Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is that a Doberman?

The other day, Elka and I were out for a walk.  As we were leaving the park, a woman, perhaps in her 80's, crossed the street to the park and beelined for us.  She put her hands out to Elka, who went to her, and as she was petting my dog, said "What kind of a dog is this?"

"She's a Doberman," I said in a cheery tone, and waited.

Looking down at Elka, still petting, the lady said "A Doberman! I've never seen one up close.  I didn't know they had such sweet faces."

On our walks, human reactions to Elka are extremely polarized.  Sometimes people will cross the street, or stand in the street pretending to cross, until we are past, so that they don't need to walk close to my dog, who is obviously a vicious killer.  Sometimes people will stop their cars in the middle of the road, roll down the window closest to me, and tell me how beautiful my dog is.  Sometimes people will shelter an obviously interested child from Elka's also-interested gaze and hustle them along.  This is a shame, because teaching kids to fear dogs isn't the way to go, I feel.  Also, Elka loves kids, so she gets visibly disappointed.

Another encounter:  Elka and I were walking past the YMCA and a mother came up the steps.  She looked at us and smiled, but then looked to her daughter, who was running up the handicapped ramp.  The little girl was three or four, and she got to the top, near us, saw Elka, and started to cry.  She ran to her mother, who seemed a bit confused, and said "were you surprised to see them there?"  The little girl nodded.  I had Elka sit.  The little girl and her mother looked at us, mother still smiling.  I said "She won't hurt you, she's just big.  Do you want to see her wave?"  I hope you cooperate, I thought at Elka, very hard.  The little girl tearfully nodded.  I said "Elka, wave!" and leaned over and whispered "testify!"  Elka threw up her left paw, the little girl laughed, the mother laughed, and all was right with the world.

Another:  Elka and I were walking down the sidewalk past a rental, and three college girls came out and got onto the sidewalk behind us, bearing sunbathing paraphernalia.  They stopped talking mid-sentence as Elka glanced at them (they were right behind us) and one girl asked "What kind of a dog is that?"  "She's a Doberman." The girl turned to her friends and declared "That is what a Doberman should look like." They got in their car and drove away.

Those are more or less nice ones, though.  Nobody shrank from us or threw holy water or anything.  At the vet once, the waiting room had enough people in it that we didn't walk around the way we normally would.  so, I sat on one of the strangely pew-like benches that they have, and Elka walked back and forth at the end of her leash, complaining to me about the state of affairs, before finally deciding she'd had enough of all that, put her front paws up on my shoulder, and crawled up into my lap.  A woman (who appeared to be sans pet, I don't really know what she was doing) had sat rather near us on the same bench during this performance, and as Elka settled in my lap, looked at her disdainfully, and said in a not-nice voice "is this your first time having a dog like that?"  I looked at Elka, who cuddled her head against me, and smiled at the woman (not entirely nicely) and said "Yes, she's my first Doberman."  I still wonder what "like that" was supposed to mean.  Did she think I was spoiling a working dog?  Did she think Elka's vocal complaints were a precursor to aggressiveness?  I didn't bother asking.  

Elka has also scared the occasional food delivery person.  I'm working on having her sit, or stand, and wait far enough from the door that I can have the inside door open, deal with the delivery person through the screen door, and take the food inside, without having to move the dog multiple times.  I'm not really worried about her running outside (she's only done that once), but I don't need to trip over her while holding hot food.  One pizza guy took one look at her and then stepped out of sight, to the side of the door.  I had to go out on the porch to finish the transaction, and the bring the pizza inside.

I guess delivery people run into a lot of ill behaved dogs, many of which bark, some of which bite, and they don't want to take chances with a beastie as big as Elka.  But I also can't help but think that if she was a Lab or a Poodle of the same size, they wouldn't be bothered, but maybe that's just me.  By and large, the reaction has been positive, or at least one of awe.  I know I shouldn't let the negative ones bother me, as most of them seem born out of ignorance, or at least of an image that no longer represents the breed.  To my credit, I only resorted to name calling once.  

And it is important to note that many joggers are not prejudiced at all.  It doesn't matter to them who they're brushing past on the sidewalk, they'll do it regardless!


  1. what a fab post, i really enjoyed that one. people are so wierd arent they.

    1. People are very weird! Especially with what they'll casually say to complete strangers.