The Rehabilitation Program


January was a busy month.  The tense, yet subdued Christmas vacation seems like a year ago.  I still stare at the scars on my hand.  They are all but healed.  A little stiff and lumpy…  A persistent reminder of our baby bear’s flash of violence last December.

I am a little torn about writing about Mishka.  While his attack was a traumatic event and one of those things you remember for a lifetime, it was and is something uncharacteristic of him and our lives together.  And it is something you don’t want to dwell on in melodramatic fashion…..  So, what is this about if not a melodramatic revisit?  Well, my last post was pretty melodramatic.  And I have found myself clogged until I move on, both literally and narratively.  I don’t want to dwell on Mishka, but I wrote a dramatic passage that has to come to some kind of closure.  And as several friends have pointed out, that sweet little bastard just must be dwelled upon…..

We took Mishka to a real actual animal psychologist.  It was Natasha’s and my agreement that we would abide by a professional’s direction.  If Mishka was redeemable, we would work to rehabilitate him.  If he was a hardened violent criminal, we would bring him to justice.

The doctor listened carefully to us as we recounted the event.  She watched clinically as Mishka played and interacted with everyone in the room.  He was really enjoying the attention, and acting ever so charming, cute and precocious.  He seemed to know this was all about him, but was not aware of what would be in store for him pending the doctor’s advice.

What was the diagnosis?  Over-indulgent parents matched with a very energetic and demanding dog.  Mommy gave him everything he wanted.  So did Daddy….  Natasha just did it with so much more flair and tenderness.  Daddy stood tall and acted like “pack leader” while Mishka merely put up with the posturing.

The prescription?  Discipline, discipline, discipline….  Everything must be earned.  Sit patiently before each meal.  Sit patiently before going out on a walk.  Sit patiently just because we are the masters.  Ignore and chastise bratty behavior.  Sounds like parenting….  There have been a couple of lapses.  One in particular when he attacked Who’syer in a flurry.  I was ready to kill the little bastard with my bare hands….  But I didn’t, and I was forgiven by the doctor.  She said I actually may have made the right impression on Mishka.  He knows we are serious.  He is trying.  So are we.

Mishka wears a “drag line” in the house.  It is a 6 foot length of cotton cord that clips to his collar.  This allows us to quickly step on or grab the cord when he runs about the house like a Tasmanian Devil.  It is very effective….and fun…for us!!!  Mishka doesn’t like his drag line very much.  He understands having a leash outdoors and even looks forward to it because it means outdoor adventure.  But the drag line???  It’s like training wheels.  It’s like the sign that my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Hixonbaugh, would hang around kid’s necks that says, “I have dirty fingernails.”  I never got to wear the sign, but I really feared the sign, and I understood the incentive NOT to wear the sign.  Mishka has dirty fingernails and he doesn’t like everyone knowing it.  He doesn’t fight the drag line.  He sits sheepishly when it’s clipped on.  He is ashamed.  It is a reminder of his probation.  For the first few days he would chew the line off.  But we would just tie on another 6 feet of cord from a 75 foot coil.  There was no hope of reprieve.

The boy sits patiently looking up at me sheepishly wondering when the drag line can come off.  The cord is unclipped for the night.  And then he gets a soft pat on the head and the charming smile returns…  There are doggie scandals being plotted.

The rehabilitation continues…..

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