Tuesday 23 October 2012

When is divorce like a Doberman Pinscher?

Two years ago I moved into a one bedroom apartment conveniently located within walking distance from my place of employment. Nothing fancy, mind you. Being at the ground level at the back of the building, sort of a walk down that was partially below ground, I had a lovely view of a brick wall and a row of garbage cans. Beggars can't be choosers as the saying goes and being close to work was important.

Shortly after moving in, I go to do some grocery shopping on a Saturday. As I exit the building, I notice a woman sitting at a picnic table off to one side reading a book. Obviously she is taking advantage of the good weather and catching a little sun. As I approach, I notice a Doberman Pinscher lying on the ground beside the woman. He turns, sees me, and immediately stands up. Call me chicken, but I have always been leery of this type of dog. They have a reputation for aggressiveness and I know they were originally bred as guard dogs.

As I go down the walk which is ten or so feet from the picnic table, the Doberman starts coming in my direction to meet me. I immediately notice that the dog is on a leash and wearing a muzzle. Now on the one hand, seeing a muzzle should make me feel better but on the other hand I have to ask why this dog needs to wear a muzzle. There must be a reason.

The dog takes a few quick steps and comes right up to me. It sniffs once then rises up and jumps on me. I am both startled and a bit afraid. Do I hightail it out of there? Is the dog going to try and bite me? The owner jumps up and yells, "Down!" I back away as she pulls the leash then grabs the dog by the collar. "I'm sorry," she says.

All of a sudden I feel something odd on my leg. I look down. The one leg of my pants is ripped from about mid-thigh all the way down to my upper ankle. The odd feeling is that my bare leg is now partially hanging out of my pants. I look at the woman stunned by what her animal has just done. My pants are ruined. There is no way they could possibly be repaired.

I try to remain calm but explain, "What the heck?" The woman repeats her apology. I guess she hasn't seen my pants. I turn myself to clearly display my bare leg visible in the cut open pant leg. "Look what your dog did." The woman looks down; her eyes widen and now she's very apologetic.

She explains that her dog has only started to behave a little more aggressively lately and she intends to seek help from somebody, some professional. I explain to her how the headlines have had stories in the past year of people being mauled by aggressive animals and my suggestion is that she had better do something. If dog went after a child, if her dog actually did bite somebody, she may end with more trouble than she would care to have. She could be sued.

As I'm talking, I'm not displaying any anger; I'm trying to be rational and convincing. She seems to be accepting this. I ask her name and introduce myself. No harm, no foul, but she must do something. I bring up The Dog Whisper and wonder aloud what Cesar Millan would do about all this. She offers to pay for the pants but I'm sure that will be the last I'll hear of it.

I go back inside and change my pants then go back out again to go to the store. The woman and her dog are gone. After thinking about it, I believe my pants were ripped by the dog's claws that I wasn't bitten. I think when the dog sort of jumped up at me, the front paw passed down the length of my pant leg and obviously a sharp claw just got into the material and VoilĂ ! ripped cloth.

Since that one incident, I have run into the woman again. (She never paid for my pants and never offered again to do so.) Each time the dog has acted aggressively towards me for some unknown reason. When I asked her about this, she explained that I seem to be the only one in the building who elicits such a reaction from the dog. I wonder why. But more importantly, what to do about it?

After the third meeting of being greeted with canine aggression, I started avoiding the woman. If I was leaving the building and she was out sitting at the picnic table, I would go out another exit. If I came home from work and saw her at the back of the apartment building, I would walk all the way around the building to enter via the front door. If she was at the front, I would walk around and go in the back. In other words, my way of dealing with this confrontational situation was to just avoid it. Altogether. There wasn't the question of trying to be friends with the Doberman Pinscher, to try and strike up some sort of peaceful relationship or peaceful coexistence, no, the course of action was to not see the animal at all. Maybe The Dog Whisperer could have dealt with the dog. I couldn't. Maybe a professional knows something I don't. But in lieu of that expertise, it seemed to me the best way of dealing with the situation was to just not put myself in that situation. Period.

I sometimes joke but I am also being serious about being upset that the sun is going to come up in the morning. There is nothing I can do to prevent the sun from coming up so the sooner I accept that this is going to happen, the sooner I can move on to other things I can affect in my life. This is my version of the Serenity Prayer.

In regards to the dog, I don't know why it behaved aggressively towards me. Was it a smell on my clothes? Did it sense my own fear, my apprehensiveness about a dog I perceived as dangerous? I'll never know. Actually I decided to never find out. There didn't seem to be any benefit in tempting fate. Why run the risk of getting my pants torn again? Why run the risk of getting bitten at some point? I'm not angry with the dog. I don't hate the dog. I just accepted that this was the way things were, end of story.

Marcelle Soviero
Ms. Soviero is a blogger at Open Salon. On April 4, 2011, she posted a poignant story called "The Divorce Photo". She paints a bleak view of a break-up that leaves the protagonists with little contact. There are 3 children involved and there is a sharing agreement entailing regular communication but the author points out she only exchanges email with her ex-husband. Seeing him is a rarity and in this article she talks about a chance encounter at Starbucks nine years after the divorce even though the two of them live only 5 miles apart. It seems that seeing him is unwelcome in the sense of what to do, what to talk about after legal proceedings left her in "financial ruins". She mentions their nondescript conversation where they opted to "stay inside safe words, afraid to trigger any of our hot issues."

A Lawyer
A divorce lawyer, who is divorced himself, once told me that in his experience only 10% of divorces turn into major confrontations. That is, the majority of divorces are settled reasonably with both parties being civil to one another. As a glimmer of hope to everyone, he went on to describe how he and his ex-wife had a nice trip to New York together to visit their daughter adding that now, he and his wife are friends.

Marriage is never as blissful as people expect. Divorce is never as devastating as people imagine.
- Raoul Felder, divorce lawyer to the stars, author of "The Good Divorce"

Final Word
I never saw the Doberman Pinscher again. I don't hate it. But I know that if I saw the dog, I would be afraid of it. I would be running the risk of it jumping on me and ripping open my pants or possibly biting me if it didn't have a muzzle. I don't step into the tiger cage because I know I will be eaten. There isn't any animosity; it's just a fact. Some issues can be dealt with; some issues cannot and the best course of action is to just avoid those issues altogether. I may wish otherwise; I may hope for a better resolution but in the end, I had to accept that I would never be able to convince that Doberman I am not somebody bad who deserves an aggressive stance; I am actually a nice guy.

This whole mess is regrettable. I hope that everybody involved will be able to get on with the rest of their lives without suffering any lasting trauma. Believe it or not, I would like to see everyone happy, successful and at peace with themselves and the rest of the world.


Wikipedia: Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher (alternatively spelled Dobermann in many countries) or simply Doberman, is a breed of domestic dog originally developed around 1890 by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann.
There has been some research to determine whether there are breed differences in aggression. ... [A recent study] found that the Doberman Pinscher ranked relatively high on stranger-directed aggression, but extremely low on owner-directed aggression.

my blog: Raoul Felder: The Good Divorce
In reading about this gentleman, I realised he was not just a lawyer but an expert in the field of divorce. He had been to the front lines; he had fought the battles, and he had been witness to the outcomes both good and bad. ... if your spouse gets a lawyer and here it doesn't matter if you're the man or you're the women, you must immediately get legal representation. The advice is this: you are an amateur playing against a professional. It is imperative you "arm" yourself with the same professionalism and level the playing field. ... once the retainer is paid to a lawyer, the entire nature of the proceedings has changed in both tone and objective and the likelihood of an 11th hour reprieve is slim to nil. That is to say, once one party decides to hire a lawyer, the marriage is over.


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PollyAnna said...

For me it helps to envision my divorce less as a doberman (a very strong, powerful, and sometimes frightening breed) than one of those little yippy dogs that hates everyone. Annoying, loud, and not my style at all, but if it's getting out of control all I have to do is plop it back into the tasteless bedazzled purse it came out of, grab my own large dog and look at him knowingly, before jogging off down the trail, leaving the yapper yapping in the purse. That little yippy dog can bark all he wants, but my dog and I both know that my dog could swallow the yapper in one bite if he chose, it's just that he's too much of a gentleman to do so.

Now if only the metaphor extended and my gentlemanly dog was actually a gentleman. Alas, in this case the dog is actually a dog, but it's comforting anyway.

Anonymous said...

Funny after all these years since you posted on my blog, I was drawn to yours and went to this article. Funny...well not really...as I'm looking the Dobie in the eye right now and wondering if it is the right animal for me. Stay, boy, Stay? Com here, boy, come here! Good boy! Bad Dog! aaaah! How do you know when to call the dogs off or release the hounds?