E is for Erkel

Keeping it real…this blogging thing is tough. I have a spreadsheet of words for each letter of the alphabet. My goal is to write about two words for each letter – one about dogs and the other about business.

My “E” words related only to business.

Crap, I am only on “E” and my system is falling apart.

Oh wait…Erkel. Yes. Erkel.

Steve Erkel, played by Jaleel White on the 1990’s sitcom, Family Matters, was utterly loveable, socially awkward and completely inappropriate. He would do something over-the-top ridiculous and then say “Oops, did I do that”. (His nasally voice in your head, isn’t it…LOL…)

My Erkel was Miss Athena, Gandhi’s sister. She was the best and worst of Cane Corso’s. Miss T was a little cray-cray. AND,

She was awesome!

When Gandhi and Miss T were about 9 months old, a group of us went to Southern California for a dog show. Looking back, she chose us that weekend. She decided my ex and I were her people.

Over the next two years, the breeders tried to place her several times. Each time, she would do something unacceptable and immediately do the doggie equivalent of “Oops, did I do that?” She came to live with us when she was almost three.

We learned to manage her and her crazy. She went walking at times when we were less likely to run into kids (trigger) or dogs (bigger trigger). When new people came over, she was leashed and would greet in the driveway where, for whatever reason, she was more relaxed. If friends were over, she was crated or leashed until she accepted them. Her obedience training was so on point; she could defy the laws of motion and drop into a down mid-lunge. She had to. Her ability to obey and our diligence in ensuring she would were the only things that stood between her and certain death.

On the flip side, Athena was the most loving, sweetest, cuddliest dog I have ever met. She knew when you were having a bad day or weren’t feeling well. For as big as she was (100+lbs – big for a female Cane), she would curl herself into the smallest spaces just to be close to us.

I think the saddest lesson I had driven home with Gandhi and Athena was about perception. Gandhi was imposing. He was close to 130lbs of sleek lines and piercing eyes. He also had horrible social anxiety, would avoid all contact with strangers, and was such a gentleman that he would never act inappropriately.

Athena looked like a Labrador on steroids. Her normal “look” was fretful and forlorn and drew people in.

When out with one or both of them, I would get comments about how scary he was and how sweet she looked. Parents would grab their children and go the opposite direction when they saw Gandhi and yet, allow those same children to race up to Athena…because she was so “cute”. I cannot count the number of times I stepped between Athena and a child racing up to “pet the puppy”. With Athena cute was not cute and with Gandhi scary was not scary. Cute was dangerous; scary was safe.

Perception. Judging a book by its cover. Believing you know how someone will act based on how they look.

Bad idea.

With people.

With dogs.