Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Car Seat

Don't buy a poodle unless you like to bathe dogs and cut their hair. We tried. The poodle came out looking as if she'd been run through a blender.

That means we go to Springfield to get the dog groomed. Fair trade, I suppose. I no longer have to pay for haircuts, and so now I can afford to pay for a dog's haircut.

Pinky the Poodle is a laid-back dog, quite easy going. With her and the new Boston we've taken great pains to socialize them, and we've done our best not to let them interact with anyone who might tease them.

All three dogs love people. The Boxer is shy, but she sounds fierce, and she is protective -- but only of the kid who lives here. The kid once strayed toward a neighbor's yard occupied by a cranky Chow. The chow began barking and moving toward the kid, and Daisy the Boxer shot across the road and rolled the Chow, easily twice her weight, up into a nice little ball.

But I'm trying to tell a story about Pinky the Poodle. Pinky barks at no one. Pinky never growls. But Saturday past, when my wife and the kid drove down to Springfield to get Pinky groomed (among other things), it happened to be a very pleasant day, warm for February, and as a result, the "I'll Work for Food" cardboard sign-holders were out in force. 

My wife said there was one at nearly every major intersection. Pinky the Poodle, riding in the front seat, would watch them but showed little interest even when my wife gave a teenage girl a couple of dollars. Then, late in the day as they were on their way home, a woman began to approach the van.

My wife noticed that the woman was obviously mentally ill. My wife said she was talking to herself, and simultaneously appeared to be holding a conversation with a person she believed was walking beside her.

Whether my wife had any intention of handing the troubled soul a few dollars, I don't know, but if she had wanted to, it all changed when that mellowest of poodles, Pinky, stood up in the seat, and a low rumble began to come from her chest.

My wife didn't understand at first the source of the fearsome noise, but as she turned to look at Pinky, the dog had her teeth bared, her head lowered, and her ears pinned back as if the woman were a threat. My wife said, "It scared me for a minute. I've never seen Pinky do anything like that."

The woman stopped about ten feet from the van and looked at Pinky and then turned away. That's as far as the incident continued, but Pinky never took her eyes off the woman until the light changed, and my wife drove away from the light.

But it makes me wonder about some elemental sense of danger a dog might perceive. Why that one particular woman out of the twenty or so begging for change? Pinky's two years old, and I've never seen her show her teeth at anyone.

Whether the woman was a danger we'll never know. I do know that the ACLU and other like-minded organizations lobbied for people to be released from mental institutions decades ago, but society never moved to accommodate people like that woman who obviously need care and medication necessary for stability. Advocates for human rights freed them from institutions, but that freedom has led too many troubled souls to homeless camps and the streets.

Freedom from unwarranted confinement is good; but there must be a better way to help people like that poor woman.

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