“Don’t try to pet her”


‘Sasha, the dog with the 38-inch neck’

First, let me firmly establish, for you all Animal Lovers out there, that I am also one. An Animal Lover. When I was growing up in the Midwest we, like everyone else we knew, had not only a yard with plenty of room for pets to roam, but remarkably animal-tolerant parents.

Not only were my parents animal-tolerant, they were animals-eating-with-the-family tolerant. That’s Middle Younger Bro Roger vying for table scraps with Hermie while Oldest Younger Bro Scott looks on

Through the years, we not only hosted dogs and cats of all stripes and dispositions (including one dog named Horrible because he was, in fact, ‘horrible’), but also turtles and rabbits and some guinea pigs who disappeared from their cages and were never seen again. Oh, and some guinea hens my brother Roger brought home from a sleepover. (They lived in the basement, roosting on the water pipes.) My Mom and Dad even tolerated reptiles (a couple of chameleons and an iguana named Cleopatra), probably because they didn’t last very long.

So. Now that we’ve set the pro-pet record straight, let me tell you about this dog.

The Dude and I hadn’t been married all that long. We were in that stage where you’re getting to know each other’s Friends From Before. One of the Dude’s was this guy named Gerry. They’d bonded while training together as ophthalmologists. We’d met them for a wild evening at Regine’s once, but this was the first (and, as it turned out, the last) time Gerry and his wife Mary (they later divorced; I am convinced it’s because their names rhymed) invited us out to Connecticut for the weekend.

We decided to go. After enjoying a pleasant drive in the ole VW Rabbit, Connecticut being a pretty state and all, we were pulling up to their house when we noticed two things: a very big ‘Beware of Dog’ sign in the front yard, and a wildly gesticulating Gerry standing on the front step.

‘Pull into the garage!’ he shouts. (This is, of course, in the Days Before Cellphones, which is why he has to shout at us instead of just texting.)

So, we do. We pull the VW Rabbit into said garage. We’re just about to open the car doors and get out when Gerry appears again, this time at the back door (which opens, natch, into the garage). This time, though, he has what looks like a small pony by his side. Except that the ‘pony’ is growling. Really loud. And slobbering.

Omigosh. It’s a dog. The biggest dog I had ever seen in my then-30ish-year-old life. I found out pretty soon that this dog was an English Mastiff (photo above courtesy Wikimedia Commons). To give you some idea of how big this dog was, she had a 38-inch neck (neck!) and weighed 185 pounds. Oh, and Sasha, since she was a she, was on the small side for English Mastiffs.

Okay, so Gerry is holding this snarling dog by the collar (and Gerry was not a big guy). Every hair on this dog’s body is standing up in alarm. So then Gerry tells us that Sasha has been trained to attack anyone and everyone who comes in by the front door. Which is why he had us drive into the garage. (Gee, thanks, Gerry.) Then he says that thing that owners of snarling huge dogs always seem to say: ‘She’s really very friendly.’

But then he adds ‘Don’t try to pet her.’ (Oh darn. And I really really wanted to do just that.)

Right about now the Dude and I are wondering if we’re going to be spending the rest of the weekend in the garage, sleeping in our car. But Gerry shows us how to Make Friends with Sasha. He grabs each of us, one on either side, and starts kissing us with loud resounding smacks. ‘Say her name’, he instructs, ‘and smile!’ So we start going ‘Sasha! Sasha!’ as the dog in question keeps snarling and growling and Gerry keeps grinning and kissing.

After a while, the hackles go down and so does the growling, so we finally enter the house. We say hello to Mary (who is as tiny a woman as Gerry is smallish as a man), we accept a drink (you bet). And sure enough, Sasha starts to ‘make friends’. This friendly behavior consisted of sitting on my feet (all 185 pounds of her) and licking my face with her, like, 10-inch-wide-and-very-rough tongue (her head is at eye level with mine while I’m seated on their couch).

Here I must pat myself on the back and say that I was an extremely good sport, especially since Sasha took a liking to me, bounding after me in the back yard (I swear you could feel the earth vibrate), and following me all around the house. I’d hear a little whine then feel a very big nudge of her huge noggin because she did, in fact, want me to ‘try to pet her’.

Sandy, a much more user-friendly (and downright anybody-friendly) dog we had when I was a kid. You could definitely pet her. Heck, burglars could pet her

Okay, we get through dinner (you wouldn’t believe how much kibble that Sasha could take in; I faint to imagine her output), engage in some pleasant, though interrupted-by-slobbering conversation, and before you know it, it’s time for bed.

We’re saying goodnight when Gerry asks for our used underwear. Both of ours, the Dude’s and mine.

Gerry explains that Sasha, since she has essentially been trained to attack any and all strangers, needs to sleep with our used underwear so that she will recognize our scent in the morning and not maim and/or kill us.

Ho-kay. I was just glad I had listened to my mother, who always said to wear nice underwear ‘just in case’. I think, though, that she was thinking more along the lines of ‘in case’ of an unfortunate traffic accident, and not ‘in case’ a killer dog needs to sleep with them.

Yes, we did fall asleep. Dealing with giant pets is pretty exhausting. But, sure enough, in the middle of the night I am awakened by hot breath in my face and the sensation that someone or some thing is staring at me. I open my eyes and see that Sasha, my new Best Animal Friend, is standing over the bed (and me), whining. It’s pitiful, or as pitiful as a 185-pound animal can be, so I hiss ‘Wayne…Wayne!‘ (that’s the Dude’s Actual non-blog Name) ‘Go get Gerry. And hurry!

Wayne manages to slip out without attracting hostile attention from Sasha, and gets Gerry. Who is all apologetic and explains that Sasha has many fine canine qualities but isn’t a highly intelligent example of her breed, and sometimes gets into rooms and then can’t figure out how to get out of them.

Okay. Glad we got that straightened out, Ger.

Well, we were actually supposed to stay longer, but we cooked up some Lutheran Lie and got the hell out of there the very next day. And never went back (duh). Oh, and remember that I mentioned that Gerry/Mary got divorced? They actually fought over who would get custody of Sasha. And by that I mean that they both wanted her.

I’m going to go pet Wombat now.

Wombat sleeping with her bear. Not with my underpants.

Wombat not sleeping with my underpants

New York City. October 2014

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23 thoughts on ““Don’t try to pet her”

  1. Unbound Roots

    What?!? I am a HUGE animal lover too, but this is just too weird. The underwear thing would have thrown me over the edge – I may have just left the house that night – well, if the dog didn’t get in my way.

    Oh, and I love the picture of Roger and Hermie at the table. LOVE IT! My pups know how to eat of spoons too. 😉

    Love this post, Alice!

  2. I thought this was going to end in some kind of Cujo situation with you and the Dude drinking your own pee to keep hydrated whilst being trapped inside a VW Beetle, and Sasha bashes the doors to try and eat the hoomans inside… Glad it all turned out ok (if you can call handing your underwear over as a dog-placating measure ok…)

    • Ahhhhh. Great alternate ending, Brummie! But, as another commenter pointed out, the ‘victim’ in this story is no doubt poor sad Sasha. No dog should be trained to ‘attack’! Though, as you could see from the story, she was rather sweet. I have the squashed feet to prove it.

  3. Funny post! I’m totally convinced that Gerry was the one who wanted your dirty underwear. The dog could’ve gotten your scent from your jacket or a shirt or even a sock! It’s probably a good thing you didn’t go back, who knows what Gerry’s motives really were!

  4. Now that Sasha really was a BIG dog!
    I can totally relate as we have cousins who, when they come to visit, bring their beautiful but rather hefty Blue-Eyed Staffie, who is a huge ball of cuteness, all eager to play but so heavy! And when he sits on you, you know it. I have been left with a few bruises over the years, caused by his love lol!

  5. Oof! Okay, quick soapbox lecture: a dog who is growling and snarling until placated in the way you described isn’t “trained to attack”, she is terribly insecure and convinced that the puny humans she lives with don’t have their shit together enough to protect her. Sorry, but people getting dogs they can’t manage and then “training” them to “protect” them is one of my biggest pet peeves because it puts everyone in danger and ultimately it’s the dogs who pay for it with their lives when something goes wrong. For the record, I’ve known many mastiffs, several English, and while they’re enthusiastic and sometimes doofy, none of them were like this.

    That said, the real prize goes to your “friend” for asking for your dirty underwear. Don’t be fooled: Sasha was just an excuse for him to get ahold of your panties. If all he really wanted was your scent, he’d have asked for a sock or something.

    • Most excellent comment! Couldn’t agree more. As I write my posts with humor in mind, I sometimes fail to stress the serious bits. But as an animal lover from waaaaay back, I did feel sorry for Sasha. Being trained to attack can’t have been fun for her. In her defense, though, I did get the feeling that she was genuinely loved by her very twisted ‘masters’. And she was indeed affectionate, as my squashed sat-upon feet can attest. And yes, that Gerry was one ‘off’ guy. Underwear, indeed! If this kind of thing happened to me now (in my much-more-mature, learned-a-lot-from life state), I feel pretty confident that I would have, as they say, ‘pushed back’ on that request (!) xoxoxo

  6. josypheen

    This post gave me proper belly laughs! 🙂

    You must have been sooooo glad that you had nice knickers on! Blooming ‘eck what a trip!

    By the way, wobat is a complete cutie!!

    • First, let’s start with Wombat, who is indeed a cutie and has never ever growled at me. Second, thank you for your lovely comment. So glad I could make you laugh! Xoxo

  7. I suspected, in paragraph 11, that Sasha was also trained to be ferocious at the garage door – as an excuse for Gerry to weirdly smooch all over the the two of you. By the time he asked for your underdogs, I was sure of it. (Sorry Gerry if you’re reading this and you are, in fact, not a weird and creepy fellow.)

    Thanks for the hearty laugh.

    • You called it, Julie! Gerry was in fact a tad on the creepy side. Too creepy to read my blog, I’m sure. And if he does read it, he’s no doubt too creepy to recognize himself in it (!) xoxoxo

  8. I would have been handing Gerry wet underpants if I had to spend any time in the room with that dog. Nope, give me a cute, friendly little doggy anytime. Psychologically speaking, you could theorize why two tiny people felt they needed a dog they could not really control if it decided to kill someone. Glad you made it out ok, Alice, both of you.

    • Hahahaha! Wet underpants! Indeed! Thank you dear Judy, for your comment and (I think) for that image! Yes, those two were really something. As I mentioned, they eventually divorced, and fought over Sasha. No accounting for doggie tastes, I guess! Then Gerry married a mail-order bride (from Ukraine, if memory serves). But that is, as they say, another story.

  9. Ruth Meisenheimer

    My memories of some Henry pets … Major, the big grey cat who moved to your house from the Hazlets, then moved next door until the new neighbor gave him a bath! He moved right back to your house. Joe Cocker, the aptly named, randy cute cocker spaniel. The Kitty who loved to parade our host’s undies right from the laundry basket to show us bridge ladies. Tuna, the city cat you sent to the country for ‘attitude adjustment’ but became known as Evil Kitty! Tuna finally became a pet at the local nursing home and remembered to snarl at me when I visited! I should mention that I think cats are interesting and cute. I just don’t want them to touch me!

    • Great memories, Ruth! Your comment jogged my memory. Now I’m picturing Black Kitty and White Kitty, who were both actually brown; one was just darker than the other. (Laura had given them Actual Names, which the rest of us refused to use, thus reducing her to tears.) Oh, and remember Simon and Schuster? Simon was the dog (dachshund???) who met an untimely end. Schuster was yet another misbehaving cat I palmed off on my Very Patient Mom.

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