Monday, December 29, 2008

Love your neighbor, even when she's mauling you

I took Scout over to my mom's this week. Dali needed a new crate, and I found a lovely one on sale. So we popped over to set it up.

Scout and Dali, my daughter's dog, spend lots of time together in the summer. Scout runs around my mom's huge yard, and while Dali needs to be leashed, the two of them romp and play and splash in the wading pool.

But this was the first time Scout and Dali had been in the house together since Dali has become a full-sized dog. She used to spend lots of time with us when she was a little puppy, but it was causing problems with Murphy, and Scout just hid upstairs when she was here. That, coupled with the puppy peeing, made it hard to have another dog around.

When we got to my mom's, Scout had a great romp around my mom's yard, tearing around the house like a bullet shot out of a gun and diving into snow piles. He knows how long Dali's leash is, and can stay just beyond her reach while they play outside.

Inside, though, was another matter. Dali and Scout are fairly close in size, but Dali has about 10 pounds on Scout. Dali is also a very assertive, dominant dog, so the whole time we were there she was all over Scout. Scout, on the other hand, is a gentle, submission dog. So while Dali spent hours trying to wrestle Scout, he spent the whole time trying to get away.

I could see that he was getting frustrated, and while I've read a bunch about dogs I'm still not sure how to handle the situation. Yell at Dali? Lock Scout in the car till it's time to leave? It is Dali's house, after all, so I didn't want to step on her dominance.

In the end, I just let them work it out, and to my surprise, my submissive, gentle dog finally turned on Dali with teeth bared, and let out a couple of long, low growls. I kept waiting for a dog fight to break out, but Scout would just give a warning and Dali would back off for a minute before coming back at Scout with a playful pawing on the head.

My poor dog. I hated to let him be subjected to an hour of mauling, but he taught me a good lesson. It would have been easy for him to simply turn around and bite Dali. I'm pretty sure she was just playing, and if he turned on her she may have left him alone. Then again, she might have been waiting for Scout to take the bait and engage in a little tussle to see who was the top dog.

Instead, Scout kept his cool. He gave a few polite (but scary) warnings, and in the end just held it together until it was time to go.

When Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek and to love our enemies and our neighbors, I wonder if this is what he means. We may have a right to argue or even fight, but often that doesn't do much more than inflame a situation. If we give a little warning, then take a breath and bear the annoyance for a little while, we keep someone from getting hurt, physically and figuratively.

And in the end, the gentle dog keeps his gentle reputation.

No comments: