Why I’m glad Rio is not an asshole, but why people think I might be because of her.

Why I’m glad Rio is not an asshole, but why people think I might be because of her.

So as part of my life changing goal I’ve been walking. A lot. I’m trying to average a mile a day.  June and July, with their nice weather, have been big walking months (44 and 50 miles).  Almost all of this walking has been done with Rio, my faithful, fuzzy, friend.  She is a pretty good walker.  She occasionally slows me down with her constant sniffing and occasionally inappropriate pooping (she’s a champion at picking the most awkward spot to do her business).  But it could be worse, she could be an asshole.  What I’ve discovered in walking around and around my neighborhood is that some dogs are assholes. Dogs can’t park across multiple spaces in a crowded lot or cut you off in traffic or flick cigarette butts out the window, but what they can do is bark.  And bark, and bark some more.

Rio giving Althea an ear lick.

Rio giving Althea an ear lick.

I know barking dogs are being assholes because of the looks on the faces of their owners.  There are several different faces people make when they are walking their asshole dog and it goes into a barking fit just because it sees Rio (or any other dog).  The first face is the apologetic grin.  This face says I’m sorry my dog is an asshole, it’s usually not like this, it’s really a nice dog, and I’m a nice person, please don’t judge me.  This person wants a better dog, but hasn’t yet figured out how to do this, but at least they still care.  The second type of face I call the scrunched angry face.  This is they owner who is dragging the dog away, usually quiet yelling (think that voice your mom used to use when you were being bad in church or the grocery store) at the dog to shut up.  This is a dog owner who is usually a dog owner who is frustrated by the fact that their dog is an asshole, despite their best efforts.  It is often times a man walking a very small dog (small dogs seem to be bigger assholes than larger dogs, although it may just be that bigger dogs that bark seem scary and aggressive rather than just an annoying asshole).  This face may stem from shame: from walking such a ridiculously small dog (think Westie or mini-dachshund) or alternately at from of being so bad at training your dog.  Next is the no face or the peep face.  This is the group of asshole dogs who are out in yards either behind fences or on chains.  They bark like maniacs at every living organism that happens to walk by, their people either refuse to show their faces (no-face) or only peep out from behind doors or windows to see what is causing all the ruckus without actually acknowledging the source is their asshole dog.  The last group is the worst; these are the smug faces or assholes who own asshole dogs.  This group gives a smug smirk often associated with a slight upward head tilt, as if to say “Yo, Bro I’m proud of my asshole dog”.  Mostly these are seen in yards or driving by with the dog baying out the window, because this group is typically not associated with small dogs, but rather big dogs that are assholes.  Case it point, I walk by a house about once a week where three asshole Great Danes live. Danes can be wonderful (if kind of dumb) loving great pets, but these three are assholes. They are behind an invisible fence (where I’m sure the juice must be turned up to 11) but as soon as they see me or my dog or anything moving they start to bark, and bark, and growl bark.  We don’t ever walk on their side of the street, just so that we don’t get too close to them.  The owner is the proto-typical asshole owner of asshole dogs. We waved hello to him once, remarking on his good looking dogs, and he proceeded to tell the story of how they once attacked surrounded a mailman, who in getting away had to hit one of the dogs, and how the person asshole had demanded that the post office fire the mailman (which of course – according to the asshole they did).  Mean while his 450 pounds of Dane have barked continuously throughout this conversation, while he smiled and smugly told the story of ruining someone’s livelihood because his dogs were assholes.  In the end almost all the dogs we encounter are very nice.  It turns out most people don’t want to have an asshole dog, and that if you are walking with your dog it is much better if your dog is not an asshole.

Rio gives great hugs.

Rio gives great hugs.

This leads me to Rio.  Rio is not an asshole when we are out in public. She doesn’t bark at all when we are out walking around.  She is an asshole at home.  She will bark at anything in the backyard or any noise in the building or outside of the building.  This leads me to make one of the many different faces I’ve just described (but never the smug face).  Usually she is just doing what I wanted her to do when we lived in a crappier neighborhood in Texas, which is bark if something abnormal is going on, so that we can be alert.  Well, turn out much like her fear of umbrellas (which she got from me chasing puppy Rio through the yard with an umbrella), when a dog learns a behavior early through positive reinforcement it is hard to get them to stop even if it makes you look like an asshole.  Which is what happened recently.  New people have moved into my building.  I have only seen them in passing, and never actually spoken to them.  Seems like of weird, but very Minnesota.  Well the other night, Rio and I were out in our front yard late, and two people come walking out of the darkness (really they were just walking from their car, but that is not how Rio saw it).  She saw them and gave them the ghetto charge, baying and barking like a much bigger, badder, meaner dog.  While I assured them that Rio was really harmless, I was then kind of appalled when they said nothing, just made the turn into my building. Turns out these weren’t unknown strangers, these were building-mate strangers, which Rio had potentially scared, but at least made me look like an asshole, in front of.  They live in the front of the building so they may be privy to some Rio and I’s conversations about her not wanting to return to the house, I my insisting that she does.  I usually use my parent voice (angry whisper through clenched teeth – a voice I used to hear a lot in my younger years when I was less well behaved). Every now and then I have to yell, like if she is about to run into traffic. For that I have a loud command voice. It usually stops Rio in her tracks.  Well today, it not only stopped Rio, it stopped the lady of the stranger neighbor pair. I heard the front door open as we were walking down the steps. I usually leash Rio downstairs so that she doesn’t trip me in her rush to get to the door.  Well unleashed Rio made a bee-line for the door, so in my commanding voice I yelled STOP.  And while Rio hesitated, the lady froze with the door open.  I could do nothing but make a sheepish apology that the yell was for the dog, to which she really didn’t make a verbal response.  I know she isn’t mute, I’ve heard her talking to the male neighbor-stranger.  So I was then outside with Rio, who since she was unleashed was gathering and running away with sticks.  At this point the neighbor-stranger pair walked out of the house carrying laundry baskets.  They made several more trips in and out, and each time Rio would run full speed at them only to turn at the last minute, lest these people touch her sticks.  While this seemed a wonderful game to Rio, I didn’t think it was appreciated by everyone, so I tried to reign her in. At which point, I again may have looked like an asshole because despite my loud commands, Rio was doing a stick prance away from me, if I even thought about leashing her up.  Well, eventually they went away and Rio got leashed up and we went back upstairs.  Later I realized I needed to do laundry, so I loaded up the Rambler and headed on out to the Laundromat. And of course, who is there but the neighbor-stranger couple busily laundering their clothes.  While individually I might have not recognized them, as a couple I was certain it was them.  As my hands were full, I didn’t wave to them, waiting for their salutation, at which time I could respond and laugh and apologize for seeming like an asshole, and seeming to have an asshole dog.  But the greeting never came, not a nod or a shake or a word.  I know I am large and can seem intimidating, but I try as hard as I can not to be (at least lately, there may have been other periods in my life where I cultivated that image).  So I just went about my business, thinking maybe they didn’t see me (which is hard to believe since I am highly visible).  By this time at least thirty minutes had passed with all of us in the same Laundromat, now it was awkward. Some weird Minnesota nice bubble had floated over the situation, and I started to overthink the whole situation.  I ran through several different scenarios, but none really made sense, until I realized that they must think I’m an asshole and therefore don’t want to talk with me.  They didn’t even make eye contact with me. So much so, on their way out of the building, they made a concerted effort to avoid walking by me, to the point of having to excuse their way past other people.  I was dumb struck.  It was the most awkward glorious moment of Minnesota group introversion that I had ever witnessed.  So if that couple happens to read this blog, please except my sincerest apology, I hope I didn’t offend you or scare you or make you think I’m an asshole. Really I swear I’m not even if my dog makes me look like I am sometimes.

Rio loves Sir Ben's because she gets lots of pets and compliments.

Rio loves Sir Ben’s because she gets lots of pets and compliments.

PS. I am also writing this blog post as an experiment to see how many times I could include the word asshole without either becoming an asshole myself, or being sick of the word asshole, or ashamed of so much cussing that I replaced asshole with some word other than asshole.  It turns out I can write asshole a whole bunch.  Don’t be an asshole and don’t let your dog be an asshole.  If you are already an asshole, well I’m sorry, but it doesn’t mean your dog needs to be an asshole too.


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