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Monday, July 5, 2010

Licking Lesson

We wait for cooler evening temperatures.  At eight o'clock we take FLD Mike for a walk in downtown Mt. Clemens during the annual Stars and Stripes Festival.  We missed the Festival fireworks Friday night, but there are still plenty of distractions to tempt FLD Mike:  dropped Gyro meat chunks, French-fries, and pulled-pork; a novelty vendor blowing soap bubbles; "Banana Derby" monkeys and petting zoo animals; and crowds listening to music--loud music that range from country to rock to "post-grunge."

I am pleasantly surprised at how many people actually pause to ask me, "Can I pet your dog?" before lunging for Mike's blocky-black-Lab head.  To each I reply, "He's working, no, but thanks for asking!  That's exactly what you should do."  As for FLD Mike, he seems not interested in the crowd, preferring instead the taste-treat temptations on the ground all around him.  A simple light tug on his leash with a Leave it and he plods on.

I spot a Lion's Club booth near the National Stage on the corner of Macomb Place and Pine.  It's the Fraser Lion's Club selling raffle tickets for a Harely Davidson motorcycle.

Let's stop here for a while, Andy, I suggest.  I know that FLD Mike will be a big hit.  We meet the Fraser Lion's Club members working the booth; everyone wants to pet Mike.  I decide to let them because FLD Mike is relaxed, with all four feet on the floor, in spite of Club members and bystanders crowding around.  Maybe we can help, I say.   I'll tell people they can only pet the dog if they buy a ticket!

FLD Mike stays calm with the attention, but does get his tongue in gear, licking any hand that comes close.  Deliberately placing hands or fingers near, and sometimes IN, a puppy's mouth is a behavior in humans that I don't understand.  When I say, No, Mike, and pull his head away, the offending humans more often than not reply, "Oh, that's ok, I don't mind!"  But I do mind.  When I say, Well, he has to learn not to lick like that, they sometimes, but not always, take their hand away in reluctant agreement.

All this licking causes FLD Mike to be a little less calm and I keep a tighter restraint on his leash.  One gentleman in particular really gets Mike going.  As he pets Mike with his right hand (Mike licks it intently), he cradles a lit cigarette in the fingers of his left hand, which is hanging at his side.  Mike's enthusiasm grows.  "I'm done with this hand," Mike seems to think as he suddenly switches his attention and aims for the man's idle left hand.  Mike's tongue strikes, but instead of landing on skin, he swipes the lit cigarette.

Until this moment, I had never seen FLD Mike react upset about anything--a roaring motorcycle didn't phase him, getting stepped on didn't make him jump, thunder and lightning--no problem.  A lit cigarette on his tongue?  FLD Mike yanks his head back.

"I'm so sorry," the man says as he pulls his cigarette away.  He tries to pet Mike again with his other hand, but Mike is finished with him and steps aside.  I think he's ok, I say.  I wonder if the bite of the lit cigarette will stem his licking.

FLD Mike fidgets a bit and pulls on his leash to leave.  I want to make sure he shakes it off.  Mike. Sit.  He sits, but his eyes are darting.  Good boy, Mike.  Down.  He lies down and looks up at me.  Good boy, Mike!  I give him a pat on the head.

Another person approaches to pet him.  I am curious as to his reaction.  FLD Mike ignores the petter.  Good boy, Mike, I say to encourage his calm, lick-less behavior.  Mike stands up when he sees another person walk up with a cigarette.

Mike.  He looks at me and settles.  Good boy, I say and slip him a treat.

Although FLD Mike is definitely affected by this negative experience, his response is mild and he recovers quickly.  We hang out at the Fraser Lion's Club booth until Mike actively seeks out pets (and we help sell a few tickets).  When I notice his tongue licking his lips as he is petted, I decide it's time to go.  Mike. Heel.


  1. You are aware cigarettes are poisonous to dogs?

  2. I was not (my husband and I are not smokers--I assume they aren't good for anyone!), but Mike was ok; he did not ingest any of the cigarette, only took a quick lick of the lit end. He did not even have a burn on his tongue.