8

I OPENED THE DOOR FROM THE KITCHEN TO THE GARAGE, intending to take my darling little dogs on a stroll around the ranch. I'd only had them a little while; we were still getting to know each other. So far, they were angels.

Sunlight poured in from the open garage door––we use the garage to enter and leave the house. It's not very elegant, but it's efficient. I left my little dogs off their leashes; I'd taken them around the place on leashes several times with no problem. They were such sweet little darlings. Such a beautiful day to let them really run. They'd be fine . . .

The little dogs burst out of my arms and straight into the path of––


PANDA
Who do you think runs this ranch?

"Oh, no!" I leapt after them, terrified. They'd encountered Panda while on leashes, but never when they were loose. What would she do?

Panda is an Australian Shepherd. If you are not familiar with the herding breeds, Panda will teach you about them.

We found out what herding dogs were about one winter morning years ago. We woke up to find ten steers wandering around in our front yard. The Homeowners' Association of our subdivision runs cattle the roadways so they'll eat the prolific grass that grows in the winter, thus decreasing the fire hazard in the dry season. Each year brings a different batch of cows, with varying degrees of athleticism. That year, the cattle were akin to Oympic jumping horses, soaring over the cattle guard at our front gate like it wasn't there.

We didn't want ten cows in our front yard: You wouldn't believe what they do to the landscaping. Not to mention what they leave behind.

"Shoo!" I waved my arms at them, still in my bathrobe. "Shoo! Get!" They looked at me, chewing their cuds. Cuds made from my lawn. My husband waved a broom, with similar effect. Unless we were on horses, we didn't count to the cows. Inspiration struck, I turned to Panda, a mere pup at the time, but possessing the right stuff, I hoped.

"Get 'em, Panda! Go, get the cows!"

Panda was off like a rocket. In minutes, with no training or practice, she had herded all ten cows out the gate. She even knew to head for the gate my husband opened.

"Wow." We were impressed; she had a job for life.

As she matured, Panda became more serious about her job. Herding dogs like to know where everything in their territory is: Cattle, horses, people. Children. Other dogs.

I could imagine Panda at a children's party, in the middle of a crowd of tots: "Okay, you, the little girl with the pink bow, I want you over here."

And she'd put her there, using nips and rushes and snaps. "You, the boy with the suspenders, I want you by the tree. Faster!" "And you, with the high heels, the mother. Stop sniveling. I want you by that bush. Good. Now all of you, stay where you are."

Panda would patrol fiendishly, having done her job, again.

Most of the time, she's nice to adults. We don't have any little kids around so they're safe from her compulsion to arrange the world. She's the top dog here, running any other dogs with steely control. She's capable of displays of aggression that completely cowed two ferocious Great Danes we once owned. This dog would be top dog anywhere.

My little Sammy and Raj, as we had named the Cocker mix and his Dachshund-Cocker sidekick, ran out into the sunshine, tails wiggling, bounding with love and happiness, straight into the jaws of . . .


PANDA'S BEEN PUTTING LARGER ANIMALS IN THEIR PLACES SINCE SHE WAS A PUPPY
Here, she's playing with a Authentico BSN, a young Peruvian Paso colt we bred.

Sammy wiggled by her. He probably should be a diplomat; he can get through any horrendous situation peacefully. He wiggled on to the front lawn, where he stayed. (He's also smart.)

Panda rammed herself into Raj, and kept bouncing toward him stiff legged and growling like a creature Stephen King might write. She was ready to grab him by the neck, pitting her seventy plus pounds against the underweight Cocker's twenty four. One last lunge and she'd . .

It happened before I could say, "Oh, no! My poor little dog,"

Raj leapt at Panda, attacking with no holds barred. His initial assault flipped her on her back. There, he worried her, biting wherever he could. The Cocker swarmed all over her belly, biting, growling, screaming, trying to tear her to shreds. Panda resisted for seconds, and then began whimpering pitifully, trying to flip over so she could run away.

Then she was crying, real doggy sobs of terror. The Cocker kept at her, savaging her, snarling ferociously. He was a killer, clear and simple.

I ran for a broom, to try and separate them.

I didn't get a chance to wield it. In a frenzy of rage, Raj jumped off of Panda and ran helter skelter, making a wide circle around the front lawn. We ran to help Panda.

Hearing the commotion, Sumo, our seventy-five pound plus, German Shepherd mix, came running up the driveway. He barreled across the lawn, straight into Raj's orbit. Raj launched into Sumo with the same homicidal ferocity with which he'd decimated Panda. (Who hid behind me as I watched the new conflagration.)

The dogs fought, rolling, growling, snapping, tumbling. They fought all over the front lawn, across the driveway, and into the garage. They rolled and snapped. The noise terrified me. And then they were under the hind end of my car––they couldn't get all the way under, but they were trying, fighting to the death by the rear wheel.

Another participant emerged. At the time the fight broke out, our cat happened to be under the car. This is a big cat, a mighty cat. He joined in the fray like it was made for him. Cat hisses and screams joined the dog sounds. A blur of black and white fur, legs, claws whirled from under the car.

We stood by watching helplessly. They looked like they were going to kill each other.

As abruptly as it started, the fight ended. Sumo clawed his way free and stood, trembling, behind my husband. The cat escaped to the rafters of the garage and wasn't seen for days.

When we could move, we examined all the aminals. Amazingly, no physical damage had been done. The dogs had very heavy coats, as did the cat, and Cockers have small mouths, relatively speaking. Raj hadn't been able to penetrate their fur, for all his trying. They hadn't been able to touch him.

We stood speechless and traumatized.

What had I brought home from the pound?


NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE
How many people have been surprised when the beautiful creature they love turns out to be different than he or she appears?
I'm not just talking about dogs, either.

It got worse. When Raj realized he could whip the other dogs any time he wanted, he became a monster. Whenever he got out of the back yard, he was on patrol. He picked fights, attacking before the older, larger dogs even thought of it. These were peaceful dogs. Neither of them had ever been in a serious fight in his or her life. Panda's dominance displays were just that: for show. And yeah, they'd worked, but not in the face of a real fighter.

I didn't know what to do. Every time Raj won, the big dogs tucked tail and ran. Soon, they slunk around, running at the mere whiff of him. Raj got bigger. You know how schoollyard bullies get puffed up and walk around several times larger than the other kids? That was Raj. And the other two shrunk.

Soon, he was about thirty feet high, swaggering around the ranch looking pleased with himself. The two older dogs were down to the size of gophers, slipping around however they could.

 


POOR SUMO WAS SO SCARED HE HID IN THE CART

 


I'D FIND HIM AND COMFORT HIM.

POOR SUMO, WHAT A TERRIBLE THING TO HAPPEN!

IT MADE ME SICK. I wanted to see that little creep get his comeuppance so badly. That little punk chasing good, and very big, dogs around like that. Dogs that had been with us for years. Disgusting. Raj never went after a person, but other animals were all fair game.

This was very scary. Was this the dreaded Cocker Rage Syndrome I'd heard about? We'll talk about that in a moment.

This wasn't all. My wonderful, bliss-filled and seemingly miraculous finding of my dogs and bringing them home had turned my peaceful, balanced life into a COMPLETE SHAMBLES IN WEEKS! In weeks, we had to sneak in and out of our house, making sure Raj didn't get out and attack the other animals. (One cat took up residence in the garage's attic; the other cat disappeared.)

There's more . . .

May 22, 2006

Dear Readers,

I'm going to have to leave you hanging. I'm so sorry . . . I've put up this portion of the Problem Dog article because it was already written. The rest is about what happened next and how we solved our problem. (Life often gets worse before better.) Alas, writing the ending is going to have to wait. My book is out and requires my attention for marketing. I'm doing the last bit of rewriting on my novel, Numenon, which will hopefully come outlate this year. We've got web site redos, photo shoots . . . This ol' gal is trotting pretty fast.

I will get back and finish this doggie tale as soon as I can. Please know that your readership on this web site has prompted me to begin work on a "Dog Book". It features the dogs above in their adventures, and my adventures in expanding the love I feel for my doggie friends. That's coming up in the future. We'll go into operant conditioning––positive dog training––and meet some fascinating and very nice people.

If you'd like to read more of my writing, Stepping Off the Edge is available. In Stepping, I use mostly horsey stories as examples. In all my work my life with animals figures prominently.

All the best,

Sandy Nathan


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STEPPING OFF THE EDGE: LEARNING & LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

 

A MODERN SPIRITUAL COMPANION

 

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NUMENON
A TALE OF MYSTICIAM & MONEY MENON

 

"BILL GATES MEETS DON JUAN."

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TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD

BORN PREMATURELY ON A FREEZING NIGHT, THE COLT HAD TO FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE.

A

THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY

 

A FUTURE WORLD ONLY HEARTBEATS FROM OUR OWN

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AUTHOR SANDY NATHAN IS THE WINNER OF SEVENTEEN NATIONAL AWARDS!
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SANDY NATHAN
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