Mr. T’s home is at the tail end of a row of horizontal condominium-type townhouses, snuggled within a housing complex.  The Homeowners’ Association rules state that dogs cannot be outside the house if not leashed.  Fair enough.

For the entire time he has been living there (nine years), Mr. T has blatantly ignored this rule.  When he moved in, he had a Sheltie named Morticia.  Although I never met her, I’ve heard that this wonder dog put Lassie to shame.  She was brilliant, well-mannered, loved cats, and responded unfailingly to Mr. T’s commands.  Because she was such a good dog, he would walk her around the complex without a leash, and nobody would complain (not even Crazy Cat Spinster).

Morticia died two years ago, just before I met Mr. T.  At the beginning of our relationship I introduced him to Morena, my wild child Terrier mix from the streets of Mexico, and she seemed to lift his spirits with her spunky personality and crazy quirks.

Morena is far from being the perfect dog: she loves to chase cats, she’s territorial (a defense mechanism from her days as a stray), and she barks at big dogs (wouldn’t you, if you were all of 15 lbs. and had been terrorized as a puppy?).  However, she’s also extremely loyal, unfailingly comes when I call her, can walk down busy streets off lead and stops at each intersection, and she can brighten anyone’s day when she grins or snorts (yes, she grins and snorts when she’s happy).

A few months ago, Checkers came on the scene.  Mr. T’s new puppy is a lovely mini Aussie, expensively carefully bred to have a mild-mannered disposition and a high level of intelligence.  Our two dogs took to each other, and at first Mr. T was happy that Checkers had a “big sister” to play with.

However, as dogs are prone to doing, Checkers started imitating some of Morena’s bad behaviors – mainly that of barking at other dogs when they approach.  We have tried to discourage this behavior in both dogs, but we seem to be at a loss for an effective solution.  I can tell that Mr. T is not thrilled with his dog’s new habit, and he blames Morena for setting a bad example.

As if this situation weren’t stressing the relationship enough (because the man can be quite neurotic about his dog), a few days ago Mr. T left the front door of the house open when I wasn’t around, and Morena ran out.  She smelled cat and instinctively chased Crazy Cat Spinster’s feline up the steps to the neighbor’s porch.  Crazy Cat Spinster threatened to lodge a complaint, and this morning Mr. T received a formal notice stating that if either of our dogs were caught off lead, we would be fined.

I apologized to Mr. T for my dog’s behavior and assured him that I would be careful to have her on lead when we were outside.  What the hell more am I supposed to do??

However, methinks my man has taken the drama a bit too far…

“I almost never had Morticia on lead,” he wrote in an e-mail (because apparently he was too chicken to call me and discuss this).  “Yet she was attentive to my verbal command at nearly all times.  She was trained quite persistently by me from an early age to not bark or show any sort of aggression towards other pets or children at any time.  [Even the neighbor didn’t have a problem with Morticia, who was always offlead at home.]  I have been working hard to train Checkers in a similar manner.”

He continued, “Morena has just been trained very differently.  She has been allowed to have a sense of ‘her territory’ that she is allowed to ‘defend’, and you condone and praise her somewhat aggressive actions at times, when it is justified from your more complex human perspective (for instance, if you, but perhaps not others, understand that she has no real aggressive intent beyond making noise).”

Because, of course, it’s really easy to make a street mutt understand that she no longer has to patrol her territory.  And have her comprehend that barking at 100 lb. Golden Retrievers is not kosher in the rich kids’ neighborhood.  And where does he get off saying that I “condone and praise” her actions???  Since when is a yank on her leash and a sharp “No!” followed by “Sit!” considered “condoning and praising”???

You know what REALLY irks me?  The fact that it was me… ME… who house-broke Checkers, because she was peeing all over the house and Mr. T didn’t seem overly concerned with her behavior.   He never even thanked me.

And something else.  I’m sure if you were to ask Checkers and Morena whether their lives are ruined because they now have to pee while attached to a leash, their response would be, “Leash?  Leash means walk!  Walk, I wanna go for a walk! Waaaaaaaaaaalk!!”  What it boils down to is that he’s projecting onto his dog his feelings of frustration and castration of freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is this a case of “Dog snob who can afford to pay $1,000 for a perfect dog and looks down his nose at the less fortunate creatures of the world” vs. “Humanitarian girl who is doing her best with the crazy mutt she rescued from the streets of Mexico”???

I’ll leave you with Mr. T’s final words: “The priviledges of both Morena and Checkers to walk, pee, and play ball outside my condo offlead are now revoked.  I just want you to understand how we got to this point, and for you to appreciate why it is important for both of us to train Checkers persistently in a very different manner than Morena was trained in terms of the permissibility of aggressive behavior.”

*sigh*  I need a beer.

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