This past Memorial Day weekend, I flew to Georgia to spend some quality time with my father, sister, and best friend. Overall, it was a pleasant trip from start to finish. I got from Rochester International Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (and back) without a problem. My best friend promptly picked me up at the airport in Atlanta and I ultimately (despite the need of a jump start after leaving the airport) arrived safely at my sister’s house. I had lived with my sister for a brief while in 2007. I was looking forward to seeing her and her family. I was also looking forward to seeing my Dad. In addition, I was looking forward to seeing Daisy and Stanley; my sister’s two loving beagles.
Unfortunately, there was someone else waiting to meet me at my sister’s house that was not there when I lived with her before. My sister had acquired a third dog — Plato. Plato is a short temperamental little dog known as a feist. If turned on his back, Plato would make a quite sufficient football tee. Feist is a term that derives from an old dialect which means “to break wind”. Knowing this information did not having me waiting to meet Plato with eager anticipation.
My sister had given me some precautions about Plato. Plato is a rescue dog. Most rescue dogs were physically and/or emotionally abused by a previous owner. This resulted in Plato being very self protective and very territorial. This necessitated the following provisos (that’s right folks; another bulleted list):
· He does not have the gastric disorder that is suggested by his breed.
· No baseball hats
· No hoodies
· No dark sunglasses. This proved a challenge the next day because I wear glasses with transitional lenses.
· Do not challenge Plato.
· Do not try to pet Plato upon first meeting him.
I hadn’t even met this dog yet and was already given more riders than Van Halen’s reunion tour. I walked into my sister’s house and was immediately and enthusiastically greeted by the lovable Stanley and Daisy. Plato also eagerly came toward me. However, once Plato recognized I was a stranger to him, he began barking and growling with the ferocity of a…well, a vicious dog. My sister would curb Plato’s barking and growling by interjecting “CHHH!” As a matter of fact, my sister had to say “CHHH!” so many times; I thought MARTA* had set up a subway station behind her house.
I sat down in the recliner while my sister and I got caught up on each other’s lives. After about 30 minutes, Plato left my sister’s lap and jumped into mine. Now, I naively thought, we were making some progress. Plato kept sat with his back to me and only turned his head enough to be able to see me out of the corner of his snooty little eyes. Plato wanted me to be painfully aware it was ME he was ignoring. If my eyes DID meet with Plato, this began the call and response between Plato and my sister: GROWL! CHHH! GROWL! CHHH! BARK! CHHH! CHHH! Eight more bars of this and I could have written a catchy little blues number on the spot. Eventually, Plato reluctantly fell asleep. It was painfully obvious how much he resented having to stop his contempt toward me long enough to get some shut-eye. My sister and I both turned in as we had conversed well into the morning.
I got up the next morning and went to the kitchen. I was immediately greeted by Stanley, Daisy, and Plato. I petted Daisy and Stanley but honored my sister’s proviso not to reach for Plato. As I poured myself some juice, Plato sat there while growling and barking at me. It became immediately clear that Plato no longer wished to devour my ankles. He was growling and barking because he wanted me to give him affection and attention with the same conviction with which he ignored me the night before. Plato was clearly more than a feist, he was a self-righteous jerk. I sat down and Plato jumped onto my lap. He sat down and “allowed” me to pet him. If I stopped petting him, he would growl. One time he growled at me and I retorted: YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! At this point my sister pointed at me and said “CHHH!”
By the time I left, Plato and I were getting along quite well. Plato learned that I am not a threat to him or anyone in his house. I learned that Plato treats everyone he meets exactly the same; without exception and without apology (You didn’t really think I was going to let THAT pun go, did you?)
* MARTA stands for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. The Atlanta area’s bus and subway rail system.