“Leash Aggressive and Not Good With Children”
Notice on Luna’s kennel at the Berkeley SPCA
“Sheila, what have you done?”
Mama Moon, on meeting Luna for the first time
“Sheila, you have got to get rid of that dog.”
My cousin, the breeder of perfectly behaved Labrador Retrievers
“Are you sure about this dog?”
“She’s on top of her crate, scaling the fence, trying to get into the kennel of the dog next door. She’s almost there.”
Chris, my ex-boyfriend and Luna’s de facto papa
It was all true. Luna was quite possibly the most difficult dog I had ever met. So why would I adopt such a problem child? I saw something special in Luna. She was a spitfire for sure, full of piss and vinegar and unrestrained energy. She also had a gentle and inquisitive side. One moment she was tearing circles around the room, up on the couch, under the coffee table, around the chair, then ever so delicately, front paws up on the examining table, sniffing for clues of the last inhabitant. In all this time, she never disturbed a thing, never knocked over a cup, never crashed into the leg of a chair. Smart, graceful, and always full of surprises, Luna was difficult but she was always interesting. More than that, she needed me, someone who could love her forever, the shelter was afraid nobody would adopt her. In an area where every rescue dog was either a pit mix or a Chihuahua mix, she alone was my type. She also looked surprising similar to my Sweet Ophelia, whose loss I was still mourning. Sadly, what they say is true. You can get a new dog but you can never replace the old. I liked to tell people that Ophelia was my angel. Luna, the little devil, was my dog.
The first night I brought her home was a harbinger of things to come. My friends, “papa” Chris Daugherty and “auntie” Sara Brown joined me for the big event. We stopped at the local burrito joint and picked up dinner on our way home. I opened the door to my warehouse, unleashed Luna, and she bounded up the stairs, across the atrium, jumped on my bed and burrowed in, making herself right at home. We sat in the front room eating our burritos and tossing Luna chips, we then prepared to leave for a previously scheduled engagement. It would be quick. I put Luna in the bathroom with a bed, water, and toys and closed the door. When we arrived home, she had let herself out of the bathroom and made confetti of the paper bags and tin foil that had carried our burritos, not a morsel remained.
The following day, Sara and I set out on a mission. We had to walk Luna until she went poo so we could praise her to high heaven and she would understand that it was good to poo outside. We walked from Eighth and Brannan to the Marina on the Embarcadero, then we walked the Embarcadero to Pier 39, then we turned around and walked back the Embarcadero to the Marina. Four hours later she finally found a patch of grass that suited her and went poo. Finally. Hurray! Success! We praised her to high heaven then walked the 15 minutes back to my place, eager for our Saturday morning breakfast. The first thing Luna did was drop her second poo on the carpet. Crap. Maybe green wasn’t the best choice for carpet.
A couple weeks after adopting Luna a friend suggested I take her to obedience classes. “Oh hell no! I’ve had dogs my entire life, I don’t need no stinking obedience classes.”
One week later, I said to myself, “Oh hell. I need obedience classes. I can’t handle this dog!”
That Saturday, after a two-hour run at Fort Funston, we began our obedience training. Smart as she was, Luna always understood what I wanted her to do. But I could see the thoughts rolling through her head, “do I really want to do this? What’s in in for me? Is this really necessary?” The organization had a special DWA (Dogs With Attitude) class for the most difficult dogs. I had been complaining about how difficult Luna was so they invited me to sit in on the DWA class. Luna, bad as she was, was decidedly not a DWA.
Less than three months later, we headed to way Northern California for The Tour of the Unknown Coast. It was our first sales event together, in hindsight, it should have been our last. I had a 1996 Toyota Tacoma King Cab, and the entire five-hour drive Luna was bouncing around the back seat, then hopping from the back to the front seats, over and back, over and back, over and back… When we arrived at the hotel she jumped from one bed to the other, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth… She settled down a bit after our two hour run on the beach, but only a wee bit.
The day of the event they placed us next to the portable emergency station. When we arrived, the station was manned by a woman and her vivacious five-year old grandson. To date, I had not had a Luna/child encounter and I didn’t quite believe her “not good with children” moniker. I decided to introduce Luna and the little boy, a dog lover, and see how they got on. Moments later I realised it was a big mistake. I took Luna back to my booth and told grandma that it would be best if Luna and the boy were kept apart. A couple hours later, Luna leashed to my waist and the event in full swing, the mother replaced the grandmother. The boy was running erratically, in and out of the trailer, in ever-bigger circles, closer and closer to Luna and me. Next thing I know, Luna nearly pulled me out of my shoes and the kid was running to his mama, screaming and crying.
“That’s it, nap time for Luna.”
Off to the truck we went. She climbed in, circled three times, lied down, and immediately fell asleep.
A short while later a cop car rolled up and an officer went into the trailer.
“Crap, he’s here for Luna.”
“No. You worry too much. It is the emergency station after all,” replied my friend.
“Maybe I do worry too much, but they are here for Luna, that I know.”
Sure enough, moments later the officer emerged and approached my table. He told me he had to meet the dog and take a look at her rabies tag. My insides were churning all the way to the car, “Please Luna, don’t bite the cop.”
When we arrived at the car, Luna was curled up in a little ball, sound asleep. I opened the door and she looked at me with her sweet, sleepy, puppy-dog eyes. The officer reached in and took hold of her collar to read the rabies tag. Luna lifted her head to gaze at the officer then very gently licked his hand. My little devil, she always was a great actor.
We returned to the trailer and the woman came out. The officer told her, “She seems like a really sweet dog. I don’t see any marks on your son’s face.”
At that moment, the boy bounded down the trailer stairs and raced over to dog that was walking by. He immediately unleashed his ninja-turtle karate moves on the dog. The officer pointedly told the mother that she should keep her son away from strange dogs.
Back at my booth he told me that he had to write up a report, but not to worry, the paperwork would be “filed.”
The following day I returned to San Francisco and signed up for the Canine Good Citizen Test.