corrie at the beach

This dog might want to be your best friend. In fact odds are pretty good that he does. Unless you are a kid. Or if he thinks you might be getting too close to my things. Or if you are the vet. Or if he sees you from a distance and isn’t sure who you are. Or if you are a raccoon. Or a strange cat.

The more I learn about dogs, the more I realize how crazy it is that we all take them for granted and don’t think twice about meeting strange dogs all the time. Corrie is mostly an incredibly smart and well-behaved dog for being only 6 months old. But he has snapped at kids three times now, has to be muzzled at the vet’s office, and strongly guards my things from other dogs. Recently, he’s started guarding my actual person from other dogs, so other dogs can’t come say hi to me at the dog park without Corrie getting all up in their faces. He growls and lunges at some strangers (I don’t know why some and not others) until I say hello to the stranger (which apparently means to him that they are okay). I would feel sort of guilty, like maybe I’m not being a good dog mom, except that I talk to a lot of dog people and it turns out that all of these things are pretty normal. Individual dogs’ quirks vary, but most of them have something that makes them a little dangerous in public. One woman I know can’t EVER have a tennis ball around or her dog will attack anyone or anything in sight that might (in the dog’s mind) want to take away the ball. Many dogs guard food or toys. Many are reactive in some situations but not other, subtly different, situations. Many dogs do fine with other dogs, unless they are on a leash in which case they freak out. Some dogs are okay with other dogs while on or off leash, but only if the other dog is not on a leash. Or only if the other dog IS on a leash. It’s all very complicated.

All the time I’ve lived here before I got Corrie, I would walk by the dogs in the neighborhood and I had in my mind that they were probably all pretty much like any dog. You know, friendly, charming, eager to please, would love to be patted on the head by all strangers. Since I’ve had Corrie, I’ve actually met a lot of these dogs and talked with their owners, and there is a fascinating world going on here that you’ve probably never noticed in your neighborhood either. So here is a brief intro to some of the dogs that live within a mile or so of me, who I meet regularly at the dog park or on walks.

We’ll start right next door with Sparky. Sparky was rescued from a gravel lot and was mostly feral when the neighbors adopted him. He is terrified of most everything and everybody. He’s a pretty classic mutt, maybe some beagle and springer spaniel, but I don’t know what all else. He probably weighs around 60 pounds. He spends most of his time at home alone. The neighbors are two 20-something guys who work all day. When they get home, he gets 3 minutes or so in the backyard to do his business and then hangs out inside with the guys all evening. He has escaped several times (usually by scratching open an unlocked window and chewing/clawing through the screen). He has charged Preston and I several times, one time actually getting his mouth on my leg before his owner could grab him, and another time I had a shovel in between me and him to fend him off until the owner could get him. When we see that he’s made it out the window (we can see their living room window from our front door), Preston and I carry a big Maglight flashlight with us to go outside in case we need to fight him off. He’s not safe around other dogs and the guys next door have made it clear that I should keep Corrie away if I see Sparky out unattended.

One of Sparky’s many problems is that he doesn’t get enough exercise. So enter Ammo, the Blue Heeler/Rottweiler mix who they got to keep Sparky company. I don’t know how they did the intros, but Sparky and Ammo seem to get along fine. Ammo is so named because as a puppy they would get him all worked up in someone’s lap and then toss him at Sparky to keep the two dogs entertained. Amazingly, Ammo is a pretty cool dog. He gets to go to work with the guys so he spends his days at a boat shop interacting with the customers. He plays rough (no kidding!), but is otherwise harmless.

Two doors down are Pepper (a Border Collie mix) and Patches (a spaniel mix). They have a small fenced yard and they go on one short walk per day. Sometimes, someone comes to the house to “walk” the dogs during the day, which consists of letting them out of the fenced yard, throwing the ball down the street once, and then spending the next 15 minutes yelling at them to come back. They don’t appear to know their own names, let alone any commands. They are friendly and want to say hello to everyone, which is what they are doing while the guy yells at them to come back.

The house behind us (their backyard adjoins our backyard) has a Boston Terrier named Maddie and a Pit Bull mix named Kona. The side of their yard adjoins the ravine at the end of our street and they don’t have a fence on that side. The owners seem to think that if they just let the dogs run loose, they will play down in the ravine. They do that (I see their tracks down there a lot), but they also wander the neighborhood. Maddie likes Corrie, and sometimes she will even come scratch at our door to see if Corrie will come out to play. She afraid of people though, and she yaps up a storm if you look her direction or move towards her. Kona is older and seems mellow. I’ve run into both of them unattended on the street in front of our house and all through-out the neighborhood, sometimes several blocks from their house. I worry about what will happen if we run into them down in the ravine. The neighborhood is pretty neutral territory, but both they and Corrie might think of the ravine as “theirs”.

At the end of the street is Beezy, a purebred Border Collie who came from an Amish breeder back east. Even though he’s a 2-year old unfixed male, he is probably the coolest dog I’ve ever met. His yard isn’t fenced, but he stays in the yard anyway. He is Corrie’s favorite dog in the world too, and every time we walk by their yard, Corrie whines and pulls at the leash to try to go scratch at the door for Beezy to come out. If Beezy is outside, they will run and play and they totally love each other. Beezy has never been taught not to jump on people, and he’s big for a Border Collie. If you don’t want a 60+ pound dog to launch into you at hip level, you shouldn’t stop to say hello to Beezy. He is also not good with kids, and has been known to chase and snap at them. And sometimes he’s a little weird about bicycles. I’ve had to stop and talk him down a couple times when he wouldn’t let me pass on my bike.

Down the street a few block is Tao. He’s a basset/lab mix who came from the pound. He’s a super-sweet dog and he and Corrie have played together at the dog park before. However, he’s leash-reactive, meaning that if he’s on leash and sees another dog he freaks out. We ran into him the other day on a walk and his owner was riding a bike while he ran alongside on the leash. She had to jump off her bike and get two hands on the leash to just slow Tao down (she wasn’t strong enough to stop him) while Corrie I and got past her and out of the way.

Tao and his people just moved in with another dog that I know from the dog park, a husky(?) mix named Autumn. I don’t know much about Autumn except that her person made it a point to just do a quick pass-by at the dog park and keep moving. I’ve heard from Tao’s owner that Autumn is also not great with other dogs while on leash.

A few blocks further is Lucy, who I suspect is leash-reactive because her owner never has her on leash. She is some sort of small beagle/german shepard/something small mix. She’s smaller than Corrie is now, and probably weighs about 30 pounds. When Corrie was a puppy he met Lucy and Lucy growled and snapped at him. Lucy’s owner said she is sometimes like that with puppies, but I think she’s just like that. Every time we see her, she marches over to assert her dominance and if we don’t keep moving she’ll get increasingly aggressive. Her owner bikes around with Lucy a lot, with Lucy running alongside, unless she sees something that she thinks needs attended to. I don’t know that Lucy knows any commands, because I’ve never heard her owner tell her to come or do anything at all.

Tilly is a Border Collie cross who is fine when we run into her and her owner on leash. However, at the dog park, she gets way over-excited and can’t stop barking at the other dogs very aggressively. It makes all the other dogs nervous and generally leads to a scuffle breaking out that has to be separated by the humans. When she starts that, Corrie will lunge and snap at her to get her to stop barking at him, but she’s super fast and can dodge out of his way easily while still barking.

Sunflower is a Golden Retriever who is really probably the world’s best dog. She’s 11 years old and truly a ray of sunshine. I don’t know of anything bad about her at all. She is super sweet and mellow. When she comes to the dog park she will be polite to the dogs, but she doesn’t really care about them much. She just makes the rounds of all the people, leaning against their legs so they will pet her. If you don’t pet her in a minute or so, she’ll politely move on to the next person. Once she’s made the rounds, she will sit next to her owner and reach up with one paw to touch his hand hanging at his side. She will just sit there and look at him adoringly, holding his hand, until he decides to go. We run into them walking around the neighborhood often, and she is always just that mellow and sweet. I should ask him, the next time I see him, if there is anything that makes her mad.

So there you go, a little tour of dogland her in West Oly. There are many more dogs in the general vicinity, but they don’t come out of their yards or they are on very different walk schedules than us because I haven’t met them or their people. But doesn’t this little intro make you wonder about the dogs in your neighborhood?