Molly has made me cry.  It wasn’t when she ate my watchband.  Afterall, leather is not so different from the rawhide we give her to chew.  It wasn’t when she ate my emery board or a pen; both are shaped like the rawhide sticks.  And it wasn’t when she tore into my popcorn heating pad, as that is easy enough to replace, and did smell like food.  No, she made me cry when she — all 24 pounds of her — yanked me down the street when I was trying to walk her.  I spent the entire afternoon researching how to train her to walk gently on the leash.  I looked at videos, I read blogs, I researched high-priced animal trainers.  And for the rest of the week, I dutifully followed protocol, stopping movement when she pulled, rewarding her for looking at me by doling out treats, and commanding “gentle” (I can’t do “heel”; I feel like a tool).  Yet it was all too slow.  I felt like I was rewarding her for looking at me, not training her to walk without pulling.  Her pulling on the leash is so constant, I doubt I was being consistent enough in my stopping to teach her the right lesson.  But it actually hurt.  Either my arm was being pulled out of its socket, or my fingers were all mashed up from gripping the leash handle.  I cried because she is too stupid to understand that pulling does not move either of us faster on the walk, and I can’t teach her that.  Molly is many things — cute, cuddly, affectionate, destructive — but she is just a dog. 

As in all things, when patience wears thin, we look for the quick fix.  My mother has also been driven to seek out dog trainers as she has 3 rescued dogs who are all, to varying degrees, insane.  There’s dumbshit Annabella, the chocolate lab who eats the bannister and runs into walls, Holly, the amblyopic border collie who has nuclear diarrhea in the car and has anxiety about everything, and Jellybean, the fox terrier I have yet to meet, but who, I’m sure, is insane.  And she has to walk them all.  Holly, for all of her border collie sleekness, pulls so hard on her leash she ends up on her rear legs, hopping like a wall-eyed bunny.  She can’t even stay still long enough to pee; she leaves a little trail as she waddles in the grass.  Annabella is a sweetheart, but she’s 90 lbs of loving.  Jellybean is tiny, but she’s also a terrier, so she’s intense.  Altogether, the dogs weigh more than Mom, so she needs all the help she can get. 

Her trainer recommended the Gentle Leader harness, so all 3 girls now walk wearing them.  Mom dispatched one to us, after I’d slung a tape measure around Molly as if measuring her for her first training bra.  She’s 22 inches around, so Mom bought the Medium.  Small only goes to 20 inches, and they didn’t have the in-between size in the store.  Of course not.  Just because you manufacture 7 sizes doesn’t mean the retailers should carry them all; what sense would that make?

Well, we’ve had the harness scarcely a week, and it works.  When it’s on.  Molly is rather rabbit-shaped.  She has a long, lean torso which she uses to bridge herself between Mr. Apron’s lap and my lap.  She’s also incredibly agile and can jump astonishing heights, such as to clear the dog gate as if in Olympic hurdling.  Her assets are also useful for elongating and jumping clear through the harness.  Usually, though, she just manages to slip one front leg out.  Four times now, she’s lunged forward , slipping through the harness, leaving it to precariously cling to her hind-quarters, stopping her motion only because the bulge of her tail keeps it from slipping off completely. 

After that happened again today, Mr. Apron tackled her like some apt football metaphor, and declared that was it; it was going back to the store for a smaller size.

We had the receipt; I just couldn’t find it.  After 15 minutes of cursing myself for not putting it on the bulletin board or in my purse, or in the box the harness came in, I found the receipt, and we headed to Petco.

Even exchange, right?  Mr. Apron hit the return desk while I pounded the aisles.  I saw nothing in the leash/collar aisle, nothing with the Eagles NFL-license harnesses, nothing in the dog-walking accessory section.  The Gentle Leader harnesses, for some reason, are two aisles over, in their own section.  Because that made sense.  They didn’t have the S/M at our Petco either.  Just S or M.  I sighed, took the Small, and prepared for failure.  I found Mr. Apron, weary as the cashier prepared to issue a merchandise credit because Mom bought the harness with her credit card, and presented the new harness to them.  Wouldn’t you know, the same harness that cost $26.49 in Seekonk, MA, costs $29.99 in our part of the world?  Wouldn’t you know they actually made us pay the difference?  Plus tax.  I wonder if, had we not had the receipt, we would have been able to make the even exchange without money changing hands.  You know, like a merchandise credit when we brought back the Flavia beverage machine someone bought us for our wedding (that we hadn’t registered for and had no use for, hence, we hadn’t registered for it)?  I bet we would have.  Just sayin’. 

And as I’m fond of saying, it’s not the $3.50 +tax; it’s the principle of the thing.  And then not even carrying the right size.  You have to get the thing on the dog in the first place to see if it fits, even if (as we did) you do measure first.  And now we’re stuck in the world of Petco store credit, even if I did order the harness from the manufacturer online. 

We got the fool thing home.  Whereas the Medium was adjusted all the way tight and still too big, the Small is now adjusted all the way loose, and still too snug.  I’m worried about our pretty little girl chafing her beautiful blonde fur.  I’m worried we’re not going to be able to wrastle her into the snug contraption without resorting to etherizing or, Mr. Apron’s prefered method, tasing her first. 

Let’s just hope it works.  While I’m slightly conflicted that this isn’t teaching her not to pull, and that, were we to take it off, we’d be back to ground zero, I’ll settle for a dog who walks gently with some assistive technology.  I long for the obedient, amazing, stunt-performing dog, but I’ll leave that to Cesar Millan and Lassie.  As long as my arm isn’t being wrenched out of its socket, I’ll settle for good enough.

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