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Fraught

Two fights—one between spouses, one between 2 dogs and a few people. Get ready to rumble

So, I’m fortunate in that my husband and I really don’t fight much at all. We bicker a fair amount—but the times we’ve really screamed at each other, over the past 12 years together, I probably number on hand. However, within our first year or so of marriage, I think I just I was tightly wound with expectations of husband perfection nourished over 4 decades of waiting for marriage. And let’s just say this—my husband drives well, but quickly, tending to tailgate and feel umbrage if he feels he’s been “cut off”— an occurrence he perceives frequently. Fortunately he’s not the type to aggressively drive parallel, say, and confront other drivers—but he doesn’t back down, either, if he perceives a slight.

So there we were late at night, driving down a dark street in the San Fernando Valley near train tracks. We’d just picked up an utterly unhealthy late dinner at Del Taco, and a motorcycle who had buzzed around us for a half mile or so pulled in front of us, slowed down for a while, then sped up. David lost it. He raced after the guy, and I’d had enough, so launched a diatribe: “I’m sick of your territorial pissing contests! I’m sick of you ‘teaching someone a lesson’! Stop being such a baby! You need to protect me! I am in this car too!’ Simultaneously he yelled “I am driving defensively! When you scream, you increase my anxiety! Everything would be fine if you just sat their calmly!” At which point I yelled “YOU’RE the one who needs to calm down! This is not calming anyone. Stop!”

He pulled the car over. “You want me to stop? Fine. YOU drive the car.” And he got out and started walking. And I drove next to him as he walked down the sidewalk, feeling so lonely and confused, thinking “Is this the way marriage is?”

Eventually he got back in the car. WE calmed down. We went home and wolfed cold tacos. And over the years I’ve learned to not be so reactionary in the car, and to bring something along to read whenever possible, so I’m blissfully ignorant of road shenanigans.

The other “altercation” happened last night. Lesson 3 of puppy training for our dog Bitzli, at a local chain pet store. From day 1, a non-puppy-looking pitbull has dominated the tiny training classroom, not only because of his aggro behavior but because 3 adults and 2 children accompany him. BTW, there’s only three dogs in the class, and last night it was just my husband and I and Bitz, the trainer and her sweet deaf well-trained pit Lincoln, and lunging Charlie and his entourage.

To be fair, I don’t think Charlie was actually trying to attack. But nevertheless, he was constantly straining the leash toward Bitzli, barking and crying, and throwing off way too much energy—like the owners have little control. Bitzli strains forward too, but with an obviously playful, curious vibe. We make sure to keep her close to us. The man in the Charlie group said to the trainer last night, “Do you think it would be a good idea if Charlie could just get close and say hi to Bitzlie?” And the trainer said, “Uh, no.” Not 5 minutes later, when we weren’t paying enough attention and Bitzli strained at her leash, crazy Charlie leaps toward her, bites her, and Bitzlie cries in pain.

I felt shocked, sick and supremely angry all at once. Thank God our dog only had a single tiny bite mark on her lip that I dabbed at as it bled. We should have just gotten up and said, “Our participation in your “training” is over. We’ll be contacting you about a full refund”. But, for reasons I don’t thoroughly understand—probably out of ingrained training to not rock the boat—we sat there stoically while the Charlie people apologized to us and the trainer went on a weird stream-of-consciousness about methods of how to separate dogs if they fight, including the brick her father had to throw at the head of his crazy Uncle’s pit…and I just thought, “Shut up so this will be done and we can get the hell out of here”. Once the stupid pit family left, I told the trainer I was done with the class, and she agreed the class should be dissolved and offered two private lessons to finish up the rest of the training, and I thought, “I don’t want to deal with you any more”.

As of today, my husband’s talked to the store manager, who was apologetic but noncommittal about the refund.

Perhaps we’ll just walk away and start anew. But I want the satisfaction and good training we paid for in good faith. So this is not really about a fight between two dogs. It’s about “fighting” to get what we feel is rightfully ours—and not knowing exactly how to do that.

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