The old Chico

Chico is so greatly improved that some folks don’t believe he is, or ever was, a problem dog. That’s got me thinking about how it used to be – he was so much trouble, so much work. So many things upset him, he had so little self control, it was, on some days, a bit of a nightmare.

One of those days was the day a certain letter arrived from my landlords.

Feb. 7, 2011

Dear Annie,

We hope you will be willing to spend some time talking with us about ways in  which Chico might be a little more controllable. As it stands now, charming as he can be when he’s feeling fine, he is pretty scary when he’s not.  Here are some of the things we would like to talk over with you.

We are afraid that Chico’s instinctive “thrill of the chase” will eventually put him so close to a car or snow blower or lawn mower, that he will really injure himself, or worse.

We are also concerned about people innocently driving or walking up the road and being faced with a very aggressive dog coming at them at top speed. Children in particular could be terrified. And of course, the real fear is that he will eventually bite someone.

I once went to your back door to drop off an empty egg carton, and was greeted by vicious barking and snarling, as though he wanted nothing more than to break through the door and kill me!  Mark has had the same experience.  Of course Chico was defending his territory, but this does make us wonder what will happen if, in your absence, someone needs to get into your house to fix something in an emergency situation.

We know that you have taken Chico to training sessions, and continue to work with him, but we hope that you will make a habit of keeping him on a leash when he is outside so that he is under control at all times. The Tamworth Leash Law states that a dog must be under the complete control of its owner.  Some dogs will respond to voice commands, but many won’t with any regularity or dependability, and so far, Chico seems to be mostly in that category.

Another problem, which may not be as easy to fix, is constant barking when you are away and anyone is anywhere near the house.  You will remember the J problem, and I’m afraid it’s déjà vu all over again!  We will have a very difficult time renting the other side of the house under these circumstances.

We don’t think that a well behaved, under- control dog will present any problems to the Trustees, but I’m afraid of [their] reaction otherwise.

I had understood you to say that Chico’s presence was going to be temporary, so I bent the rules.  Now that it appears to be permanent, we really need to work out ways to solve the problems which have arisen.

In my defense, I had asked permission a number of months before to make Chico’s temporary stay a number of months before, in an embarrassed letter emphasising the irony of my request, because the no-dogs policy was a response to my problems with other tenants’* badly behaved dogs.

Of course, my immediate (somewhat panicked) response was to get a private lesson with Julie to address this letter point by point. This was a year after Chico came to me and not only was I completely in love with him, but I had hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars invested in improving his behavior. No way was I going to give him up.

I’ll share our action plan in the next post.

* While I live on 300 acres that belongs to a local family, my actual living space is a converted passageway between a farm house and its barn – here in New England that’s called the ‘el’ – and in the eight years I have rented here there has been an ever-changing cast of characters living in the main part of the house.

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