My dog killed a cat.
Just let those words roll around in your mouth a minute. Wait ‘till they’re good and chewed before you try to swallow. Let them sit in your stomach and digest a few days, and then write about it.
When I finally got the keys to my new house, of first importance was retrieving my dog from the generous family in Gilbert who was taking care of her. Upon this joyful reunion, however, I innocently asked how Kira did with the woman’s cats.
“Oh…she killed one.”
She killed one.
If it wasn’t so tragic it’d be hilarious, don’t you think? “Oh, thanks for taking care of my pet…sorry she mauled and killed yours.” I called my friend the moment I left the property. “Well, that’s awkward,” she said.
This has prompted much thought on Animal nature, regardless of Petsmart training classes, personalized tags, human names and shared beds. I can anthropomorphize the crap out of my dog, but she is a dog. She likes to chase and kill animals.
She makes me nervous at dog parks. If there’s a chihuahua or some tiny thing running around she becomes feral; eyes fixated, her body tense. And if I don’t physically stop her, she will propel herself toward the unsuspecting canine, usually barreling into it, her mouth clamped around the thing’s neck. There is no calling her off her chase; she doesn’t seem to hear me or take note of her surroundings when there is “prey” to be mauled.
You know what else she does? She attacks any dog, regardless of size, age, or gender, if I’m sitting and the other gets too close. Or even looks like it’d want to get close. If I am sitting, my dog is a territorial bitch and fiercely defensive. It’s completely inappropriate and I reprimand her, but this problem hasn’t abated.
The past few days I’ve meditated on how animal my Kira is. She seems wilder than other dogs. She is wiry, stalking, watching. If I am home, I am never out of her sight. She will wake from her nap and follow me to the kitchen, then back to my bedroom, and wait outside the bathroom door. They say its because she is a Border Collie/ German Shepherd mix.
I spoke with a friend about Kira’s…behavior, and this friend suggested what I already suspect; that Kira is insecure because her pack keeps changing (she’s moved homes and changed families at least every six months in the last four years, and the past seven months? I don’t even want to think about it.) and this insecurity causes her to try desperately to defend what she sees as hers. (i.e. me.) For an animal that craves leadership and stability, my dog’s transient lifestyle has been torture. You wouldn’t know it watching her zoom around the park this morning, tongue lolling, but if you saw her wary eyes when I leave the house or the way she keeps her head low and paces around, you’d suspect she doesn’t quite know her place.
Or maybe I’m attributing my own insecurities to her.
Nevertheless, my dog is not, as I’ve always claimed, good with other dogs and certainly not with cats.
It was recommended I do the “right” thing and find her a stable home. My stomach churned.
The truth is, my “rescuing” of Kira was not for her good, it was for mine. I was sixteen and lonely and she was the cutest damn puppy you’d ever seen. And I do love her. But it is definitely a self-benefitting kind of love. I need her more than she needs me. Certainly this was the case when she was an eight-week-old whirl of potential. Now she is almost five, “quirky” and fiercely attuned to my every move.
I wrestled with the idea, as I always do when I know deep-down that I use Kira. I use her for companionship, a walking buddy, an ice-breaker, and a confidence booster. (“Oh, your dog sits on command? My dog sits on command from afar, then lies down and crawls to me, sits back up and gives me a high-five with a paw corresponding to the hand I hold out to her. She also doesn’t beg for table scraps, because ewe, who wants a dog up in your grill when you’re eating??”)
How strange, the way we use animals. The way we need them. How strange when we’re shocked and appalled that they aren’t us; my dog has no concept of morality and certainly no regard for the bonds others have for their pets. She is so other. She can kill for the joy of the chase, and she could, conceivably, bite the hand that feeds her.
Have you ever ridden a horse? I used to work at a ranch in high school and one daily chores wa lunging. You hook up the horse’s halter to a long-line, stand in the center of a ring, and get the animal to walk, trot, and canter around in circles around you. Working with the two-year-olds always got to me. They were young, strong, and seemed arrogant of their bodies. The boys kicked, tossed their heads, fake-charged at me, and I stood yards away terrifyingly small and defenseless. Their muscles were fascinating, fluid and perfect. Their snorts, their wild eyes, the way they kicked up dust just for the Hell of it. Oh, I was so in love with those horses. Their strength and beauty! There is nothing like a horse at full speed. I was always amazed they didn’t kill me.
Riding them is the same feeling. Here is this animal, this huge, muscled animal, and there you are, small and somehow you’re sitting on him, just trusting he isn’t going to snap and throw you, then stomp you to a pulp. I rode every day for years and never got over that exhilaration and amazement.
Actually, I hope I never do. I hope I am always fascinated by our relationships with companion animals. I hope I never discredit my dog’s carnivorous nature, or a horse’s power. I hope I never take for granted that Kira is my docile, obedient shadow. I hope I never attribute my character to her. She is not an extension of myself; she is utterly separate, an independent being.
I love and need her…but I’ll never 100% trust her.