Ramsdale & Fairfax, Psychologists, read the sign on the fence.
“Come on Butch,” said the man to his pit bull, as they walked across the grass to the door that said Office. “Sit,” said the man to the dog, but the dog wasn’t paying attention. It pulled on the heavy leash, and the choker tightened on its throat. The man gave a vicious heave and pulled the big dog back. He clouted it with his hand on the back of its head. “Sit, I said,” he shouted sternly. The dog stood still. The man thumped on the door with his fist, even though there was a doorbell. He didn’t like doorbells; they were for sissies he thought. He enjoyed pounding on things with his fist anyhow.
The door opened to reveal a friendly petite woman with a head of curly blondish hair. She peered up at the man, who was well over a foot taller than her. Her first instinct was to slam the door and run for help, but she was a psychologist, so she quickly suppressed her gut reaction and assessed the situation.
“Come in,” she said. “You’re right on time. This must be Butch.”
“Yeah, this is Butch,” said the man. “He’s all fucked up, pardon my French.” He laughed at his joke. Dr. Ramsdale laughed too, although she didn’t find the remark funny. She just knew how to deal with people.
She led them into an inner room that was barren of furniture. The floor was shiny and slick grey linoleum, the walls painted glossy white. Along one wall was a slab of wood on steel brackets that served as the sole seating. In the corner was a short wooden stool.
“Please sit down,” Ramsdale said, pointing to the bench.
The man sat down, holding onto the dog. The dog looked around the room with a scared expression. This must be the torture chamber, thought the dog. The dog could read minds, and it knew that this was not a romper room. There were no chew toys, nothing to bite, and little distractions. The dog was well aware of what sensory deprivation was for. They want me to pay attention to them, thought the dog. They think that with nothing to see, and nothing to play with I’ll be easier to deal with.
“So, Butch has problems you say?” Ramsdale said, grabbing the stool and placing it several feet in front of Butch.
“Yep, he does,” said the man. “Can you teach him to obey me?”
“That’s why we’re here,” Ramsdale replied, staring at Butch.
Butch was still standing, as he stared back at Ramsdale. I’m not going to be pushed around and taught anything by you, he thought. Ramsdale was gazing into his eyes, doing initial eye-contact procedure, a routine action that set the tone for her dog psychology sessions.
By the look in Butch’s eyes Ramsdale thought she was on to something. Butch had that typical look, which so many misunderstood dogs had. Most people didn’t understand, they thought it meant that the dog was a dangerous killer, but Ramsdale knew better. She knew that in his dog heart Butch was crying out for love and understanding. She knew too that the man didn’t understand this either.
“Hello, Butch,” she said, softly.
Butch just stared at her. The hair on his back was beginning to rise.
“See,” said the man. “He doesn’t like you, I can tell.”
“Oh, he’s just a sweetheart, really,” said Ramsdale, as she stared deep into Butch’s eyes. Eyes which were getting wider and fiercer by the second.
Ramsdale stood up and looked down at Butch, giving him a dominating look.
“OK, I think I can work with him,” she said to the man. “I’ll have to be alone with him though. Why don’t you come back in an hour?”
The man stood up, still firmly holding Butch on the leash. He handed the leash to Ramsdale.
“I’ll be back,” he said, and promptly left the room, slamming the door behind him. He liked slamming doors too.
Ramsdale stood there alone with Butch, who had turned to the door to follow the man. She pulled him up and his paws scratched uselessly on the slick floor.
When the door was closed Ramsdale reached down and unhooked the leash from Butch’s collar. Butch rushed to the door, sniffing and scratching it frantically. Ramsdale sat on the stool and waited. Butch tired of this after some time, and started to sniff around the room. After he had discovered all the smells, and had found nothing to chew or play with, Butch circled around and dropped to the floor. His tongue came out and he lay there staring into space.
“Butch,” said Ramsdale.
The dog didn’t respond. She repeated this, to no avail. She circled him as he lay on the floor, watching his reaction. There was none. After some time trying to get his attention Ramsdale sat on her stool in front of the dog, and looked at it.
“I want you to know that I understand you,” she said. “I know that you want to be a good dog.”
You don’t know shit, thought Butch as he stared at the wall. Ramsdale reached down and grabbed Butch by the collar. Taking a firm grip she began to pull the dog up from the floor, but he was very heavy. Unable to budge him, Ramsdale straddled the dog and began to tug with both arms. Butch lay still, as if playing dead. His thick neck could take a great deal of strain before he would respond. With a huge effort Ramsdale managed to lift Butch high enough that the dog became uncomfortable and stood up on its own accord.
“Ah,” sighed Ramsdale. “There we go.” She let go of the collar and Butch wandered over to the door again. Ramsdale slapped her palm on her knee to get Butch’s attention. “Butch, come here boy,” she said.
Butch wandered over to the opposite side of the room, sniffing the floor. Other dogs had been here before. He could smell at least 30 of them. One in particular had been very frightened, he could sense the fear in the scent left behind. He even knew it was a dachshund.
Ramsdale stood up and walked over to Butch, snapping his leash on. Then she pulled him over to the stool, where she sat.
“Now Butch, I want you to sit when I speak,” she said. With this she stood up and pulled back on the leash while pushing down on Butch’s hind quarters.
Butch sank his butt on the floor and looked at Ramsdale.
“Good boy,” she said, handing him a piece of cheese that she kept in a pouch tied around her waist.
Butch swallowed it without even chewing it once. He looked at her, thinking; who thinks they can change my behaviour with a morsel of cheese? Bring on the steak!
She sat down again and looked at him.
“Give me your paw,” she said, reaching down to grab his leg. She pulled on it and Butch let her lift it up. She dropped it and pulled out more cheese. Butch snarfed it up again. Then she stood up and yanked his leash. “Up,” she said. Butch sat there. What is this, he thought? First you want me to sit, now to get up. Make up your mind.
She stood beside him and started to pull him around in tight circles within the room. He scrambled along beside her as she led him first one way, and then the other. After a few minutes of this she stopped and said, “Sit” again.
Butch sat down this time, and out came a piece of cheese. “Good boy,” she said, giving his head a rub. A few more pieces of cheese later there was a thumping sound. Ramsdale left the room for a minute and returned with the man.
“He’s been such a good boy,” she said. “I think we made some progress today.”
“Thanks,” said the man, handing her a cheque for $150.
“See you next week,” said Ramsdale.