The Ranger Meets Bella

I heard a truck, it seemed to be stopped, idling. Where’ the dog? I had turned her loose for a few minutes to run off some of her sap. The campground was mostly empty, I figured I could get away with it. When I looked toward the truck, about 50 yards away on the main road, I saw it had an official looking emblem on the door. I called Bella, she was standing outside and beneath the driver side door. She looked my way, but didn’t come. The driver looked toward me, we made eye contact. I could tell by the way he pulled forward and turned down my lane that I was in trouble.

The Ranger barreled his truck into my camp space and stopped in the drive. He stepped out of the truck at about the same time Bella arrived. He started walking toward me quickly and shouted “DO YOU HAVE A LEASH FOR THAT DOG?”. I said “Yes, sir”. Bella stopped behind the Ranger, watching the interaction. I don’t think he knew that she was there.

I could tell by the man’s demeanor that he was an honest man, a classic native of rural Oklahoma. His accent spoke volumes, and the weathered patina of his face showed a lifetime of work outdoors. He was tall and lean, probably in his early 60’s, a principled man of great Heart. He made haste toward me. I knew that I was in the wrong, defenseless beneath the rules and their enforcement regardless of any circumstances. He had the appearance of a man that would be rather slow to anger, but it seemed that Bella being off leash in the park took him straight there. He hollered at me “THAT DOG NEEDS TO BE ON THAT LEASH ALL THE TIME”.

Bella stood behind the Ranger, watching, looking from the Ranger to me, and back to the Ranger. She growled and barked at him, gently nudging toward him, and she surprised him with obvious discomfort. Her message was clear to both the Ranger and me: “YOU’RE GOOFING WITH MY BOSS, AND I DON’T APPROVE.” From her viewpoint, the Ranger barking at me was unacceptable, so she barked at him. The Ranger, fully within his authoritative position, had been caught off guard. She continued stepping toward him as she barked. If the Ranger was angry at her being off the leash, this turn of events made him furious. The fissive internal reaction of the Ranger’s anger catapaulted him to escape velocity, and he went directly into orbit.

I called her, this time she came. I’ve taught her the “Nope” command, which means stop what you’re doing – whatever it is. Fortunately, she stopped barking at the Ranger and came to me. I put her in a “Sit-Stay”. Finally, at least one thing was going right.

Bella is an exceptional dog. Of course I think this, since she’s my dog. However, I hear it regularly from others, so I know it’s more than subjective. I often see it in how others look at her. I didn’t realize, when I got her, that German Shepherds are considered an aggressive breed. In my experience, which is somewhat limited, it’s more defensive than aggressive. The strength of our bond determines much, if not all, of her response to a given situation. It’s not about her being outrightly aggressive toward another person, it’s about her defensive evaluation of how threatening a situation is to me, or to us. I had a sense that the Ranger didn’t want to hear this. I also had a sense that he wasn’t about to take an anger management class. I was of humble and contrite heart.

The Ranger had a final message for me as he got back into his truck: “THAT DOG NEEDS TO BE ON THE LEASH ALL THE TIME, I MEAN ALL THE TIME”. I was glad to respond: “Yes, sir. I can do it.” When he put his truck into reverse to back out of my camping space, the truck went “BEEP BEEP BEEP”. Each “BEEP” drove home the authority of his message. He sped away in his truck. I could tell that he’s a good man, of great heart, and I knew he’d cool slowly.

And that’s how she is. I pity the person who tries to take my wallet.

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