When The Kid turned 15, Petey and I were constantly high-fiving each other. We had a teenager who was kind, polite, helpful, and an all-round joy to be around. We were the best parents in the history of parents.
And then, The Kid went upstairs for bed one night and didn’t come down the next morning.
Instead, what came down those stairs was some kind of monstrous, hideous mockery of our sweet child. We, the parents, were deemed too lame to exist. There was so much eye-rolling it’s a wonder blindness didn’t ensue.
We asked ourselves how we could’ve been so wrong about our parenting skills. No two worse parents ever lived.
Before Crowley, our Yugo-sized Akita, we had another Akita, Steve, and a 200-pound Anatolian shepherd named Riker.
Riker was the most loving dog I’ve ever known, and Steve was as gentle as the breath of a fawn. Although a full-blooded Akita, he never showed a hint of the aggressiveness that many people think define the breed.
So, of course, Petey and I thought, “We got this. We could make rabid badgers docile enough to sleep with newborn babies.”
Then, we got Crowley, a black Akita puppy as solid as a tank.
He and I walk miles a day around our neighborhood, greeting everyone we meet.
Everything went well until Crowley was about eighteen months old.
He started becoming aggressive. With us, and a short list of humans that he adores, he was and remains, sweet and wildly affectionate. But he’d growl when anyone else got too close.
Then came the day my father; the man who gave me my love for canines, the man who’s almost more dog than man, met him. When he knelt down to him, Riker knocked him over on purpose. My dad wasn’t hurt, and Riker didn’t bite him, but my heart was broken.
I felt like a parent who’d raised a serial killer. I called our vet, crying so hard I could barely tell her what happened. She suggested a behaviorist. We made an appointment.
The thing was, he didn’t do a thing for the dog.
I was the patient.
I kept saying, “But Steve…”
Finally, he said, “debbie, this is not Steve. You need to accept that and help Crowley to have the best life he can. He’s not dangerously vicious, but he is what he is.”
So, we learned coping strategies to keep him focused and bought a soft, flexible, plastic muzzle for when he’s outside. It’s really for me (no smarty-pants Gentle Reader, I don’t wear the muzzle). It’s so that I know no matter what happens, my dog will never bite anyone, human or dog.
I’ve kept up the long walks, and he’s become calmer and steadier. We’ve begun carefully reintroducing familiar people, and each encounter has gone well. We’re cautiously optimistic.
The lesson I learned with Crowley is something we should keep in mind with everyone, every day. Preconceptions, and assuming someone knows the lines of the script we’ve written in our heads is the road to disappointment, discord, and the deepest of doo-doo.
Like that dog shrink said, “This may not be exactly what you expected, but it’s what you have. Deal with the reality you’ve got.”
And that horrible teenager/hobgoblin that resembled The Kid?
About ten months after it showed up, one morning our sweet child came downstairs for breakfast, and the teenaged beast was never seen again. Heck, every once in a while, The Kid even apologizes for the trauma that pod person rained down upon us.
So yeah, I think we crushed that parenting thing…
Thanks for your time.
Contact debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.