My sister's family is close knit
but very casual, full of pets.
That summer the house dog was an Airedale
A big animal – wiry – intelligent.
Friendly enough but very watchful
Of people and premises.
As usual, if visiting, sisters do helpful chores.
One morning I stooped to scoop
Some towels and shoes from the stairs
To carry them up to their cupboards and closets.
As I lifted my head and moved forward
I heard a tense, deep growl
Square in my face.
The dog had braced itself in my path
Pulling back its lips, fangs sharp
A snarl grumbling in its throat
Demanding 'right of way'.
Not just a warning - a threat!
I saw RED!
The bundle dropped from my arms
As I raised my palm
And smacked him full across the jaws.
I knocked him backwards - upwards - at least two steps.
You never saw such a surprised dog in your whole life.
You never saw such a surprised woman either.
I don't hit animals.
My reaction was instinctive.
This confrontation was POWER!
DOMINANCE - PACK CONTROL!
How dare he!
My sister appeared on the landing.
'What on Earth....'
'Who the hell is in charge here?' I gasped
Still shocked by my own violence.
'Him, of course!'
And she laughed, and laughed
Leaning against the wall, guffawing.
'I take it, you gave him his come-uppance.'
'Jeez! I'm sorry.'
'Don't worry about it. He knows now
When you visit, he's not the pack leader.'
That evening he still came to sit by me
But not so closely.
Friendly enough, but watchful, very watchful.
I rubbed his head and scratched behind his ears
But I did not say 'Sorry.'