I was in LA this past week, to record a TV show. That was the up side of the trip.While I was there a dog decided to wrap its jaws around my leg and gnaw on it. That was the down side of the trip.
Yet still, while standing there blocking that dog from my face with my arms and shaking my leg to remove it from my calf, I remembered a whole cavalcade of childhood moments with dogs: Our German shepherd, Hildy, circling me whenever she thought I might be up to something I shouldn't be. I was about 7 years old at the time, and Hildy would bump her way around me holding me in place until I had time to decide against some impending choice—climb a tree too tall for me, slide down a muddy bank toward the raging torrent that was our town creek in spring. If she held me there long enough, maybe I would come to my senses, and often I did. If I didn't, I heard about it: Bark! Bark! Bark!
In that same moment, dog bothering my leg in L.A., I remembered Dutch our dachshund who eternally positioned himself nearby, the moment I sat down, and dutifully placed his paw on my foot. That's all. He didn't bark. He didn't lick. He just silently and consistently made contact.
And then there was Adelheit ("Ad" for short, another German shepherd) who ruled the Ridge where we lived in Osceola, Nebraska. All other dogs bowed down to her, rolled over and revealed their tummies. She had her counterpart in my best friend,Terri Howe's, German shepherd, Pi, named after a tray of printer's type. (The family she lived with ran our small town's newspaper.) Pi never bowed down. Ad and Pi simply touched noses and gamboled down the street.
All these dogs were friends of mine. I had never once been afraid of a dog, never doubted my ability to communicate with any animal—raccoons, dogs, birds, rabbits, horses, cats. We had raised them all—my mother was the Florence Nightingale of animals in our town—and I considered myself animal savvy.
But this L.A. dog did not like me.