After we got home that evening, I put on some gym shorts and headed out with Fama for a run. The hotel is located adjacent to a shopping center, and the parking area is a maze of drives and parking lots. We wandered through the complex of buildings and parked cars, sometimes running, sometimes walking, and sometimes just hanging out at a vacant bench or table outside of a restaurant. I never issued a command or expected anything of Fama, other than to just be a dog. I would respectfully reject requests from passers by to pet my dog, saying that she didn’t play well with others. It was refreshing to just run together, with no particular place to go, and no objective except to have fun.
We walked through a drive-thru and picked up some dinner for me. The DelWorkers were crowding the window as we strolled up to pay. One of them stuck a hand out towards Fama, and retracted it immediately when she lunged. They had a good laugh at this. They may have been making fun of us. I couldn’t tell. I don’t speak Spanish. They were very friendly, and seemed honest when they hoped to see us again soon. My love for tacos made that a certainty.
On our way back to our second floor room, how inconvenient for someone that has to carry a crate to and from the truck every day, we were headed up the stairs when we ran into someone at the top of the stairs. Fama was ahead of me going up the steps, so when I saw a person up on the balcony, I turned her around and headed back down to avoid a potentially ugly situation. It turned out to be the Sergeant Major in charge of all the Military Dog programs, who has over 20 years working Military Dogs. SGM quickly called us back up to speak with him, and to meet Fama.
“Just come on back up here Soldier,” he said. “How are things going for you?”
Fama was trying to go greet, or eat, the SGM, and I wasn’t sure which, because I was looking him in the eye while he spoke to me. She was pulling on the leash, and I was holding her back. Fama biting the SGM would have been just shy of biting the President. I didn’t think I was up to doing a billion push-ups, so my left hand was a vice on that leash.
“Things are just fine Sergeant Major,” I said, glancing down to see if I could get a read on how Fama was taking all this.
“You just let that dog come up here and say hi.”
I said, “Sergeant Major, she’s not very friendly sometimes.”
“I’ve been a dog handler for 23 years, and if I get bit, it’s my fault.”
I still had the incident at the Vet’s office fresh in my mind, but I decided he was right. If anybody could make friends with her, or defend himself if necessary, it was this man. I grudgingly let go of the leash, and noticed my knuckles hurt. Fama went right up the stairs and greeted him like they were long lost friends.
“What’s her name?” he asked.
“This is Fama, and I can’t believe how good she is being with you.”
She was wrestling around with him, play biting his hands and rubbing up against his legs like a cat. He then took the time to explain to me how not feeling fear or discomfort around a dog put it at ease with you, and that restraining her when meeting people was building frustration and drive, making her more reactive and likely to bite someone. It all made sense to me, and I had thought of this before. I just hadn’t worked out how to train through this, given our current situation.
I thanked the SGM for his time, and headed back to the room with my brain going a million miles an hour, trying to come up with a plan to help Fama become a social dog. The meeting with SGM had given me hope. I thought that if Fama could meet one person cordially, she could eventually meet all people with the same good manners. The problem was, a short-term quick fix was not going to happen. This behavior had gone on for a long time, and I was going to have to wait for the opportunity to spend some time working with her in just the right setting. For now, we had to work on finding bombs first. The rest could come later.
We had dinner, and a bath, followed by some fun obedience games with a tug. I had put all the unused furniture and my luggage up on the sofa so we had lots of room for activities. The downstairs neighbors had to be pulling their hair out. We were working on an UP command by jumping up on the bed, getting the tug, wrestling around with it for a few seconds, and then hopping back to the floor to do it all again. We knocked over a lamp or two, but that’s the price you pay. You can’t make an omelet without breaking some light bulbs. We settled down on the bed when Deadliest Catch came on TV. It’s Fama’s favorite show, along with Dirty Jobs. Maybe she has a thing for Mike Rowe? He does have a nice voice.