The Dogs of War

13 09 2007

Sita

By Jill Ettinger

I always laugh when asked the question, “does your dog bite?” Though it’s not necessarily funny, it is definitely something I cannot answer. In general, Sita is a gentle, loving and quite absurdly silly animal. I rescued her over six years ago, and since then, like all living creatures, she’s gone through many adjustments. She is protective of me, and our cat Turbo too, but she’s not malicious. However, she is an animal and though I often know what she seems to be thinking, I certainly cannot control her instincts. She yields off leash in the park and knows what is expected of her in order to have that freedom, but as to whether or not she would ever feel the need to bite someone is a behavior I cannot predict. Nor should I have to.

It’s interesting that we hold people to a level of responsibility for things that cannot really be controlled. Is anyone to blame for shark attacks? We all know they’re in the ocean. Any responsible parent would never let their child beyond ankle-deep waters. Hiking in the forest also should be forbidden, as there are bears, wolves and cougars and other merciless predators far less conspicuous, like wasps. In loading up our van for Burning Man, I accidentally stepped on a yellow jacket nest. In a matter of seconds I was under attack.  A swarm of intelligent, stealthily stinging ninjas crept into my sleeve and sent me flying out of the van, squirming out of my shirt and seeking help in getting them off my back. (The one found burrowing into my scalp twenty minutes later would be much more bothersome). It was a traumatic experience, a brush with the intensity of nature and all the ways in which it can surprise. Obviously these type of attacks differ from being a responsible pet owner, but, not really.

In (quite possibly the best movie of all time) “Snakes on a Plane,” pheromones are used to make snakes attack everyone on board. Otherwise, the serpents would need a reason to lunge. Much like my dog. And, myself.  Killing is hard work, even if it is the only way to survive; it’s not usually a preferred option, aside from seeking food. I am thinking about all this because of a rather bizarre situation that happened today. My doorbell rang and when I went to open it, there was a package on the step. I picked it up and came back inside, went back to the office. Though I live in a very urban area, I actually have a great little backyard. I’ve got a doggy door and Sita spends most days chasing imaginary (or just invisible) creatures out of the yard, and chewing the neighbor’s grass that grows through our fence. It’s definitely one of – if not the only – reason I’ve stayed in this apartment as long as I have.  Traveling often, I take comfort in knowing Sita can enjoy her freedom safely and conveniently. Anyway, she somehow snuck out the front door behind me when I went to get the package! She’s not very small (or very quiet), and I’m shocked I didn’t notice her leaving. About twenty minutes later, I hear her barking, which is not abnormal. But this was accompanied by shouting, all obviously coming from my front window. Strange.

When I walked over to investigate, I saw a woman was coming up the stairs, shouting. Sita was cowered in the doorway, barking. Sita was clearly scared, as she has never been left out in the front alone, nor has she ever had a crazy person shouting at her where she had no means to escape. For whatever totally stupid reason, this belligerent maniac approached a dog with no collar, no fence, no leash and started shouting. Sita did not bite, but as the idiot came closer, she sure as hell barked. (Personally, I would have bitten.) I immediately ran over and let Sita in and the woman proceeded to bang furiously on the front door, practically shattering glass. Neighbors came out of their houses and everyone stood in amazement at what was essentially, a reaction to nothing. Sita had been sitting at the door crying to be let in. (Which, thanks to the Wu Tang Clan I couldn’t hear. Maybe I should sue the RZA!) Then this lady started shouting at her, according to my nextdoor neighbor. The crazy person said she was going to call the ASPCA. There was no reasoning with her in that state. What was an obvious accident did not only not cause anyone any harm, but I wasn’t even given the human decency of being allowed to apologize or offer an explanation.

So I started thinking about yesterday, September 11th and how I have been living in a nation at war for half a decade; a war for all intents and purposes that I just can’t understand. Like Sita must have felt out of place and scared, forced to defend herself when she instigated nothing, we are a species that has the ability to explain our situations and give others the opportunity to understand. Yet so often we do not. Sita’s been sitting here by my side since the incident, visibly shaken up. I’ve been cuddling with her every few minutes, just to make sure she remembers what love is, so that she doesn’t assume everyone is going to start attacking her. That would really suck. Anybody want to give that a try with the crazy shouting lady? Or, how about an American president? Please?

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