A few days after adopting our dog Feisty as an eight-week-old pup, I had to drive up to Bellingham to participate in a panel discussion. Feisty was too young to be left alone for the half-day I'd be gone, so I brought her along for the ride. But I didn't trust leaving her alone in the car for the hour-long panel. So I grabbed the baby sling I'd kept as a cherished memento from my daughter's babyhood, and conducted the panel with a puppy strapped to my chest.
If there's anything more adorable than a baby in a baby sling, it's a puppy.
As expected, an audience member eventually asked about the puppy sling, to which I claimed self defense: "My blog generates a lot of threatening comments and emails," I quipped, "so I make it a point never to go out in public without a puppy." I mean, what better way to diffuse a potential hate crime, I imagined:
Crazed wing-nut attacker: "I'm going to kill you, you dirty commie Jewish scu.... oooh look, a puppy!"
Goldy: "She's only eight weeks old."
Crazed wing-nut attacker: "Can I pet her?"
Of course, that scenario never actually played out, as none of these threatening emails and harassing phone calls ever culminated in more than some minor vandalism of the "I know where you live" variety. Still, I have to admit that the adult Feisty has provided a welcome sense of security over the past seven years, in addition to the companionship and affection my daughter and I sought.
Feisty grew to a modest but formidable stature, with a disposition that's... well... let's just say that she's not particularly eager to meet new people. Feisty is unfailingly gentle, affectionate, and submissive—to us—and apart from a handful of half-hearted ankle nips, she's never actually attacked anybody. But I can't blame strangers for fearing the worst.
Indeed, Feisty has earned a reputation for being ferociously protective of her territory, as anybody who has had the gall to walk too close to her yard or her car can attest. A year ago last summer our neighborhood was plagued by a string of daytime break-ins; the house across the street from ours was burglarized twice. But our house—the house with that crazy white dog—was never touched. Likewise, a few years back, I returned to my car late at night on a darkened Seattle street to find the windows smashed on the vehicles to either side of mine. But my car was intact, Feisty wagging her tail in the back seat. I can only imagine the start Feisty gave the car prowler, as she viciously lunged at the window, teeth bared, ears pinned back, a snarling archetype of canine terror.
To be clear, we did not get Feisty for personal protection. We got a dog because my daughter wanted one, and I didn't want to deny her the same wonderful experience of dog ownership that I enjoyed growing up. Also, I wanted a dog. I love dogs.
Yeah, I kinda wish that Feisty was a little more easy going. Okay, a lot more easy going. But there have certainly been times when it's been a comfort to have such an intimidating dog in my house, in my car, or at my side. There's a good reason why many home security experts recommend a dog if you're in a situation to properly care for one, even if only a little yappy dog (perhaps especially a little yappy dog): The barking alone is enough to drive would-be burglars away. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity, and the house without a barking dog presents a much better opportunity than the house with one.
No, Feisty's not likely to protect me from a determined killer, but then, I'm not ever likely to face a determined killer, so why arm myself against a paranoid fantasy? And whatever protection Feisty does provide, unlike keeping a gun in the house, at least I never have to worry about my daughter accidentally shooting herself with the dog.