Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winston The Wonder Dog Returns: The Script We Know Too Well

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published December 27, 2012]  © 2012 
Winston, our beloved but massively high maintenance grand dog, is back in residence again for one of his prolonged visits to Camp Grammy and Grampy.   My younger son, Henri, and his wife, Erica (Winston’s owners) and my husband, Olof, and I are all besotted with Winston. But we are especially besotted with him when he’s at the other party’s house. 
Winston, I should note up front, is wonderfully affectionate (if overly enthusiastic) around people, and is a breed recommended for young families.  In fact, we have not a moment’s concern about him with our young grandchildren.  But he is definitely leash aggressive and has a tendency to charge our front gate when other dogs come by looking not unlike a pit bull on steroids. 

I’ve read on numerous occasions that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.  How about bad trainers?  Winston has been failed by more alleged animal experts than you can count.  During one of Winston’s lengthier sojourns at our home, I chronicled the saga of our finally hiring a trainer advertised as the Cesar Milan of San Diego who, to my horror, showed up with a shock collar.  (

Over four months, I spent three hours a day dedicated to training Winston and by the time he went back home, he was vastly improved.  But for $200 per hour of dog training and hundreds of hours of my time, I thought he should be at minimum a candidate for canine canonization.  You know:  Lassie,  Rin Tin Tin, Winston.  Alas, even with his behavior collar turned up to Defcon One, nothing will dissuade Winston if a big black dog or small white fluffy one (Winston is a specialist) should cross his path.  Of course, he can’t actually get to them (leash, gate), but he’s willing to die (and/or hurl Grandma face first to the pavement) trying. 

As soon as Olof and I learned that the kids were going back east for Christmas with the other grandparents this year, it was a foregone conclusion we’d end up with Winston for another of his Holidays in La Jolla.  Given Winston’s unpredictable behavior around other dogs, he is not kennel material, unless the fellow guests are all Chihuahuas whom he mysteriously loves.  Olof and I even discussed whether to take the heroic route and just volunteer. I mean, it wasn’t as though we didn’t know the script well. Sure enough:

Act I, Scene 1:   As the kids are about to leave at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, Henri asks, as if an afterthought:  Oh, by the way, could we take Winston for the week when they are away at Christmas?   One of them (read Erica) could bring Winston down just before they go and another of them (read Erica again) could come down and get him as soon as they return.  It would be ten days max.

Act I, Scene 2: Henri says he knows we know how miserable Winston is if left home alone with merely a dog sitter service to check on him twice a day; he’s such a social animal. (He really is.) 

Act II, Scene 1: Since we’ve said yes (we could swear that neither of us has said yes), if it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience, while they (read Erica) are more than willing to make the (massively inconvenient with two tiny kids) trip down here from L.A. in all that nasty traffic for drop off and another for pick up, six hours each time (we’d genuinely hate to do this to Erica, whom we adore),  it would help them more than we can even fathom if they could just leave Winston here now until After the New Year. (Note indeterminate pickup date.)

Act II, Scene 2:  They’d be our best friends forever. (OK, maybe he didn’t say that.)

Act III, Scene 1:  Going in for the close, Henri goes on to say that they were waiting to see how Olof looked (Olof had some unexpected surgery that went terribly wrong this fall), and they are thrilled to see that he looks absolutely GREAT!   So much better than they could have imagined given his harrowing saga! 

Act III, Scene 2:  Henri and family drive off a short time later leaving us standing in the front yard clutching Winston’s leash and bowl.  “You know, Olof,” I say, “It really wouldn’t have hurt you to act a little more frail and incapacitated.” 

Final Act: Winston, meanwhile, licks my hand. Then takes off like a shot for the gate.



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