two sides of Eleanor
Friday, April 8 2005
This morning as I was out at the ditch deciding what to do next, standing in the brilliant April morning sunshine waiting for the coffee maker to do its thing, Eleanor started barking at something out near the south deck. So I went to see what the problem was. There he was, Julius the cat, lounging nervously in an old squirrel nest twenty feet up a medium-sized oak tree. Evidently Eleanor had seen a reason to raise an alarm Lassie-style, which was a good thing because otherwise I might never have noticed him up there; Julius seemed to be a little embarrassed by his predicament and wasn't making any noises of his own.
At first I didn't think the longest ladder was going to be quite long enough, but when I tried it I was able to get just high enough to get to the little guy. He was reluctant to come down, but I forced the issue by ripping away the front of the nest and pushing Julius towards me from behind. He ended up on my chest in a way that somehow gave him a foothold for most of the way down, though he jumped when I was within six feet of the ground.
Later I went on a housecall up in Saugerties and picked up a jackhammer from C&C Tool Rental on the way home (at nearly 5pm). When I got home Gretchen was gone, having left for one of her overnight Manhattan gigs. I started jackhammering straight away, though I was a little disappointed to find that this particular jackhammer seemed to have a slipping clutch (or something like that) and had to be held vertically or it wouldn't do any damage to the rock I was trying to obliterate.
During a lull in the action a young man drove up in a green Subaru and the dogs ran up to him and started barking the way they always do. The young man grimaced with a look of disgust, an unusual reaction to barking dogs. Then he told me that he'd been riding his bike up Dug Hill Road earlier today and that Eleanor had given chase, caught him, and actually bitten his leg! Then he showed me his right calf, and sure enough there was what looked like a shallow slash and a tooth puncture, both already scabbed over. "It's not serious, but that's not cool." All I could say was that I was really sorry and that I hadn't thought Eleanor had that in her. The young man was measured in his talking, but the point he kept reiterating is "that's not cool."
Later I talked to Gretchen on the phone down in the City and she said she'd actually been out in the yard when the incident had gone down. Eleanor had given chase, she'd screamed "No!" but it had done no good. A few minutes later the cyclist came back swearing and yelling (as one might expect a normal person to do in this circumstance).
But for Gretchen I could tell that she found this reaction somehow unreasonable; there was clearly an infantile aspect to her thinking that expected everyone in the world to love Eleanor every bit as much as she does and to excuse even the most outrageous behavior. Sensing this, I insisted that we would have to teach Eleanor discipline, that we'd lose her if we couldn't teach her some restraint.
I insisted that we would have to teach Eleanor discipline, that we'd lose her if we couldn't teach her how to control herself.
Later as the jackhammer emitted a steady wall of noise against which to think, I pondered what to do about Eleanor. And how was possible that such a sweet and affectionate dog could actually attack somebody? The only thing I could think was that she didn't really think of the guy on the bicycle as fully human, that his act of fleeing switched on the full force of her predator reflex system and when she gave pursuit it had to end in a bite.
My first idea for training Eleanor not to attack cyclists was to have a friend armed with a squirt gun full water and red pepper ride uphill from the school bus turn around and then squirt Eleanor in the eyes if she gave chase. Later, though, I remembered that there are special remotely-activated shock collars for dogs and that seemed like the easiest, most practical training solution.
What with this new issue weighing on my mind, I decided to unwind by drinking some Sierra Nevada Pale Ales given to me by a grateful client today (after I'd recovered most of the data on her audibly-clunking hard drive). This was the first drinking I'd done alone in nearly a month.
The new cat Sylvia, taken the other day on the east deck.
Julius where Eleanor found him this morning, about twenty feet above the ground. This appears to be an old bird's nest that a squirrel later lined with leaves.
Me rescuing Julius.
A close up.
The ditch just before a second round of jackhammering.
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