Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"He's not much of a guard dog"


We interrupt the puppy's regularly scheduled blogging because what happened tonight has to be told before I forget!

When we are out and Biggie meets new people, our side of the conversation goes like this:

"He's a kuvasz and he's 5-and-a-half-months old."
"Yes, months. He'll probably be around 100 pounds when he's full grown."
"KOO-vass. They were bred as guard dogs in Hungary. No, not herding, just guarding."

While we talk, Biggie is usually sitting and leaning against their legs with a big goofy smile, angling for petting. Or he's playing with their children, play bowing and begging them to chase him. At this point, they often say (a bit doubtfully as they pet him), "He's not much of a guard dog."

Ahem. There is a difference between a "guard" dog and an aggressive dog, and Biggie clearly knows the difference. Given everything we've heard about kuvasz and their guarding instinct, we have worked very hard to socialize Biggie and teach him to be friendly. Living in an apartment in the city, there is just no way we can have him barking or being aggressive to our neighbors.

We live in what is typically called an "up-and-coming" neighborhood in NYC. What that means is that it's not quite there yet. We're not far from the seedy side of Times Square (there is a XXX DVD store on the far corner), and there are interesting characters roaming the streets after dark. Our first character encounter tonight was a thin, middle-aged man with an indeterminate accent who was either shabbily dressed for a regular dude, or pretty clean and well-dressed for one of NYC's high-functioning mentally ill. He starts half making conversation with me, and half talking to the night, all the while holding out a hand with a few dollars in it and waving it in Biggie's face.

I'm thinking, "This is a new and surprisingly specialized scam... he'll induce the puppy to grab and rip the "money" and then demand that I give him whole bills for the ones my puppy shreds..."

But then it gets more bizarre, as he follows us along on our walk, apparently content to wave his hand around, jump around on the sidewalk making silly puppy play noises while half carrying on a conversation with me. Meanwhile, as I make noncommittal but relaxed and friendly conversation, Biggie has decided to dance around on his leash, play bowing and doing half-spins in the air, playing with this guy. Eventually we part ways and we cross the street and continue on our walk.

Biggie sniffs around on the sidewalk, investigating trees, lampposts, the gutter, garbage. He's pretty much ignoring me and I let him nose around a tree. Suddenly, from across the street and behind a bunch of parked cars, I hear a man shout, "F--- YOU, B----!!!" and what sounds like an argument. Biggie immediately stops his sniffing, stands up straight between me and the sound, and stares in the direction of the shouting. It stops, and we continue our walk. Biggie does his business.

We then cross the street again to put his bag of business in the garbage, when the shouting starts again. From halfway down the block, I see a man walking and waving his arms wildly at nothing in particular, swearing at passerby who give him a wide berth. Biggie spots him immediately and goes into The Stance, and all he is doing is watching this crazy man.

Crazy Man is moving in our direction, and I shift Biggie's leash to my right hand and curl 3 fingers of my left hand around his collar, which happens to be just by my leg. He's now tall enough that I can reach his collar without bending or leaning down. In a low voice, I tell Biggie that everything is ok. Crazy Man stops at one of those doors in the sidewalk that provide street access to the basement. This one happens to be open and no one is standing near it, which outrages Crazy Man. He kicks a foot at the open door, shouting something like, "THIS IS WHAT THE F---- IT SHOULD NOT BE!!!! THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!! THE F--- SH---!!!!!! DAMMIT F----!!!!!!"

Eventually Crazy Man gets tired of yelling at a hole in the sidewalk, and sees us standing about 15 feet away. He starts walking toward us and his shouting is tinged with fear as he repeatedly jabs a finger at Biggie's face (but just out of reach): "YOU BETTER NOT!!! DON'T YOU DARE!!! I'M TELLING YOU, YOU ... YOU... YOU BETTER NOT!!!" This entire time my fingers are loosely around Biggie's collar as he stares directly into Crazy Man's face as he walks by. He's entirely motionless, not pulling at all on the collar, just in The Stance. Crazy Man passes within 3 feet of us, and I see fear in his face as he walks by and crosses the street and directs his swearing at someone else. Biggie turns his head to watch him walk away. During this whole time, the only thing that has moved is his head as Crazy Man walks by. Not a bark, not a growl, just a silent watchfulness from Biggie and an amazing energy.

Once Crazy Man is clearly walking away, we turn in the same direction for home. Biggie walks along nicely on a loose leash, keeping his eyes on the guy until he is well out of range, and we walk past a number of large men through a relatively dark gauntlet of piles of garbage bags and shuttered industrial and commercial storefronts. He pays them no mind as we walk home, and he ignores the smelly garbage and escorts me home like a little (ok, maybe not so little) gentleman.

When we are in the elevator, he sits and I give him all sorts of hugs and kisses and praise. He stands there stoically, but with a quiet smile on his face, saying, "Of course, Mommy, what did you expect I would do? I'm a kuvasz!"


Ferndoggle said...

Cool Beaners! I've never met a Kuvasz before...not even in Cyber Space. Wanna be friends? I'm still a puppy even though I'm Twwoooo. And I'm white. And I eat raw meat.

Think about it.


Wimsey said...

Biggie, good for you! Have your Mom ask mine about the Kuvasz after WW2. Can hardly wait to meet you.


Pacco de Mongrel said...

wat an encounter...

hope u never meet another crazy man during ur walkies...