Muffy M.

July 3, 2013

Post #3469 – 20130703

My most esteemed sir:

I am in my late thirties and work, sporadically, as a writer. (Meaning both that I get paid haphazardly to do it and I'm a bit lazy in my work habits.) I have been re-reading some of my favorite books of yours from my youth and realize now how deeply your style affected me. I've also been delighting in reading "Fish Whistle" and learning you made very little up. I must mine my own dull life for more material.

But I write to you today as a dog owner. Four years ago I adopted a poodle mix who is the perfect gentleman inside and a holy terror on the leash. He barks, lunges, and generally goes berserk when we pass dogs, bikes, people…I can't walk him. I simply drag him outside to excrete as quickly as possible. He goes from poodle to wolverine in two seconds flat.

Is there anything that can be done to help him? I've tried positive reinforcement, squirting him with water, running in the opposite direction etc.

Also, I know a very fine Malamute named Buddy Bear. His ears never learned to stand up so he looks like a hundred-pound puppy. He's quite snugglable.

Also – the salami salesmen you speak of. Do they also purvey pepperoni? Because I could probably be a vegetarian if it weren't for the Italian cured sausages.

Yours, etc.
Muffy M.
Los Angeles, CA

Daniel replies:

Why do people assume that the stories in FIsh Whistle are not made up?  I know, actually.  It was labeled non-fiction.  Most of the pieces were originally """"commentaries"""" on NPR, and the understanding was that they were non-fiction, because it was on a news show.  At the end, they would say something like, """"Daniel Pinkwater is a fiction writer, he lives in New York State.""""  That should have been a clue.  Did any of them have an element of truth?  Sure they did.  Do the characters and events in my books published as fiction have an element of truth?  Sure--that's how you write fiction. 

Your dog. Can you ride a bicycle? If so, did you learn from reading about bicycle riding theory, or did someone show you how to do it? It's like that with dog training. I'd guess your dog's behavior problems can be easily solved, but you need an instructor--this can be in an inexpensive class. You live in a big city, so it should be easy to find someone. Ask your vet for recommendations. The fact that your dog has been behaving this way for four years should make no difference. If he were mine to train, I could probably turn him around in a week or two. It might take you a little longer, but with the right instruction you'd see improvement pretty quickly.