Hattie and Odie.

I can expect people to obey leash laws. Even if they don't understand them

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