Our rescue dogs were very different in temperament. Woofie, the Labrador mix, saw every creature as a potential playmate. If he could have, that dog would have opened the door to any stranger with a ball…or a knife, or a gun.
Fey, our German shepherd and shar-pei mix, saw every stranger as a potential threat, unless they were a white male over six feet tall who smelled like In-n-Out burgers. (You can probably guess who rescued her from the streets of Los Angeles and what food they used to gain a starving dog’s trust.) Fey refused to let the gas meter man near the house, which was a pain in the ass, but she also refused to let burglars break into the house, which everyone except Woofie found heroic.
Woofie shook off criticism like water. “Bad dog!” meant nothing to him. So did “no!” and even, “Jesus fucking Christ, Woofie, how did you dig up an entire bougainvillea in two minutes?!”
A voice raised at Fey would result in her freezing or hiding. She was an unusual mix of fierce protector and sensitive shepherd.
Fey preferred to spend her day outside, lying on her bed on the patio unless a street sweeper, squirrel, or passing dog needed to be warned off. She and Woofie would wrestle and play tug-o-war, but Fey would break off immediately to run her guard route if she sensed a potential intruder. (Woofie would then plant himself in the middle of her route, earning warning snarls and snaps which bothered him not at all.)
One Saturday afternoon, as I prepared for date night, I heard a strange, high pitched swooshing noise and some loud clicking. I checked outside. Fey was on her bed in the sun, right under the bathroom window. I checked around the house, and mentioned the noise to Andy. He shrugged it off and continued roughhousing with Baby D.
I went to dry my hair. My hair dryer had been on less than a minute when the bathroom window cracked.
I dropped the hair dryer. Then I put two and two together and lost my shit: “SOME ONE HAS AN AIR RIFLE AND THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US!”
I flew out the backdoor. Fey dashed in the back door. She was shaking, but unhurt.
I was incensed. To hit that particular window, the shots had to have come from the yard of the new neighbors over the back fence.
There was a shrubbery that extended about six feet above the six foot cinderblock wall, which meant I couldn’t see into the yard. The noise had stopped, possibly because the shooters heard my enraged shrieking:
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? AIR RIFLES ARE ILLEGAL! YOU COULD HAVE HIT MY DOG! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”
I stormed out the back gate and over to the new neighbors’ yard, where I found a shame-faced father with a teen—a teen holding an air rifle. (In retrospect, I do not recommend confronting people holding weapons directly. At the time, I was such a mass of fury that I probably would not have cared if it were a real rifle. The zero to psycho Ashbough temper is likely to end in prison or death someday.)
I yanked open their gate and barged into their yard, yelling, “MOTHERFUCKERS! YOU BROKE MY WINDOW! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”
The dad tried to placate me, explaining that his son was just shooting at the shrubbery, and had hit our house by mistake.
I was NOT placated. “You absolute shit heads! You utterly ignorant fuckwits! THE SHRUBBERY IS POROUS! The shots went right through! You nearly hit my dog WHAT IF MY KID HAD BEEN OUTSIDE YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN OUT AN EYE!”
By this time, Andy had showed up behind me, carrying Baby D. Andy never said a word. (Later, when I asked why, he pointed out that a) I had barely touched my arsenal of obscenities, and b) no one could have heard him over shrieking that would have put a Shakespearean fishwife to shame.)
The dad was thoroughly apologetic. He promised that it would never happen again, that he would get rid of the air rifle, that he would repair the window, that they had moved in from a more rural area and hadn’t been thinking.
“CLEARLY!” I yelled.
Part of me wanted to call the police, but father and son had too much melanin for that to be a reasonable consequence. Our local police are so bad that some of them have actually been ARRESTED for racist shit, instead of getting the usual commendations.
After my ranting ran its course (which Andy says lasted at least five more minutes), I agreed to the neighbor’s window repair offer. The man ultimately paid for a handyman to replace the window and make other repairs as a gesture of goodwill (i.e., so I would never scream my head off at him again).
Fixing Fey was more problematic than fixing the window. While we never heard or saw the air rifle again, Fey turned into a quivering, cowering wreck every time I turned on the hair dryer. To Fey, hair dryer = someone shooting at you + your human going on a screaming rampage.
I’d had easy success retraining Woofie when he was traumatized by football games on TV; I tried to do the same with Fey. I gave her treats and praised her while taking out and running the hair dryer. Fey wouldn’t eat. Not even bacon. She just trembled miserably.
So I packed the hair dryer away. Forever.
I never regretted it, either.
Our good girl didn’t deserve PTSD.