The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

August 12, 2013

A tale that wags

— Before Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, there was Bob Grossman, who enticed dogs with head pets, belly scratches and with the remnants of T-bone steaks that Bob broiled over charcoal on Saturday nights.

Along with most dogs, Bob devoutly believed that the human race separated into two kinds of people: petters and non-petters.

Bob lived in a town where, every day after work, he could walk to a beach and go swimming in the warm, salty Caribbean Sea until the sun sank low and the sky flamed with pink and orange.

It was a dog town — no leashes, no laws. On his treks to the ocean, Bob encountered other people’s pets. Some would bluster a protective growl. Others would lope out, head bowed, ears floppy and tails wagging to see if a new friend had happened by.

In a tropical place, dogs come with mites, ticks, fleas and deeper disturbances. There was a pervasive fear of distemper, which many believed upset the balance of humors in a body.

Bob would meet a dog, pet it, scratch it, name it and invite it for a swim and a steak bone. So, although we never actually owned a dog, we always seemed to have one, drying out in a sunset, recently bathed of mites, fleas and parasites.

The best dog was Willie Touchstone, a mixed breed with expectant eyebrows and a rugged bulldog/boxer build — a mixed blessing because Willie was pretty sure he was a born lap dog.

Willie and Bob would swim every day, down the lagoon toward the harbor and then back to Rogers Beach. If Bob encountered someone and stopped in mid-swim to chat, Willie, who could not tread water, would circle the humans until it was time to get back on course.

Willie would hang out with me on weekends, tagging along for soccer, baseball or any adventure, wholesome or otherwise.

A British kid whose name I cannot remember — though it must have been Nigel or Trevor because they were all named Nigel or Trevor — once sicced his trained, exercised, groomed and obedient German Shepherd on me, in the way that British people mangle the English language, with the command, “Set to him, Prince!”

Willie went a few nasty rounds with Rin Tin Tin — communicating to Nigel/Trevor/Prince that life would be better and longer if they bullied someone else.

On Saturday nights, Willie would follow Bob and Alice as they walked to the movie theater, keeping his distance and hiding behind telephone poles whenever either of the humans looked back.

Willie believed that if he could not see you, then you could not see him. So hiding behind a telephone pole meant that three quarters of Willie’s lower self stuck out in plain sight where a stubby tail went back and forth in greatly misplaced satisfaction with his own cleverness.

We had Willie for a few years, including full time when the Touchstones went on vacation and needed someone to formally look after their pet.

Bob and Willie were walking back from their swim one evening when Spezially, a smallish cocker-spaniel (owned by the Speziallys) came out yapping and snarling. Willie did to Spezially what he had done to Prince. The odds, this time, were far less even.

Willie seized Spezially by the neck and shook him. When Willie dropped Spezially,  Spezially never got up.

Spezially, the man, had great affection for his pet, the now dead, smallish cocker-spaniel. In that company town, Spezially, the man, was somehow Touchstone’s boss. So a consensus formed around the idea that Willie had caught distemper, for which the only known solution was a swift and merciful death.

Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, teaches that dogs can be dangerous when dog owners don’t apply DEA — discipline, exercise and affection — in proper order and proportion.

Like many people who earn the undying loyalty of seemingly dangerous dogs, Bob knew about exercise and Bob knew about affection, but Bob didn’t have the heart for discipline.

If you adopt a dog, good discipline (delivered with Millan’s “calm, assertive energy”) is a lifesaver. Shelters are full of dogs whose owners did not know that and whose lives are now in danger.

Gary Grossman is publisher of The Daily Item and The Danville News

1
Text Only
Gary Grossman
  • Tom Corbett's 700 club

    The news department has been researching those 700 jobs for Snyder County, much the way we went looking for the 300-job employer who was floated anonymously for public consumption before the last election in Northumberland County.

    April 7, 2014

  • Not a witness for the prosecution

    Northumberland County District Attorney Anthony Rosini decided Friday, in an emergency hearing before Judge Charles Saylor, not to put reporter Francis Scarcella on the witness stand in the role of a witness for the state after all.

    March 30, 2014

  • Where bad ideas are born

    When Line Mountain School Board members secreted themselves behind closed doors and decided to fight for boys-only wrestling teams, you wonder if anyone asked, “What will it cost us to lose?”

    March 23, 2014

  • Not going to give up

    During a community service function in late February, someone passing me in a hallway asked if the newspaper would ever get the list of charges behind the sudden departure of the Midd-West School District superintendent.

    March 9, 2014

  • A future with Heisenberg

    March 2, 2014

  • There will be cookies

    Every now and then, thoughtful readers come to the newspaper with points of view that are well researched, fully formed, very impressive and probably would not have occurred to us, or at least to me.

    February 16, 2014

  • When do-gooders don't

    Stories, homilies, plays, lessons, literature, court dockets and graveyards are filled with tragic people who started off like Pretty Pamela Brown, educated, well-intentioned, good girl from our town (Tom T. Hall, 1995, performed by Bobby Bare and Leo Kottke), but who wound up in disgrace.

    February 9, 2014

  • A debate worth having

    During the past week, Lewisburg’s school leadership took another turn in the spotlight for wanting to build a new high school some place other than the claustrophobic seven acres it now occupies downtown, next to busy Route 15.

    January 26, 2014

  • Doing the hokey pokey

    In the newspaper business, we occasionally receive visitors who want to give us a piece of their mind even when they do not seem to have extra amounts to surrender.

    January 19, 2014

  • Into the black hole

    January 12, 2014