We get out of the car and my friend unloads her dog with warm words of encouragement to the canine. She is talking, almost whispering, to her dog like he is a nervous kid going to school for the first time and who happens to potentially be on high alert or very prone to “flying off the handle” unexpectedly. As she clips the leash to the dog’s collar, she casually mentions to me that her dog sometimes has a problem around other dogs. “Warning…Warning…Warning”…goes off in my mind, but I say nothing. This is another all too familiar pattern that I have seen over and over and over, and in my past experiences it had typically indicated an owner out of touch with a proper understanding of canine behavior, their unintentional nurturing of the delinquency in their dog, and their misperception and erroneous transference of the eliciting and inciting stimuli.
We stroll a little ways from the car, chatting lightly, looking up at the sun, sky, and white fluffy clouds. When we hit the dirt road that will lead us to the actually booths and activities, my friend reaches down and rubs the tail base region of her dog. She parts some of the fur and says “See, look, this is what I am talking about.” I can already see the location of the lesion from where her hands sit, but before commenting, I walk over to the dog and put my own hands on his tail base. I part his fur and see scabs and some dander in the location that is pathognomonic for FAD. I don’t spend more time examining his rear end, because I don’t know the dog that well and I don’t have an assistant to help provide proper restraint. With a “poster-child” history of FAD in the owner’s own words, a perpetual environment highly supportive of such a problem, and clinical skin lesions that offer only support with no challenge whatsoever to my diagnosis, I conversationally blurt out “Yeah, this is Flea Allergic Dermatitis” as I pat the dog friendly on the side of his chest.
My new friend looks at me like I am a demon from the ninth level of hell. With some guttural noise of exasperation, condemnation, and disbelief, she glares at me, violently shrugs, turns and appears to be trying to calm herself. I slowly follow behind her, giving her plenty of space as we walk and eventually we come to a much needed Porta-Potty.
I urinate first and come back outside. My friend hands me her dog’s leash and tells me she will be back in just a second. The big black furry dog is smiling, soaking up the sun, and apparently registering a scent here and there with his sensitive nose raised in the cool fall breeze. I reach down and pet his head a few times while talking to him in some silly Dr. Cribb voice. Then, I pat him gently on his side a few times (low intensity play behavior) and smile myself.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the dog picks up the middle of his own leash in his mouth and begins to tug from his end. His behavior isn’t that alarming to me. He is playing, not being aggressive in a bad way, but I don’t want to really have any type of significant interaction with her dog, because I know, I just know how damn likely it is that she will misinterpreted the event or use it as an excuse of some sort. Her previous statements have already clearly warned me of this potential. But, her dog vehemently refuses to drop the leash. I can’t shake it out of his mouth. He just tugs on it more and more, his high drive kicking into full gear and soon he incorporates rooting into his routine. I have no choice but to go as limp as possible in the second I have before she returns. Then, she is there….again, glaring at me. “Why would you do that? Why would you work him up like that? He get’s bad when you get him worked up like that, and there are dogs all over the place? Why would you do that?” The bombardment taking place while she reaches for the leash and I gladly return it to her hand. I try for just a second to explain to her that I didn’t do anything, but pet her dog….but my energy is fading and I already know it doesn’t matter what I say. She has her excuse, one of the ones she clings to, and that seals the deal in her mind.
I walk away again and give them space for another moment. She soothes the dog, lays him down on the grass, and isolates him for a while. Eventually, they catch back up to me and over time, we all make our way around the festival looking at this and that. I focus on not engaging the dog in any shape, form, or fashion. A few times, the dog displays some aggressive tendencies towards other canines that walk by, but she guards him continuously, like an overbearing mother who refuses to let go of her son at school or in some other public place. Meanwhile, I entertain myself with what is around us and stay neutral with my friend and her dog over the next hour or two.
We finally decide to get something to eat and drink. We grab our food and some adult beverages, and then decide to sit down. After two or three drinks, her lips apparently loosen, but not in the good way. She says “That was incredibly arrogant of you to just look at my dog and tell me he has a flea allergy. How can you do that? You are so arrogant. You don’t know my dog. I would never….never take my dog to you or your hospital. Never. That is so, so arrogant. I can’t believe how arrogant you are. I’m serious, I would never take my dog to you…”
And this is where my spiritual growth in balance and awareness over the last five or so years kicked in reflexively and saved me from providing her with the further excuses she sought to vilify me and justify herself. Truly, a priceless thing in my mind…..and oddly enough, also the only means to actually have any type of chance of appropriately correcting her instability. I don’t smile, but I keep my face neutral and empathetic, and I simply say “You don’t have to…..you don’t have to.”
“You are so arrogant. So arrogant.”
I continue my same neutral and passive look and say nothing.
“You are so arrogant. So arrogant.”
I still maintain the same look, but words begin to form in my throat and I’m not exactly sure how they might come out.
“How can you be so arrogant? I would never…never go to you.”
The words crest my lips in a level tone, in a normal volume and cadence, unlike her loud declarations, and I say “What would you do if I came into your barn and told you how to train a horse?”
“I…I,,,arrogant…arrogant.” Louder and shaking her head.
“What would you do if I came into your barn and told you how to train a horse? Tell me. What would you do? What would you do? How would you handle that?”
“You are unbelievably arrogant. If I had my own car, I would leave immediately.”
“I will take you home in just a second, don’t worry. But, tell me what you would do? What would you do if I came into your barn and told you…told you…how to train a horse?”
“I…I…probably punch you in the face.”
And I didn’t need to respond anymore with words. She had said it all. With a blank soft face, I sat there for a few more minutes and let her calm down some in the silence. In a quiet, but friendly manner we soon gathered our things, headed back to the car, drove home, and said goodbye for a final time.