A short story

The Dog Lady ( teaching children what not to do )

It was a winter’s morning.  Pitch black out there, as it was still early, and pouring with rain!  The wind howled, making the rain hit against the window like tiny stones being flung at the glass.  And then I heard it, as regular as clockwork – the car.  Up the hill it went, and stopped at the car park behind my house.  I couldn’t resist looking out of the window – it was difficult to see anything, but I heard them and could guess what they were doing. They flew out of the car and all I heard was the squeak of their toys as they ran happily round and round, before heading off for a walk with the Dog Lady.

Every day she walked her 2 dogs around the playing field behind my house.  It didn’t matter what the weather was like.  I thought she must really like walking her dogs!

I watched for a little while until they all went out of sight, into the distance, then leapt off my bed and ran downstairs for breakfast.

Thursday was my paper round night, so I had to be organised for school this morning.

Once I got home after school, I grabbed my paper bag and went to the newsagents to pick up the papers.  They were heavy, but I was strong!  There were only 30 houses I had to deliver to, then it was home for tea.  At least it had stopped raining by then!

After this I went to check on Facebook to see what everyone was up to.

Jamie and Connor were chatting and laughing about something – I joined in.

“Hey Aiden, how are you getting on with the project?” asked Connor. 

“Ah, he will have finished it by now!” joked Jamie.

“No, not started yet – will look up stuff this weekend – what about you two?”

“Yeah, me too” said Connor. 

“Mum says I should go and ask at the Vets to see which dog they find is the best pet”.

“Good idea!”

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On Saturday, I went to the local vets. I had always wanted a dog, but wasn’t allowed one – too much work apparently. I didn’t think that they would need too much work?!!  “And too expensive.”  Why expensive?!!  They don’t eat much?

Anyway, I had written down some questions, but had to wait for a while in the waiting room. I looked around at all the dogs and their owners.  The room was quite small and some people had to wait outside because their dogs were either too big or too frightened or something, I wasn’t sure.  There was an empty chair next to a big pointy eared, pointy nosed dog – I think it was a German Shepherd - but no one wanted to sit there, so I did.  I was a bit scared of this dog so didn’t touch it.

The other side of me there was a yellow Labrador. I knew that this was a Labrador because I saw them quite often in the town. 

I put my hand out to pat the dog on the top of its head, but it moved away before I could touch it, so I stood up and moved towards it so that I could reach.  It ducked its head, and moved away again.  Not very friendly I thought!

The owner told the dog off for being unfriendly and pulled him back so that I could stroke him – he growled!  The owner got really cross now and told the dog off again.  I was surprised – I always thought that Labradors were friendly – they train Labradors as Guide Dogs, so they must be friendly!

There was another smaller dog barking.  The owner picked it up and it kept on barking.  I didn’t want to touch that one.  Little dogs can be a bit snappy, I had heard.

Another dog was scrabbling trying to get to the door – everyone laughed as it tried to get out of the room, and said it must be like going to the dentist!  I wondered why that dog wanted to get to the door.  Why would a dog be frightened of a vet that is only helping them?  Why would the dog think it was scary like going to the dentist??  Strange.

Soon it was my turn and I asked the Animal Nurse my questions.

I was really confused, as she said that Labradors seemed to be the best pets!  How could that be?  I would have agreed but the dog in the waiting room was nasty to me.

I headed home.  I wrote my notes up and then went onto Facebook to check what the others were up to.

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The next day, I went round to the playing field to kick a ball around before lunch. 

Amazingly, the Dog Lady arrived with her 2 dogs.  She was late?!!

She let her dogs out of the car and they ran around with their squeaky toys in their mouth.

One of them was a Labrador and looked so happy.  I ran up to him and tried to hug him but the Dog Lady shouted “STOP!”

I had a shock, and stopped what I was doing before I got close to the dog.

“You must never do that to a dog you don’t know,” said the Dog Lady.

“Sorry” I said.  “What did I do wrong?”

“You must never do that to a dog you don’t know, because it might be scared.”

Scared I thought?  Why?  What on earth could that happy dog be scared of?  I’m friendly, I thought.  I wouldn’t do anything to frighten the dog.

The Dog Lady put her dogs on leads and explained to me that every animal can be scared of things that it is not used to.  If a dog has not experienced growing up with children, then they can be scared.  And she said that when they are scared, the only way they can communicate with us is to bark or growl, or run away.  She said that even if they know children, they might not be relaxed with a child they don’t know, running up to them like that.  They need time to observe the child from a distance, check out their smell and their behaviour first, before allowing the child to touch them, or before going up to the child.

I thought about the dog at the vets, that I tried to stroke.  I told the Dog Lady about that naughty dog.

She explained further, saying that the dog was not naughty, but it was scared. 

She said that dogs can be frightened of the vet’s surgery because sometimes bad things happen (from the dog’s point of view).  The dogs don’t know that what the vet does is for their own good.  The dog doesn’t speak English so we can’t explain to them that the stuff in the syringe that is about to be injected is to stop them getting diseases.  From the dog’s point of view, the needle of the syringe hurts!

This makes the dog want to avoid going to the vets.

The Dog Lady said that when I tried to touch the Labrador, when it moved away, it was communicating to me the best way it could, to say “Please leave me alone.  I am not happy with you touching me yet”.  Also, she said that dogs don’t really like the top of their heads being touched by people they don’t know.

When the owner pulled the dog back towards me, the dog became more scared and tried to get away again by ducking its head.  The dog would be really scared now, because even its owner, who is supposed to support him and guide him and be on his side, was cross!

The Dog Lady said that the dog could have been frightened of me because it hadn’t met children before, but she also said that it could know and like children, but the thought of the vet was so scary it just didn’t want to be touched at that moment.

Apparently dogs can smell really, really well.  They can smell out drugs and everything.  Police dogs can follow a smell of a bad person and chase them, and stop them from running away so the police man can put the handcuffs on!  Amazing!  Some dogs can smell when people are ill – like when they are going to have a seizure – and they warn the person, so that the person has time to go and sit down and be safe.  The person doesn’t even know they are going to have a seizure!

At the vets, the Dog Lady says that the smell of medicine, disinfectant and other scared dogs makes the dog more frightened in the waiting room.  They also hear other animals crying and that makes them more worried.  They see other dogs in the waiting room being scared too, like the dog that was scrabbling to get to the door – and that all adds to their fear.

On top of this, the humans are all agitated, telling their dogs off for making a noise, or for pulling, or whining…….so this doesn’t help!  All in all, being at the vets is really, really stressful!!

When dogs are scared they want to get away from what they are scared of, the Dog Lady continued.

I was finding this really interesting now.

They try to move away to keep the thing they are fearful of, away from them.  That’s why some of the dogs were waiting with their owners outside the waiting room.  They felt a little more relaxed out there.

If the dog can’t move away from the fear, then it might try to protect itself by warning the fearful thing off, and if that doesn’t work, they may snap or bite  – just because they are so scared!

The dog that I tried to stroke was scared and moved away, but I moved towards it, making the dog even more scared.  On top of that, the dog’s owner told it off!!  My mum is frightened of spiders and if she was told off for being scared, I think she would really shout – just like what the dog was doing, in its own language.

When the dog growled at me, I became wary and stopped trying to touch it, but the Dog Lady said that some people would keep on trying, telling the dog off, and then it might bite.  When a dog bites it is put to sleep!!  All because it was not understood!

“That’s terrible!!  What can be done”, I asked, “so that other people know about this??!”

The Dog Lady saw that I was interested and really wanted to learn the best way to handle meeting a new/strange dog and said she had a book in the car – a book about Calming Signals.

I hadn’t a clue what she meant.  Calming Signals?? 

She said I could borrow the book for a while.

Mum started calling me then, time for lunch.  I thanked the Dog Lady and ran off with the book.

After lunch I went upstairs to read the book.  I’m not allowed to read at the lunch table!

The book was only small, which made me want to read it all.

It told me what dogs do when they are frightened of something.  Did you know that when they yawn, it’s not because they are tired??!!

I thought about this – I know that I can yawn sometimes when I am in class, when the teacher is asking questions – I am always worried that she will ask me and I don’t know the answer.  It’s the same thing!

Also, dogs can do amazing things with their ears apparently?!  When they move their ears back, flat against their head and lower their body – sometimes tucking their tail right under their legs, they are not happy or are frightened of something.  There was a great photo of a dog acting like this being approached by a bigger dog.

The big dog was not bullying the other dog – it was just saying Hi, and the other dog that was lowering its body, was being respectful and saying it didn’t mean any trouble.  The next photo is the 2 dogs playing.

Wouldn’t it be good if people could be like that too?  Respect the other person – well, I AM like this with my teacher, and so are most of my pals.  I’m not really scared, but I know I have to concentrate and follow the rules.  Then everyone is happy – we all get on well, then.

There was also a photo of someone standing sideways to the dog.  Strange I thought, but again, apparently a dog that doesn’t know you can feel threatened if you approach it directly, staring at it.  I never thought of that?!  I have been taught to look at people when I talk to them, to look at their eyes, but with dogs its best not to do that.

WOW!  I never knew that.  Dogs ARE really different to us.

The next photo was the dog walking up to the person, and sniffing it.  The person in the photo was still standing still, side on to the dog.  It’s that smell thing again – I remember the Dog Lady saying that smell is really important to the dog – It’s like them reading a book or a newspaper.  They learn about their environment through smells.

I read on. 

Much later on, I went onto Facebook to tell Jamie and Connor what I had found out.

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The next day, I had finished the book and read it again, so when I saw the Dog Lady arrive to walk her dogs, I ran out to say hi.

This time I ignored the dogs, didn’t look at them, stood sideways to them, and spoke to the Dog Lady.

Amazingly, the Labrador that I ran up to yesterday, came up and sniffed me – I still didn’t look at it, and then it wagged its tail and threw its ball at my feet!!  Wow.  What a difference.  The Dog Lady said that he had accepted me now and was happy to play.  He just needed that bit of time to check me out.

After playing a while, I gave the book back, thanked the Dog Lady and headed home to write up my project about “Which dog makes the best Pet?”

Which dog makes the best Pet?

There are lots and lots of dogs, all different shapes and sizes, different colours, different personalities – but I have found that they ALL would make a good pet if only we would handle them correctly and learn to understand them.  All dogs can get scared of things that they haven’t seen before – some of these things might seem silly to us, but we have to remember that WE are used to lots of stuff – the dog might only be used to its house and garden and family.  When a dog is frightened it can act by trying to get away, and if we ignore it when it does this we can make it more stressed, and cause it to growl, or even bite…………..then the poor dog is put to sleep – all because we didn’t understand it.

I got an A+