A couple of days ago I spoke to a woman on the phone; she had called me to ask about our boarding services and told me she wanted more information. I asked her specifically if there was anything in particular she wanted information about and she told me to just tell her how it all works. She sounded pretty imperious and entitled but oh well, some people just don’t do well on the phone do they?
So I started to explain our service to her.
Then, about 30 seconds in, just as I was explaining about our need for regular visits every ninety days etc, she let out a loudly exasperated sigh and interrupted me, telling me ‘Look, I just want to know how much it all costs’.
So, despite the fact that I think friendly interruptions are fine but this clearly wasn’t that kind, I calmly started to go through our prices and she shouted-yes shouted- over the top of my words, in this really sarcastic and screechy voice ‘SO I HAVE TO PAY YOU TO GET TO KNOW MY DOG?”
‘Yes, Ma’am you do. Because you see, we are fully off leash and we...’
‘And I have to go through all this evaluation stuff, half a day and then a full day just so you can get to know him? You’re kidding me right?’
‘No Ma’am, but you see, we have almost zero issues and actually the highest safety record in the whole of...’
‘OH MY GOD THAT IS STUPID EXPENSIVE! I DON’T SEE THE POINT IN ALL THAT JUST SO YOU CAN BOARD MY DOG FOR A FEW DAYS!’
So, in a move totally alien to my normal behavior, because my kids told me three months ago that I’m rude and brusque at times and I should try and deal with assholes a little better, I very politely said ‘Ma’am, this place isn’t for you. I suggest you try somewhere else that’s more in line with what you’re looking for’...and I put the phone down.
Well, clearly I didn’t do so well containing my aggravation, because she left me a voicemail calling me a rude bitch, (I’ve kept it because I think it’s hilarious) telling me she’s going to make sure no-one ever uses us again and that she’s going to give us awful reviews etc.
I have to say, despite the fact that the woman is a total asshole, she is at least a woman of her word, and did immediately give us an awful review on google.
Im crying into my coffee of course and contemplating self harm because I’ve upset her so badly, (can you hear my plaintive cries???)........ but what I’m REALLY pissed off about is the fact that I didn’t unleash my inner ninja or get to say what I wanted to say!
What I really wanted to do was scream 'WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH' every time she interrupted me, or say ‘Uh, bitch? I’m sorry did that dollar in your pocket give you the right to talk to everyone in service industries like they’re beneath you?’
Had she been in my driveway, I’d have honestly wanted to smack her face. I wouldn’t have done it, but I’d have wanted to. My fingers would have been itching and I’d have been curling my fingers into a nice meaty fist......
But I didn’t. Of course I didn’t.
Instead, I stifled my natural inclination to say what I wanted to say and do what I wanted to do, in the interests of displaying better manners than she did. I have to say that being the better man is a lot less satisfying though, and is boring as shit, it really is.
It’s a human thing, we do it all the time, otherwise we’d all be shot to death in Starbucks when we get pissed off at the asswipe in front of us who questions where the almond milk came from ( ‘Yeah but were they trampled or liquidized?’) or wants to know if Buddhist Costa Rican virgins were used to pick the coffee beans?
But here’s the thing....it IS a particularly human thing.
Animals don’t put up with the same crap that we do, they don’t have that filter, don’t have the same impulse control.......unless someone has worked very, very hard to instil it in them, and even then, certain contexts, like when some ridiculous silicone faced monster mishandles the lion he’s trained for years and gets mauled, can lead to an abrupt switchback to animal instinct.
Animals can get pissed off, despite our very best efforts, and do.
They don’t rely on the hugely complicated social framework of nuance, sarcasm, eye rolls and deafening silences like we often do. They just act, deal with the problem and go on their way.
In the wild, that means someone usually gets hurt, or even dies.
With dogs in a human family environment, it means someone is going to get bitten or a dog is going to harbor resentment and trust me, it will rear its ugly head at some point.
I once was approached by a young lady with a beautiful German Shepherd who she said bit her badly after she had ‘simply reprimanded him’. She was thinking about putting him down but needed to air it with a professional first.
That’s an unusual occurrence in my experience for a dog to bite someone so badly for a supposed simple reprimand, so I met with her to evaluate the dog and as we walked around my field, I observed her even more closely than the dog.
I have to tell you that if I was this woman’s dog, I’d have bitten her bloody face off, let alone her hand!
She was an absolute bitch to this poor, long suffering creature.
She shouted at him for picking up a stick as he proudly showed us his big find.
She raised her knee into his chest as he jumped up to try and grab the stick that she had just taken off of him, but was waving around in the air like a flag, taunting him with it.
She screamed at him to come through the gate because he was sniffing a plant and shouted at him for peeing because, as she said, ‘he f*cking pees all the time and it irritates me’.
She smacked him hard on the back of the head for not coming back straight away which had me warning her to not touch him again but when he later tried to nuzzle her hand she slapped him away (‘Don’t get my clothes dirty!’).
I watched this for maybe ten minutes, growing more incensed by the minute until I saw the smacking at which point I sat her down on the deck in the middle of the field and said to her ‘You are just about the most unpleasant woman I’ve ever met and I would honestly go into a court of law to defend your dog if he ever bites you again. You, my dear, are an asshole of the highest order. If you touch that dog again, I will bloody bite you myself!’
As she sat there with her mouth open, I could tell no-one had ever questioned her use of physical force or just sheer nastiness with this most precious of dogs.
I guess no-one had wanted to offend her or ‘get involved’...you know how it goes.
And yet, here was this poor dog, eager to please, desperate for love and understanding, and all she did was exert her puny, grotesque authority over him at every juncture. When he finally couldn’t take any more, he just did what came naturally and reverted to his primal nature to deal with things the way pissed off dogs in the wild do.
I’m surprised he only bit her.....I actually sat there wishing he’d mauled her to death instead.
Seriously, though, this woman had never once in 18 months since owning the dog, considered his feelings in anything. She had bought him for $1500, so that gave her the right to do what she wanted with him, didn’t it?
Just like my lady from a couple of days ago, with her ‘I’m paying dollars so bow to me’ attitude.
Ugh, I still shudder to think of her to this day. She appalled me and made me literally sick to my stomach with her callous disregard for her dogs feelings.
There was one pivotal moment though, during our session, that was heaven sent.
Her boss called and she rolled her eyes and told me she had to take the call or she’d never hear the end of it.
She instantly became Little Miss Sweetcheeks, pouring on the charm, obsequiously kowtowing to the woman, who needed some meetings and a trip rescheduled, then came off the phone, rolled her eyes and said ‘Oh my God, that woman has not one f*cking ounce of respect for anyone else’s time. It’s Saturday afternoon and here she is calling me like this! I told her I was getting the dog evaluated today. She does this every weekend, makes sure she gets her pound of flesh!’
So there it was.
That poor dog had become the whipping boy for all of her problems. His life’s purpose in her subconscious was to assuage the misery and defeat she felt in her everyday life working for an autocratic boss, but whom she couldn’t say ‘No’ to.
The dog took it and took it and took it, until one day he thought ‘THE HELL WITH THIS CRAP’ and bit her badly on the hand. Seventeen stitches.
At that point, I knew where to go with this one.
I called Pete, told him this was going to be a while and asked him to bring us a cup of tea. We went down to Dingly Dell and I told her to just ignore her dog, shut the f*ck up for once and give him space to enjoy himself for an hour while we chatted about HER needs, instead of the dog’s.
We talked about all of her frustrations, uncovered all of her perceived slights, did a little role reversal and two hours later she was bawling like a baby and feeling guilty as sin. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a counselor and she booked an appointment with her right there and then while she was with me (my friend volunteers in rescue so when I called her and told her the dogs life was at stake, she jumped at the chance of helping).
I’m pleased to say that she now, even to this day, sees the bite as the thing that saved her life.
She left her job six months later after the counselor wisely told her to put happiness over income, moved to a different state to be closer to her family and now works from home in her own consulting business.
Once she got the shit shocked out of her, was forced to answer for her actions and started to treat him with empathy and respect, her dog was happy and eager to show her all the joy he could bring to her life.
And he honestly has. She is truly a different woman. She even volunteers at a German shepherd rescue! I kind of feel guilty now for wishing her dog had mauled her to death and I have shared that fact with her!
She sets her alarm to five am every day so the two of them can be out into park watching the sun come up together. She even sits on the grass beside him getting her once precious jeans dirty!
Comeuppances come in many different shapes and sizes, and never when we are ready for them.
Think hard how you treat others, no matter how many legs they have, for Karma always bites you on the ass...or sometimes your hand!