A couple months ago, I was coming back to the apartment from an errand. My route takes me through a pass-through tunnel on the first floor of our building, threading my way among the tables of an outdoor café. At one table sat a lady of some years duration – I’ve stopped using the term “old” since, in my case, it’s passed its expiration date – with a cane propped up on one side of her and a tiny creature on the other. I suspected the thing was a dog but it might well have been a long haired rat for all I knew. You know, one of those hairy things with a stove-in face and ears twice as long as its body. A miniature or toy dog with an Oriental name like Cheat Sue, PeekInThese or Me Too Gai Pan. As I went past the table, the animal launched into a series of loud, sharp, high-pitched yips. It sounded like some kind of Morse code — “YIP,” (beat beat) “YIP YIP” (beat) “YIPYIPYIPYIP” (etc).
I passed it by, but the creature followed me, continuing to bark. I don’t know why it went after me unless it thought I was supposed to pay a toll or something. I guess it found me threatening, or it was just showing off who was boss. Either way, it was doing its best job of furious behavior. I wasn’t in the mood to negotiate with it so I turned to leave.
At which time it bit me on the heel.
I can’t remember the last time I was bitten by a dog. I’m not entirely certain I’ve ever been bitten by a dog. Maybe once or twice when I was a child and pulled its tail. Otherwise, I’ve been bitten by a horse and kicked in the stomach by a cow. I refuse to talk about these incidents, so don’t bother asking; suffice it to say, the animals had good reason. The point is that such things don’t happen very often, so I was understandably surprised.
That was the start of it. Since that time, whenever I left the grounds, if the nasty little turd-replica was there it stopped whatever it was doing and came after me. The distance from our front entrance to the pass-through is about thirty yards. The animal must’ve waited and watched for me, because it started barking as soon as I come out the door. Even at that distance, I could see the malevolent expression on its face.
I noticed the advanced-in-annual-premiums lady who owns the dog did absolutely nothing while this was going on. Typically, she didn’t even acknowledge anything was happening, not even by the narrowing of an eyebrow or the twitch of that little nerve at the corner of her mouth. She just stared off into the distance with a blank expression as if remembering the days when she came in sixth out of six in the Miss Portugal contest. If the dog had me down on the ground ripping its teeth into my groin and tearing my intestines out inch by inch, I believe she’d ignore it as an impolite intrusion on her otherwise pleasant little day.
It’s not that the attention bothers me; it’s amusing to be singled out that way. I continue to wonder what its motivation was. I may have stepped a little too far into its territory and my foot slid under its chair. It may simply have felt compelled to show how mean and dangerous it is. You know, there’s always that runty kid in school who’s overly sensitive about its size so it’s determined to look dangerous. If it acts mean and sounds mean, maybe the bigger kids will be distracted enough to leave it alone. Meanwhile, it always has an escape route in case somebody calls its bluff, so it can get away in time.
I wondered what might happen if I tried to confuse it. The next time I came out and it began barking, I turned and looked the other way then crouched down and pretended to ignore it. It kept barking for several minutes until, as far as I could tell, it forgot why it was doing it. It got this look on its face as if to say, “I know I had a reason for this, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it is. I’ll just sit here ready to catch whatever comes by, then everyone will see what a tough guy I am.” That approach got pretty boring for both of us. Eventually, I had to go, by which time the dog had fallen asleep.
The next time I came through, we had a standoff. Senhor Sh** For Paws, as I came to call it, ran up barking its head off and I responded in kind. While it did its “Yip Yip Jump around” routine I put my hands on my hips, stared at it angrily and gave a high pitched “Rrhup!” (or something to that effect).
The dog hesitated for a second as if it wasn’t sure it had heard me, then launched into a furious cascade, to which I responded “AH Rauff!” (or something to that effect)
To which it answered “Arararar!” It redoubled its efforts to look tough by snapping its head at me and running a couple of steps toward me, I suppose to make me think it was charging. So I cut its display with another “Rauff!!”
(I’m doing the best I can with these human-animal translations, so gimme a break. They’re a lot better than my attempts to speak Portuguese.)
At this point, the dog got confused; things weren’t going its way. It didn’t seem to know what to do next. It tried a couple more yips but now with a puzzled expression. I think it wanted to go to Plan B but had missed the Plan B training class at doggie daycare. For my part, when it was clear the thing didn’t have nothin’ else, I left the combat zone to go about my business.
The feud continued for weeks — I came out of the building; the dog was watching for me to come out of the building; the dog attacked me; I barked at the dog, and so on. I’ve always got things to do when I go out, so I’m the one who usually breaks it off. The problem was the dog was going around telling everybody it’s the winner.
That pissed me off; it wasn’t fair. I found myself getting angrier and angrier about it all. Whenever I went out, I immediately started barking. I increased my aggressive display and looked for the dog. If I didn’t see it immediately, I’d sniff around the area until I picked up its scent. I’d bare my teeth, point my ears, throw my weight onto my front paws, and my tail went straight up.
By now, I was attracting attention from the neighbors. I noticed some of them giving me strange looks, and they’d walk away when I approached. They’d do a wide circle around me like there was some barrier between us. Barbara tells me she got a call from our landlady saying several of the residents were complaining. Some have heard of a disease Americans get in foreign countries, a type of distemper, and wondered if I might be a victim.
Barbara covered for me by telling them I had become a supporter of our beloved President Donnie T**. She claimed I’m in line to be the next ambassador to Portugal, because he’s running out of people to work for him. This explanation satisfied them; it lined up perfectly with their opinion of the way things are going in the US nowadays.
Then not long ago, I rushed outside ready to do battle with The Little Creep. Strangely, it wasn’t waiting for me. I went in search of it and finally saw it down the block in company with another dog. The two of them were sniffing at each other’s crotches with blissful expressions. Nobody was barking, no tails were up. No one was interested in me.
They completely ignored me. Nobody cared about me. It left me kind of sad. Abandoned, almost.
I went around in a funk for the next couple of days. A gray cloud hung over me. (That could have been the weather; it has continued to be unusually wet this year). In any case, I finally expressed my feelings to Barbara.
So,” she responded, “what you need is to find another way to anger the local animal kingdom, disturb the neighbors and generally make a fool of yourself.”
“That’s it exactly!” I exclaimed.
“You shouldn’t have any problem with that. Trust me.”
Leave it to Barbara. She always knows just the right thing to say to make me feel better,