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Friday, August 9, 2013

Does This Dog Scare You?

This is Raja, an American Staffordshire Terrier whom I have been dog-sitting this week. She scares me, although I am definitely not afraid of her. Sounds contradictory, doesn't it? Let me explain. Raja is often classified as a Pit Bull, which, while related, isn't exactly the same. I don't think I need to tell you that there has been some anti-Pit sentiment running rampant in recent years. In some places, like Denver, Colorado, there are strict anti-Pit laws. If you had them before a certain date, they are still allowed, but if you move into Denver with one, the City may exercise their "right" to remove and euthanize your beloved pet and family member. In fact, I am at Marie's house right now (Raja is her granddogger) because most apartments, including mine, have breed restrictions.

I am not going to go into statistics about attacks or weigh in on ordinances that are breed-specific. What really scares me is the possibility of someone who doesn't know Raja looking at her and immediately assuming any behavior to be a precursor to an attack by a vicious beast. And with Raja, this couldn't be further from the truth. She's like a big old roasted marshmallow - she may look a bit dark or scary on the outside, but she is full of soft sweetness. Something that has worried me this week is that Raja loves to talk. Her talking sounds a bit like a variation on a growl. It's much softer, and her snout is tilted up when she does it. Also, her lips look like a letter "o" - no teeth showing. But me being the worrier/realist, I worry that if she got out of the back yard and started talking to someone, they would probably assume that she was growling and ready to attack. Heck, that's one of the reasons Raja's parents brought her with them from Houston to Denver on the first leg of their vacation. They were worried what would happen if she started talking while in a boarding kennel. They flattered me by placing their trust in me, knowing that I understand her behaviors.

So I am not afraid of Raja, but she does scare me. Seriously. I am scared that before I go home, everything I brought over with me will be covered with dog slobber. I think maybe her lips are a bit leaky. And she just loves to walk over to where I am sitting and lay those slobbery jaws on my chest or lap. I guess she is smart enough to leave it on me instead of getting it on her bed. I am also scared when she is on her bed. She watches me closely with those golden eyes, and waits. If I motion to her, or even just make eye contact, she comes right over, talking about how much she loves her Katrina scratches. Why is this scary? Well, she doesn't know how big she is. She comes over and throws herself against your legs, leaning in as hard as she can while she sits down to be scratched. I am afraid she's going to break my legs off. Okay, not really, just love-squish them to bits! Sometimes she tries to be a Ninja dog. She very casually places both of her front legs completely in my lap. She yawns, because scratches are very relaxing, and looks around the room. You see, she hopes I will look where she is looking, so that she can try to climb onto my lap. And fifty-plus pounds of solid muscle and bone is a bit much in one's lap! 

But I can't say enough about how sweet her disposition is. And she is so well-behaved! She tries very hard not to beg, but the first couple of times that I ate sunflower seeds, she had to just stand there and stare at me, turning her head from side to side as she heard the shells crack. I wondered if she thought I was eating her kibble or something. She is in the family room right now, but if I go to the bathroom, she will be in a spot where she can see me when I come out. As we walk to the kitchen, she will start talking, and I will answer in kind. She seems to find this amusing, and she is willing to humor me so that she can continue to get scratches. Her mommy and daddy will be back in Colorado by this time tomorrow. I know she will be thrilled. But I bet if I come over, it'll be me she comes to for scratches!