Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Caution: Viewer Discretion Advised

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published March 2, 2016] ©2016

Now, let me say that our English bulldog Winston, were he able to speak, would be grievously offended to hear himself referred to as socially deviant. From his point of view, a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do even if the dog has been fixed and isn’t supposed to do it anymore.

Call me naïve, but I really thought neutering a dog was supposed to make him, well, uninterested.  But even after Winston went under the knife, there would be the odd occasion when we’d be having a dinner party on our patio and a guest would suddenly exhibit a certain telltale twitching indicating to us that Winston was under the table having a close encounter of the interspecies kind.

Winston is almost nine, pretty senior for a bulldog, a breed for whom years of ill-considered inbreeding have created an ever-decreasing life span and a guarantee of asset-plundering vet bills for their owners. So it is an even more puzzling why, in the last year or so, Winston’s proclivities for canine-human limb interaction would have increased exponentially. He seems to have rediscovered the fountain of doggie youth, not only in interest but in, er, function. My husband Olof, far from being dismayed, says it gives hope to old guys everywhere.

No dinner guest is safe at our house. I confess I have spent more than little time pondering why Winston picks one particular leg out of all the legs under the table. Why not the leg three seats down? Just as some people are more attractive to mosquitos than others, do some human legs emit subtle pheromones that say “come and get me” to dogs? This just screams ‘Science Fair Project’ to me.

As we entertained the woman CEO of Olof’s former company one night last summer, she reached out from her low-slung Adirondack chair to pet Winston only to have him mount her arm.  He had it in a death grip, possibly because this was his first upper limb experience. The CEO’s increasingly physical efforts to dislodge him only seemed to prove mutual excitement. “Woo-hoo!” he seemed to think, “She’s really into me!”

Fortunately, the CEO is (a) a nice person, (b) a dog owner and, most importantly (c) no longer controls Olof’s pay check. Because whenever Winston sees her now, she can’t even reach for a canape before Winston makes his move. You never forget your first arm.

Historically, we have always let Winston mingle with dinner guests because he’s a very social animal and most of our friends are dog people. Usually people’s worst complaint about Winston is that in true English bulldog fashion, he will wait until the main course has just been served to release a nuclear-strength kibble-scented air biscuit into the proceedings. Fortunately, we usually eat outside. Sometimes that’s not enough.

Sadly for Winston, he now often spends dinner party time locked in our bedroom where he hurls himself against the door in frustrated outrage. It’s not that we don’t give him a chance to observe social graces. But first leg and he’s gone.

What’s equally alarming these days, however, are Winston’s proclivities toward other dogs. Friends of our son’s came over with their dog, Snarfle, and their two preschool children. While we were chatting, one of the tots inquired, “What is Snarfie doing, Mommy?”

“Winston!” I said, grabbing him by the collar. “Bad dog!”  I apologized profusely to the dog’s owners and to Snarfle as well, although Snarfle didn’t seem to be unduly distressed about it all.  In fact, a tad disappointed.

But the kids weren’t letting this go.  When they first came, we had explained sniffing behavior to them, as in this is how doggies get to know each other, how they make friends. The three-year-old inquired, “Was Snarfie making friends?” 

“And then some,” I muttered. 

Olof, ever the devil’s advocate, hadn’t been there at the time, but commented, “Who are we to interfere with consenting canines?” Of course, Olof had not been standing there in the company of two intensely curious tots who will hopefully not decide to impart the graphics of canine friend-making to their preschool classmates when it’s their turn for Sharing.

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