J vs. The Hound of the Baskervilles

I am a dog person.  I have converted to cat-personhood based on necessity, not preference.  Don’t tell the cats that, please.  They already are suspicious of my ownership, and this knowledge wouldn’t help matters in the least.  That I am a dog person who cannot own a dog is something that doesn’t bother me because it’s all J-motivated; I think of the bigger picture and I realize that it’s for the greater good so I don’t resent it…

That I live in a neighborhood where dogs surround us is another matter entirely.  No, I don’t mind the other people’s ability to own dogs, it’s a constitutional right: the pursuit of happiness.  The only part where I have issues is when J refuses to walk outside because he can hear the distant and muffled barking of canines.  This is, of course, our problem…J’s hypersensitive hearing makes matters more complicated.  The same thing that allows him to know that we are opening a bag of chips in the basement and brings him bouncing down the stairs from his room also lets him know that the neighbors’ dogs are here, and that they just might come outside.

For the record, we used to own dogs when the kids were little.  TGG spent the first two years of his life with Basset Hounds and a Bloodhound as pets.  We eventually got a Jack Russell Terrier mix when J was little, and someone stole it; after that we had a mutt that died from distemper.  J was entirely simpatico to these dogs; not a shred of fear or trepidation did he have about canines until my sister’s dog nipped his arm when they were both in a doorway at the same time.  The physical damage didn’t exceed a band-aid and Neosporin, but my sister made a big deal about the poor dog and J remembers THAT…the dog wins and the kid gets scolded.  Fourteen years later we have met dogs he’s totally fine with (Dada’s brother had a Golden Retriever that J was very cool with, a friend used to bring his lovely Chocolate Lab over and that wasn’t a problem either) and we have also experienced J running all over the place, screaming in fear and anxiety, because a dog was approaching.

All in all, Spring Break could be going a little better.  For example, J could be motivated to go outside…as in “for a walk,” “in the sun,” “on the grass.”  Right now J won’t even step on to the downstairs deck, and he won’t even let ME step outside if I am so inclined.  This is all because of the Hound of the Baskervilles, a creature that is terrorizing J that his squeals are higher-pitched than usual and his alacrity in running back into the house has made me wonder if I should put a sticker on the door so he can tell when the glass is CLOSED.

The Hound of the Baskervilles lives two doors down and it is one of those dogs who makes its presence known by constant barking.  Not only that, if you step out onto the balcony while The Hound is on its unit’s balcony, it will stare at you in an intimidating manner.  J pokes his head out cautiously and looks towards The Hound’s unit just to make sure it isn’t lurking anywhere.  The Hound can be heard through closed sliding-glass doors and windows.  Because the unit is located at the end of the row and another row of townhouses is located at an angle from it, the echo of The Hound’s barking and howling makes it sound like there’s more of them than just it.

On the plus side, J has proven he can run pretty fast when the situation warrants it; he has also shown us that he can leap and skip with his knees rather high in the air.  That is the plus side.  On the minus side we have the risk of a sudden attack of horror that will prompt J to react more quickly than his footing is safe for, and then we’ll have a problem.  We’re hoping it doesn’t come to that.

We walk home from the bus every day and encounter the barks of the two Rottweilers on the last unit in the first row of townhouses.  We also hear the dogs running to the back door to bark at us once we’ve turned the corner.  J only makes sure he takes that slope quickly and at an angle that puts him on a straight line to the stairs.  Halfway through the next row we hear a Dachshund through the balcony sliding glass door, but J knows the distance between him and the dog is enough to not pose an issue…we are mere feet away from the stairs that lead to our street.  The Collie that is three doors down from our unit is a benevolent sort and barely barks once it realizes it’s us.  There is another small dog that runs to a window, but J speeds past that unit and all is well.  A Chocolate Lab lives across the way and, should it be out with it’s owner as we’re approaching our home, J slows down and allows it to pass at a distance.  The kid’s timing is impressive…

In an ironic turn of events, a dog-run is being put up so that people will walk their pups in a contained area.  This dog-run is going to be right outside our unit…about 50 feet from our deck.  We are overjoyed (did the hint of sarcasm come through???) at this prospect.  Not only will we have all the dogs we know, we will also have the dogs we have yet to meet taking their walks right outside our door.  I don’t have the heart to tell J…

But, back to The Hound.  This morning we managed to put some salad containers with soil and seeds in the balcony.  J stepped outside as if in fear of a sniper, but once he realized The Hound wasn’t on the balcony, he happily helped me organize our soon-to-be seedlings.  About an hour ago, because the sun is out and bright and wonderful, I figured we’d take a short walk up and down the slope behind our unit.  J bravely stepped outside and then the first inkling of The Hound’s presence floated towards us…

J’s a big guy, but he has the reflexes of Gene Kelly.  And he runs on the tips of his toes.  When it’s not sad, it’s pretty funny.  Today it was sad and funny all rolled into one.  I tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t budge.  He had the horrified look of one who doesn’t want to mess with The Hound.

Like Hercules in The Sandlot, this dog strikes fear in J’s soul.  Unlike Hercules, there is nothing that will persuade J that this beast isn’t dangerous, a threat to his well-being.

And, yes, I’ve tried to explain to him that a four-pound Yorkshire Terrier is no match to a 200-plus pound J…

Yes…The Hound of the Baskervilles is a Yorkie…

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