I love dogs. And for the most part, I get along well with them. I’ve never been bitten by one; and almost all my interactions have been positive. However, the most amazing experience I’ve ever had with dogs has come over the course of the last few months.
I take the bus home and get off at a corner next to business with a huge lot. They sell rock and bark dust and the property is surrounded by an eight foot cyclone fence with three rows of barbed wire on top of that. This amount of security by itself seems overkill, but added to that, the property is guarded by two large and vicious Rottweilers, each one weighting over 100 pounds (45 kg). I got off the bus one night (not knowing about the dogs) and they crashed the fence, about two feet from me, with these looks on their faces.
I instinctively jumped back, my heart in my throat, and hurridly walked away in the dark. The next night, the same thing happened, except this time I was ready for it. From then on I just acted flip about it. When the vicious snarling started, my response was simply “yeah, yeah, whatever…you don’t scare me…” and I would stroll away, acting brave, nervously recalling this breed was considered one of the most dangerous around. I was also thankful for the strength of cyclone fences.
I told a few people about this experience and one friend said, “well, why don’t you make friends with them?”
The idea intrigued me. The owners of this property obviously wanted to make sure the dogs were not won over by theives with other motives, and so, next to the signs that said: “Warning, dangerous guard dogs,” they had also posted signs that said: “Please do not feed the dogs.” But there were no signs that said “Please do not love the dogs.”
And so I began. They would come to the fence, determined to rip me to shreds and I would squat down, talking to them in a kind, gentle voice. Initially this behavior prompted a more vigorous assault as they stepped up their intimidation, determined to frighten me.
But I did not waver. Every day I kept up the kindness. Their fury turned from frustration, to confusion, to bewilderment, and finally to understanding. One day I was stunned. The friendlier of the two pushed his body up against the fence and looked at me. I was sure that if he could have spoken out loud he would have said: Okay. I get it. It’s okay to pet me if you want.” I laughed in surprise, but refused to take him up on the offer.
The next time they both barked, be he did it again, and very carefully, through the fence, I petted his fur, far enough away and gingerly enough that I could pull my hand away if needed. His companion barked, as if to say “What are you doing, you idiot?” We’re supposed to scare him!”
I gave them names from characters in a book. Neil was the friendly one. Drake was the gruff one. The next time, Drake wanted me to pet him too. And, much to my astonishment, this budding friendship continued. A couple of weeks ago, I reached through the fence petting them and my fingers got too close to Neil’s mouth. Quickly turning, he licked them! I gasped, pulling my hand away and counted my fingers, making sure they were all still there.
There are not there every day. But every time they are, they are always glad to see me, happily strolling up to the fence, wiggling their tails and (as dogs are wont to do) the whole back half of their bodies, happily licking my fingers and letting me pet them. And every day I tell them what good dogs they are and how much I love them. I would never crawl over the fence and trespass, but I know if I did, I could sit on the ground with them and they would lick my face and let me hug them. Here they are: my boys – Drake and Neil.
So remember, if someone is barking and snarling at you, maybe all they need is just a little love. I’m not saying you should try this with a rottweiler. Try it out on something far more dangerous. Try it out on another person.