Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adventures With Ava

Every time I take my dog for a walk, I'm really not sure what to expect. I love Ava, but she is really a very quirky dog, and nowhere is this more exemplified than her interaction with humans and other dogs.

Ava thinks every person was put on Earth solely to pet her and generally show her love and affection. Give her a minute of attention, and she will be your new BFF. This is generally not a problem, except when we go on our walks and encounter complete strangers. Whenever she sees an oncoming human, she first stops, dead in her tracks, and observes them for a few seconds, almost as if she's making sure that yes, that is a real live human coming toward her. Once she verifies the human's authenticity, she goes from 0 to 60 in .01 seconds. She bursts forth and starts fighting against the restraint of her leash, frantically trying to run and clamor her way toward the target. Meanwhile, I'm having a mini panic attack at the thought of my dog intruding on the stranger's personal boundaries and inciting an awkward conversation that goes a little something like this:

Stranger: (to Ava) Well, hello there! (reaches down to pet Ava, who is lapping up the attention like the cuddle-whore that she is) You are just so cute!

Me: Say, "Thank you!" (immediately feels stupid that I told a canine, who can neither understand nor speak English, to say "thank you" like I would a toddler)

Stranger: (still petting Ava) How old is she?

Me: (still wallowing in my shame over the whole "thank you" bit) She just turned two.

Stranger: Well, she is adorable. (still petting my dog)

Me: Thank you. (uncomfortable moment is then shared between me and the stranger as we both contemplate how to end this interaction)

Me: have a good day! (desperately tries to wrangle Ava away as she clamors toward the retreating stranger)

It gets even more awkward when the approaching stranger has no desire to pet my dog, and just wants to continue his or her stroll or jog uninterrupted. When I still had her on the retractable leash, it was difficult to get her out of the line of fire, and there was many a time people nearly tripped over her when she would go into her, "Love me! Love me!" attack. It was pretty embarrassing, encasing me in an envelope of shame that would last the duration of our walk.

It gets even more interesting when we approach a complete stranger who also has a dog. As Ava doesn't care too much for dogs, but loves the shit out of humans, she is caught in a personal conflict: does she try to establish herself as the dominant one, or should she just bypass the other dog altogether and go straight for the human? She makes the decision to do both, and ends up darting forward, then backwards, toward the other dog, then the human, growling, and then whining because she is both confused and sad that the stranger is not petting her. Again, I'm trying to wrangle her back while shame and embarrassment engulf me.

Going on a walk with Ava is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get.

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