During the first six weeks of Chuck’s life we were unsure whether or not we’d actually adopted a dog and not some sort of abandoned scientific experiment, perhaps a hyena crossed with a mountain lion crossed with a mythical Latin goat sucker. He was four weeks old when we brought him home, and so all those little life lessons he should have learned from his brothers and sisters during the first eight weeks of his life, like not biting, and understanding that when someone else yelps they’re saying stop it, you’re hurting me, all those little nasty feral dog habits were left up to us to cure.
And since he was the first animal I had ever owned, aside from a few nondescript goldfish who had the audacity to up and die on me when I merely suggested that they have a hot bath, I had no idea how to get the little beast to stop biting me. And he was biting me all the time, on the fingers, on the ankles, on the elbows. He even managed to bite me on the forehead, I’ve never been able to figure that one out.
So we read tons of books and websites, some of them written by pacifist monks, some of them written by sergeants in the U.S. military, all of them claiming that their method was the best method and that if you didn’t follow their method then you might as well just give up now because your dog would inevitably bite the fingers off starving, innocent children.
The general consensus among dog “experts,” however, is that no matter what method you choose, you have to prove to the dog that you are the alpha dog in the pack, the leader, the one who calls all the shots. And I tried telling that to Chuck. I tried telling him in a large, neanderthal Tony Robbins-like voice that I was the big dog in this relationship. And you could tell, if not from the giggling then from the gaping scar he left on my shin that he just wasn’t buying it.
And so we tried more physical methods of demonstrating our alpha-ness. We tried flipping him over on his back and gripping his jowls like his mother might do. We tried barking and baring our teeth. I even tried biting him back. But nothing seemed to impart our authority to the little fang-baring gargoyle living under our roof.
Everything got better after we spent a large sum of money on a trainer who came into our house and beat the living shit out of him. And I know that sounds violent and unecessary and totally inhumane, and I’m totally exaggerating, but when the trainer left our house after the first lesson, Chuck may as well have been run over by a concrete truck, he was that humbled.
And since we’ve moved to Utah things have been changing with Chuck on a massive scale. He’s been growling at people lately, although I can’t really blame him; I’d growl at the people in Utah if I had that capacity. But it’s strange now, because he totally knows that we are the alpha dogs, and he’s never let on that he’s known until recently.
And now that he knows that we know that he knows, I can’t even look like I’m mad that he jumped up and knocked over that 4-yr old girl, or that I’m disappointed he ran across the street in front of an Airborn Express Van, or he will mope and shake so violently in fear that he won’t eat for two days. There are even times when he hides behind other people when he knows that we’re mad at him. And sometimes I’m like, where is that little fucking fiend we knew and loved so much?