The dog ate my . . .

Bramhall Square
By CAITLIN SHETTERLY  |  August 30, 2006

Underwear. Socks. Bandana. Espadrilles. Couch. Favorite pillow. Savings. Relationship. Career. Life.

And don’t fucking tell me to watch the Dog Whisperer.

My dog, Hopper, has an oral fixation. He has now chewed through five leashes costing a total of $60.87, not to mention the two he has not yet devoured (one cotton, one retractable) and then the replacement we got for the one he was wearing the other night when he and I both got sprayed by a skunk. This puts us close to $100 in dog leashes alone. Don’t even get me started on the skunk.

The first, I assumed, was a fluke thing — like an anxiety problem — it was only his second day for God’s sake, and I’d tied his leash to my desk chair so I could get a half-hour of work done. Then it started to become a problem no amount of yelling and “no” and ignoring and dominant stances and cornering and back-turning and little slaps to his butt would fix. He does it while we’re jogging, as I hang on like Ishmael trying to hold Moby Dick on a floss line and my enormous dog jumps around me in circles, leash in his mouth, teeth slicing it into tiny bits, and I do my best not to fall down and in my best authoritative alpha voice command him, fruitlessly, to stop. He does it if you leave the leash in the car and go into a store for more than 10 minutes. He finds his leash when you go to the bathroom and has gotten through it by the time you’ve finished peeing. If you’re stupid enough to leave his leash on him in the back seat, he’ll demolish it by the time you get to Mackworth Island.

I know what you’re going to say: “Watch the Dog Whisperer.” Right? This is what everyone has told us. From day one, I was receiving e-mails and phone calls: “Watch that show the Dog Whisperer.” Once, a handsome guy in a red sports car with Masshole license plates yelled “Cute dog” to me out the window, to which I responded (having just walked 4.5 miles, cleaned up four cups of diarrhea, gone online to read more about dogs with irritable bowel disease, and bought yet another leash), “You want him?” “Nah, can’t have dogs where I live, but, hey, you know what?” “What?” “Watch the Dog Whisperer!” he yelled as he sped away, his hand cupping his mouth to impart this wisdom which he felt so smart to share. Only I hear it seven times a day.

The Dog Whisperer phenomenon threatened for a time to kill my relationship. As soon as we started watching this cable TV show hosted by genius dog trainer Cesar Millan, Cowboy and I started fighting about who was holding the dog correctly (me), whether Cowboy was being dominant enough, and who was radiating the most tension through the leash.

“You’re communicating tension to the dog,” I say. “When you’re not watching, he doesn’t behave like this,” he says. “Well, show me that you know how to hold him like Cesar. I need to see you do it.” “You’re making me tense,” he says. “Well, you’re making the dog tense,” I say, “No wonder he chews all his leashes. They’re his umbilical cord to the most tense person in the world: you!”

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