14 June 2004

St. Bernie is dogging me

I don't think I qualify for this weekend's assignment, but I hate the idea of being left out.  So I'll write about someone else's pet (actually two different people with the same pet) and while no matter the circumstance, I will never, ever have one of the same.

I'm not a "big dog" person.  I'm barely a dog person as it is, meaning I can tolerate the ones that weigh less than me and/or are shorter than me.  When I was a kid we lived a few doors away from a family that had a doberman.  They had a fence as well, but the doberman was smarter than the fence and got out frequently.  One afternoon, when I was about 8, I was in the backyard when I saw the dog leap over the fence three homes away, and then over the bushes two yards away, and then over the bushes in the next yard, until it was in our yard.  The dog circled me about five times and I imagined that I knew exactly what a swimmer in the water felt like to see that big ol' shark fin come up and swim around you, and I waited for the dog to have me for lunch.  It was one of the few times I can remember being paralyzed (literally) with fear.  I couldn't move.  Fortunately for me, the dog wasn't interested and decided to go back home, exactly the same way it came, leaping over bushes and fences.

That's not the pet I intended to write about, but as I started to recall my life trying to avoid big dogs, I remembered the doberman.  I have a longtime friend who is married with three kids and has a few pets.  One of them is a St. Bernard.  I don't know a single dog person who doesn't think that St. Bernard's are the most cuddly dog there is.  Cuddly to me is something that you can wrap your arms around and hug.  I'd have an easier time hugging the Chrysler Building than I would with any St. Bernard I have encountered.

Anyway, the first time I met my friend's dog, it was on the front lawn sitting by his youngest child.  He excused himself for a moment to take the child inside and told me to get acquainted with the dog.  The moment he left, the dog got up, put its front paws on me so that it stood taller than I did, and growled as deep as any noise I have heard come out of a living thing.  Convinced I was about to be mistaken for a livasnap (made with real liver, and remember, dogs love 'em!) I debated whether to panic or play dead.  After an uncomfortable silence the dog retreated to its place on the lawn.  I have made it my life's work to gently avoid it whenever I have been at this house since, a fact that I know is no secret to its owner.

Later that same year I was in Ireland.  It was fall, and I was staying in Howth, a suburb north of Dublin.  Late one afternoon I went for a walk on a beach.  It was clear but brisk and I was bundled up against a strong wind.  It was nearing sunset and everything was beautiful.  The beach was nearly deserted, though I'd encounter the occasional person or couple, some walking their dogs.  Ireland, like the rest of Europe that I have seen, tends to be full of smaller breeds of dogs, kind of what the old lady had in "A Fish Called Wanda."  However, as I neared the point that would take me furthest away from where my walk began, I noticed a couple walking towards me with a BIG DOG.  As our points neared I realized that the BIG DOG was a St. Bernard and I felt my palms start to sweat.  I could see by this time that he was not on a leash.  My first impression was to turn and run, but that was pointless.  I'd fall in the sand and he'd bury me with a flick of his paw.

I felt the best way to meet this challenge was to ignore the BIG DOG and keep walking, and I thought all was well when we passed without acknowledging each other.  However, when I though I was in the clear, I heard a muffled growl and turned to see that the BIG DOG had moved away from its owners and was now approaching me.  When it reached me, it too reared up oh its back legs so that it was taller than me, placing its front paws in my chest.  However, unlike the first BIG DOG, it didn't growl.  It made no noise at all.  

We stood together for a few seconds and then the BIG DOG started pushing me towards the water, still only on its hind legs and not breaking stride.  I felt like I was a five year old being pushed back by a ten year old bully; I was no match for this BIG DOG.  Soon I felt my feet get wet, and I was standing in water while the dog continued to push me out further.  By this time one of the people walking with the BIG DOG saw what was happening and came over to try to get him to stop.  He did, but only for a second.  As soon as he began to walk away with the dog, it broke from him and tried to push me back into the water.  The gentleman finally was able to get his BIG DOG under control and apologized profusely to me.  I was standing on the beach, a long way from my car, with cold, wet feet.  Instead of an apology, I wanted a pair of boots.

One thing stands out more than anything else in this particular encounter:  When the gentleman decided to come to my rescue he kept screaming "No Clancy!  Bad (BIG) dog!"  He then apologized for "Clancy's" behavior.  Clancy?  The dog was the size of a sequoia.  Who names a creature that could eat an entire kindergarten class in one gulp Clancy? 

Today I am a cat owner, primarily because I have yet to see a cat that is bigger than me that wasn't in a cage or separated from me by a really big moat.


donah42 said...

I'm a dog person, but I've never found St Bernards appealing---the drool is a big turn-off:)

fisherkristina said...

Oh, I HATE big dogs.  I would DIE if that happened to me.  I do have a big cat though.  He is 21 pounds.  But he is gentle and doesn't attack anybody!  You can visit him in my journal at http://journals.aol.com/fisherkristina/SometimesIThink  

chasferris said...

I have never met a dog I didn't like. but there have been some that I have given a wide berth to.