Friday, May 10, 2013

When did common courtesy go out of style?

And exactly where was I when it did? 

Because my personality doesn't lend itself to being "friendly" (I have a serious face and matching personality) I always try to go the extra mile to smile and be nice, and that means extending my Southern manners when necessary (in public). 

I took Ryka and Calyspo for their yearly Rabies shots on Saturday. It was "low cost vaccination day" or something like that. Rabie vaccines were $10 and a full set of shots only cost $40. You just cannot beat a deal like that as the same shots will cost nearly $200 at the vet's office.

Ryka and Calypso rarely leave the yard, so they are not the most 'socialized' dogs around. They haven't grasped the fact that people do not like for them to jump up and lick them on the face. And, they most certainly are not used to being around other dogs without a fence between them, so this trip to a school where there would be dogs of all sizes (as well as owners) and breeds and temperaments caused a little concern for me.  

From a previous outing, I knew that I had to have them leashed before we even left the house. This way, I could grab the leases as I opened  (and they shove) the back door to the suburban, because they are a couple of anxious dogs when it comes to seeing new sites (all 75 pounds each). 

So, the leases were secured to them as soon as they hopped in to the back of the suburban and they were fine with that. They love to ride so the seven mile trip was uneventful. Ryka loves to lay down and go to sleep, while Calypso likes to look out of the windows - all of them! There are nose prints everywhere. So much for using the rear view mirror to see anything but Calypso making new nose prints!

I had planned to arrive early to hopefully be one of the first in line, because if not, I knew it would be a long afternoon sitting in the car waiting to be the last dogs vaccinated. 

There were only a few people in line when we arrived and I definitely breathed a sigh of relief. I was hoping that by the time the line grew, Ryka and Calypso would be acclimated to their surroundings and would settle down. Well, that plan didn't work and I was left trying to think of a plan B. That wasn't working either. The dogs weigh in somewhere around 75 pounds each and are a little intimidating. People tend to place German shepherds in the 'scary' breed category, and they were more than willing to give us a wide berth as we waited in line. 

That was, until a neighbor from the hood showed up with his two huge dogs. The minute that Ryka and Calypso caught their scent, they started pulling on the leases. I stepped over Calypso and placed her between my legs as she is the more rumbustious of the two. Ryka began barking as well, but was content to stay at my side. By this time, everyone's eyes were on us. All I was thinking, was 'oh joy'. Even after the look I had gotten from the neighbor when he walked up, I pulled out my Southern manners and asked politely if he would leave a little space between the dogs. His response wasn't that courteous and I thought for a minute I would have to take my two dogs to the car. 

I was not going to risk a dog fight or having someone pull a gun from their vehicle thinking they were going help. You just can't be too careful these days.

I think the fact that everyone heard me ask politely, and all eyes were on him at that point, he did keep his dogs at a distance. I explained to those watching that the dogs were neighbors and didn't particularly care for one another, then turned my attention to calming down my dogs.  Ryka and Calypso settled down and I was happy to not lose my place in line. 

While adults may be leery of German shepherds, toddlers are not. Even with Calypso barking, the cutest little toddler walked over and held out his hand to her. He was rewarded with a huge kiss for his efforts. I've noticed that Calypso and Ryka (and Sentry, now deceased) live up to their name and reputations as 'shepherds'. 

We finally made it to the front of the line and Ryka was given her shot and she was really good. Then, the vet turned to give Calypso her shot and Ryka was intent on watching so she had to move her head out of the way. Ryka responded by giving her a huge, sloppy kiss on the face. 

I am so glad shots are only once a year!

A little more about German shepherds:

When there are children around and the dogs notice that they are wandering a little further from the adult than they think is safe, they will bark. Most, make that 99% of people only see a barking dog and they become afraid. They do not see that the 'herder' is letting them know the child is no longer at a safe distance. I am in no way saying every dog should be trusted, use your common sense. If you have dogs in the vicinity of your home, you should research the breed and speak to the owners so that you become familiar with the temperament of their dogs. German shepherds, in general, are bred as family dogs and protectors.

Several years before Sentry passed away, one of the neighbors stopped by with his little boy who was about two at the time. He put the child down because we have a fenced in yard and because he expected the child to stay close. Sentry had been watching the child through the fence since he was a baby and had formed a protective attachment to him. 

Sentry sat down and was on guard with the child. As he stepped away from his dad, she barked. At this point, I began watching what was going on. The child continued moving away from his dad and Sentry rose and walked to the outside of the child and tried to block him with her body, while easing him toward his dad. The little boy wasn't having any part of it as he wanted to explore. She tried again to ease him back toward his dad. I am going to add that the dad was oblivious to what was happening. I was fascinated. When the child stepped further away, Sentry changed her tactics. She walked up behind him and nudged him in the back to make him walk to his father. The nudge was little forceful (this was a two year old and didn't take much of a nudge) and he went sprawling at his dad's feet. 

Needless to say, I started laughing and had to explain to a panicked father that Sentry was not attacking his child, but protecting him. While a visiting parent might panic, I knew my dog's temperament and had watched her in action. There was nothing to worry about in this situation. 

Neighbors to the other side of us now have a little boy about 18 months old. Ryka and Calypso know the exact time he comes home with his mom each day and they are sitting at the fence waiting. They absolutely adore him - and their only relationship with this child is through the fence. They are protective in the same way that Sentry was. When he is playing with his dad and they feel he is too far away from him, they are at attention and barking. To the neighbor, they are annoying, but I know their habits and personalities, and they are only being protective. Again, I spend an enormous amount of time with my dogs and I often observe them in different situations and know their protective tactics. 

I would recommend to anyone who lives in a neighborhood with pets, to get to know the animals and their owners. Then you will be able to make an educated guess about the dog's reactions in different circumstances. 

If you have any questions about Ryka or Calypso, or German shepherds, I invite you to leave a comment with your questions and I will be glad to answer them. 

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