When to say “NO”, literally

TorsoWhen I worked in shelters I was bitten twice by six-week-old kittens and a Chihuahua pinked my little finger nail. Doing what I do now I have three pin-hole marks on the top of my left hand – meaning the dog bit and I was able to relax my hand so that the teeth didn’t come together – no wound on the underside of my hand. In all that time I have only had one real bite. It is insignificant for most of the reasons you might consider and very significant in a couple of other areas.

I was at the home of a woman whose life had taken some dramatic turns for the worse. She and her fiancee got a Wheaton Terrier. Shortly after, she came home and found her love on the living room floor, dead of heart attack. A week later, her parents were killed in a car crash. She had a job that allowed her to work out of the home. For three years she was a virtual shut-in. She didn’t have guests.

Then she met a new man. They fell in love. The dog wanted to kill him and everyone else in the world. They planned on marriage and children. So, she called me and I came over. In a mixup of miscommunication, she let the dog out before I was ready. He blasted from a back bedroom, flew into the air and grabbed me where the Latissimus dorsi meets the pectoralis major – right at the armpit. I now had a 40 pound dog hanging off me. I said “NO” and hit him with a couch pillow, awkwardly but effectively. He lost his grip and fell off but didn’t back off at all. This caused me to sit, very hard on the couch. He attacked my right leg at the knee. His teeth hit me at the fibular collateral ligament – that big one on the side and back of your knee. I said “No!” and bonked him again. That knocked him off my knee and he shifted his target to my left ankle I said “NO” and bonked him again. He backed off for a second. I said “NO” and he backed off about five feet and stood there, making a lot of noise but not coming forward. I had the owner grab him and put him up.

So, here’s the thing to take away from this. If I had not said “No” and FOLLOWED IT with the bonk, there isn’t any way in the world that three repetitions would have make “NO” a functional tool. The human instinctive reaction is to say no at the same time you bonk or to bonk and then say no. Both of those fail. Take my word for it. Unless the “NO” comes first, it will not connect to the bonk. Pavlov tried that. He fed a dog and rang a bell, in that order, almost 400 times – no association. He reversed to the correct sequence and got a 100% food response within 30 reps.

And now the end of the story. The Wheaton didn’t survive the experience. Whether he could have been fixed or not is a moot point. They wanted kids. So they got a lovely yellow lab, had a baby and lived (as far as I know) happily to this very day.

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