We go for a walk…I paraphrase Michael Corleone…

To start,  please, imagine a long string of expletives muttered under my breath as I stomp back home leading a screeching J, and maneuvering a rather large, heavy, and full wheeled trash can.

…..

OK, so here goes the Michael Corleone paraphrasing: Just when I thought we could go out again, I have to pull him back again.

There we were, two happy pedestrians taking the trash on a for-now sunny day, and out of nowhere came the famous “he’s on a shock collar” German Shepherd.  The loud, sharp squeal and the sudden tensing of muscles (even though the dog was about 100 yards away) made me turn, mutter and paraphrase with enough alacrity to belie my chronic joint pain and difficulty in moving.

The change in direction and acceleration had to be achieved while checking for vehicles (those two STOP signs and one speed limit are doing nothing to help matters with the shitty driving around here,) and guiding J towards our garage while soothing his nerves.

We waited a few minutes.  I took this time to text the landlord and tell him what was going on.  He responded to me with the same concern and interest that he responded to all you lovely readers when you texted him on the same subject.  (HUH?  I didn’t text your landlord, crazy middle-aged mother of J who is on The Spectrum…oh…wait…I SEE!!!!  Ha ha ha…I get it…he didn’t reply because we didn’t text him…get it, get it…go on with your soapbox performance for today.)

J had been happy.  Seriously happy!  He was wearing his new Panama hat, the sun was shining, the breeze was warm and lovely.  Suddenly we were back in the garage and he kept shuffling his feet, looking anxiously at the street where the dog had been.

We ventured out once more.  In J’s hand was our gas bill, crumpled.  He ironed it out hurriedly on top of the trash can lid so I wouldn’t be upset.  I told him that didn’t matter.  We just checked for the stamp, that it hadn’t been torn, and I returned it to him so he could put in the mailbox.

We looked around, saw no dogs, and back we went.  Of course, by this point J is just super vigilant.  Any bark from a distance, garage door opening, sudden step makes him look over his shoulder.  We deposit the trash in the dumpster, look before crossing and head to the mail room.

As we go along I remind J that I have his back.  I will do whatever it takes to help him if he’s anxious.  I will wait, or I will walk faster.  I will take out our dreaded iPhone and (with my too-big fingers and thumbs) shoot off an angry text at the parties in charge of the rules being followed.  I will stand between him and dogs, cars, wild horses…you name it.

I feel his arm and shoulder begin to relax, and we stop at the corner to check for traffic.  “Look left.  No cars.  Look right…” His shoulder and arm tense and he grips me…there is not ONE dog…there are now TWO.  What are these people doing?  Lying in wait?  Did the first guy call and say to his buddy “hey, the freaks are out…bring your German Shepherd out, too?”  I take a deep breath, tell J to walk and not look.

He walks.  He tries not to look.  He fails miserably.  We speed up and make it back to our garage (with J frantically hitting the remote’s button so that it starts to open, closes, starts to open again, and I ask him to take a deep breath and relax because we’re on the concrete of our driveway, and that’s a sanctuary.)

J’s heart is racing.  He looks at me as the garage door closes and we finally find ourselves separated from the world of dogs.  I tell him it’s time for Wii, and he nods.  He takes off his Panama hat, and hangs it in the hallway.  He gets his step stool, and he turns on all the necessary equipment while I change my shoes.

By the time The Monkees are halfway through I’m a Believer, J has relaxed.  He smiles at me, says HAPPY, and then I LOVE YOU.  I smile, say HAPPY and I LOVE YOU, TOO.  I add “I have your back, buddy…I will protect you.”  He lets go of the step stool and, still running, hugs me.  We are actually running while hugging, and this makes us both laugh…

It is, in the great scheme of things, a rather fantastic moment.  J laughs heartily as I lip-sync to Huey Lewis and The NewsDo You Believe in Love? (I’m always The News…doing all the eeehoooohs and such…)

As we make lunch I ponder what people think this is like for him.  I know the property manager told me (with much fanfare) that she used to volunteer with kids who have Autism.  I also know that she, too, has let her dog rove around leash-less.  I know she addresses people not picking up after their dogs, but I also know she never tells them that the lease states dogs have to be on leashes. I know, heaven help me, that I come across as an annoying whiner who thinks her kid’s rights override the rights of the other tenants.  I can hear her saying “the lady in unit such-and-such complained that…”  If the issue had been addressed as “the terms of your lease state that…” this wouldn’t be such an issue; because it is “the lady that lives in unit such-and-such” it becomes sour grapes from a hag who gets disability checks for her son.

I decide to let it go.  Well, not really.  I decide that I have documented it, and I will use this when it’s time to break our lease to move away.  Not in a combative manner, but in a “hey, there’s this that I have expressed concerns about, and hasn’t been addressed” manner.

The moment that was bad is gone.  The moment that sucked is over.

It doesn’t mean it wasn’t bad for J, or that it won’t suck when it happens again.

 

The return of Julia Sugarbaker…-

Where do I start?

I love dogs.  I am, by natural inclination, a dog person.  I am such a dog person that, as James Thurber said, “all felines can tell this at a glance – a sharp, vindictive glance.”

It follows, regrettably, that my adult life has been spent wishing I could have a dog (even an assistance dog for J, which would be SO helpful) and having to fend them off while dealing with J’s dog-related anxiety issues.

As I have commented in the past, there is a leash law in effect in our county.  Our community also requires that dogs are kept on leashes.  It has become increasingly obvious that people flout this rule on a daily basis.

We have the guy four doors up the street from ours.  He regularly opens his patio doors and allows his two rambunctious dogs to run freely over the lawn in back of the units.  There is the young professional couple who plays Nerf ball catch with their energetic Jack Russell Terrier.  There are the three guys who have two German Shepherd puppies and one small dog that they allow out sans leash.  There are the girls who open their patio doors to let their little yip-yip dogs run around and do their business, and there’s the big black Labrador.  There are others…but these few are the closest ones to what I like to refer to as J’s vicinity.

You might (or might not) remember the sudden appearance of a rather large St. Bernard that sent J climbing on top of his mother.  I don’t want to exaggerate, but that dog had the same friendly disposition as Cujo, and it was loud.  Outings, after that moment, became more difficult because J looks for a leash when he sees a dog, and not seeing a leash means the dog could decide to run.    Regardless of how significantly bigger than the average dog J is, his eidetic memory (and his Autism) always go back to that memory of the One Dog and the One Owner, and the memory of the One Dog and the One Owner affects his opinion of all other dogs and owners.

Yes, J is prejudiced.  No, I don’t like prejudice, but this is a prejudice that, sadly, I cannot temper more than I already have.  Believe me, friends, I try.  I am the person who asks J to make eye contact, take deep breaths, and TRUST ME.  I have even tried doing it in the same way that Marlon Brando does it in Don Juan de Marco when he’s negotiating with Johnny Depp to not jump.  J buys it…to a certain point.  The smaller the dog, the greater the fear.  Maybe, and I’ve argued this before, it’s the high-pitched, insistent barking that these rather small creatures are capable of…like Joe Pesci throwing his weight around in movies

Let me set the scene for yesterday: every day, right before we exercise, I open the garage door so that J can breathe some fresh air, see the state of the weather, and maybe take a turn outside.  We usually take a walk after exercising, but this sets a nice tone for him.  J sits on the step that leads into the garage as he puts his shoes on, and I talk to him about how nice/rainy/windy/warm/cold the day is.  So it was in the midst of this that, like in a movie dream sequence, FOUR dogs run from two different directions to meet about 50 yards from where we’re sitting.  Chasing the black Labrador is a girl who looks alarmed because there are two German Shepherds and one nondescript small breed about to meet her dog in the middle of the parking lot.  The impression I got, from the human reactions to this sudden convergence of unleashed dogs, was that a dogfight about to ensue.

J let out a high-pitched squeal that sent me running to the switch for the garage door.  No one out there noticed this because, as usual, they were focused on the social interaction at hand.  I asked J to do his yoga breathing, and I went to look at the scene developing in the parking lot and green areas through the front door’s window.  I expected to see something different from what greeted my eyes: all the owners and all the dogs were happily chatting away.  They looked like they were about to break into song.  Another dog owner came out, and there was her little canine…cavorting with the rest.

I picked up the phone and dialed the landlord’s number.  I left a rather angry message.  “This is Mrs. So-and-So from such and such address and I’d like to know if there is no longer a rule about keeping dogs on leashes when they are in common areas.”

Did he return your call?  He didn’t return mine either.  That is how little concern this man feels for anything I say “hey, this shit is screwed up.”  You’d think that we haven’t been paying an exorbitant amount of money in rent to live in his property for the past five years.  (I think we’ve put his daughter through an Ivy League college…or we’ve bought him a rather nice luxury vehicle with all the bells and whistles, plus the insurance and maintenance…)

J and I exercised, and then -after checking the landscape for any more dogs- we ventured outside.  All the cars that had been out there at the time of the dog convention were gone, and it was a fairly safe moment to step out.  I say fairly safe because people here drive like crap, too fast, distracted by their cellphones, there are no sidewalks or crosswalks, and I told the landlord about this in March (after a neighbor almost ran us over…see entry of March 17 or 18 for more details.)  He promised at the time he’d put up signs; then he said he had the signs; then he said he was about to put them up in the coming week and…

But I digress…

In spite of the imminent danger posed by dogs and humans, we made it to the mailbox unscathed.  I know people think we walk like little old ladies.  This is because we stop and look both ways before crossing (an effective method if no one dashes by at high speed and not looking,) and because we wait clear out of the way if we see a vehicle approaching.  I don’t care what people think because the most important thing is that J stays safe, and it’s my job to keep that a priority.

When we got to the mailbox, lo and behold, there goes my reputation for being socially adept: we ran into the property manager.  This young lady is always Instagram ready; she has a lazy smile and a certain way of draping herself over bannisters, tables, chairs, etc. while a tenant talks to her that is reminiscent of how my cats act while I try to tell them to not barf on the furniture.  It is rather evident, from the way she smiles and looks at her interlocutor, that she is bored to death with the interaction, and she thinks it’s beneath her.

The same girl who had the sun-shiniest smile EVER when she trilled OH HI! at me was positively deflated by the time I was done. I didn’t curse. I didn’t raise my voice. I was wearing my sunglasses but I can guarantee you she KNEW the look in my eyes when she said “oh, well…that guy has shock collars.”

And then, ladies and gentlemen, there she was…my inner Julia Sugarbaker.

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I shook my head NO.  I then proceeded to explain to her, in as kind a tone as I was capable of mustering, that a shock collar and a leash are NOT the same thing, and that I can reason with her, with each and every neighbor, but reasoning with J is a little harder.  I granted her that THEY are not responsible for J’s genetic makeup, or for the resulting shortcomings in his intellectual and emotional capacity, but there is no law that restricts J walking freely (which he doesn’t do because he is ALWAYS supervised.)  The dog owners’ rights, I told her, to let their canines run around freely are curtailed by an agreement made with the property management company, and with the government agency that regulates dog licensing.

On the way home (after J anxiously looked over his shoulder when he heard the young lady’s jingling key chain…it sounded like dog tags,) I realized that I am probably the biggest asshole in the neighborhood.

I can totally live with that.