Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What'd I make this time? A mistake!

I've been working with a new dog lately. A client got him from a rescue organization. He'd been tied up in a backyard since he was a little pup, and as a result he's now two years old and has practically no socialization skills. He's wary and nervous, and my first interaction with him was helping the client catch him. She'd let him into her fenced back yard, and then she couldn't get him to come back inside. I fashioned a lasso out of a piece of clothesline and caught him up pretty easily. Then she attached his leash to his collar and let him drag it around so she could catch him by it when she needed.

My first step would have been to teach the dog to come when called, using abundant bits of roast chicken, but ... not my dog. And that's a story for another time. Anyway...

The next time I came by, the dog was trailing a length of plastic-covered wire cable with a metal clasp on the end. What's up with that? Well, he had chewed up both the leashes she had attached and the cable was something he couldn't chew through. The dog is a very fast mover and spends a good amount of time galloping through the house playing with the client's other dog. Unfortunately, the cable trailing behind has a tendency to wind around chair legs or corners, go taut, and then whip loose, sending the metal clasp end ricocheting off walls and making a terrible gunshot noise that terrifies the dog, which makes him run again and on and on. 

My first step-- oh, wait; I already said that. 

So I told the client (because I have to work within her parameters, not force mine) that I would see if I could find a strong, quiet piece of something that would resist chewing and not be so terrifying and noisy. So I went to the boat store.

Gosh, this is a long story and I'm not even halfway there yet. Get yourself a cool drink and come back. I'll wait.

Back? Okay, good. 

So there I am at the boat store. They have a whole wall covered in spools of rope, all different kinds. The clerk asks what I need, and I explain about the dog. I want something reasonably thick, with perhaps a wire cable inside or a covering that resists abrasion (like chewing) and I need about, oh, twenty feet. 

The clerk shows me a rope about the diameter of a standard pencil. "How about this?" 

It's just a plain nylon rope. 

"No, he'll chew through that in about ten seconds. He's already destroyed two leashes. I need something much stronger than that."

"I dunno," she says. "This is pretty strong." 

I look at the wall of rope. "Do you have anything that's specifically meant to... I mean, you tie up a boat, right? And say the water is wavy and the boat is going up and down, and the hitch rope is between the dock and the boat and it's rubbing and stuff-- you wouldn't want the friction to wear through the rope, right? I need something like that. Because the dog is going to chew on it. But I don't want him to be able to chew through it. Maybe something made with Teflon?"

You won't believe me when I say this, but she puts that thin piece of nylon rope in her teeth and starts gnawing on it. Mouth full, she manages "This is pretty strong."

"You're not a pitbull," I say. "He's got teeth that will crack bones." I scan the rope selection again. "So this is all you have?"

"Yep." (*gnaw gnaw gnaw*)

"Okay, thanks. I'm just going to look. I'll holler if I need anything." 

She spits out the rope, shrugs, and walks away. And the thing is, I bet she'll go home tonight and tell everyone about the crazy lady that she had to deal with at work. 

I stand there for a while longer, arguing with myself about rope. I'm pretty sure the dog will just grind through everything they have here. And I get frustrated because if the stupid owner would just take an afternoon and teach the dog that it gets a treat when she calls, no rope would be needed. He's a smart dog. He comes when I call, every single time. 

Owner: "He likes you better than me." 

Me: "No, I have chicken. He knows I'll give him some." 

Owner: "Well, why won't he come to me?"

Me: "Do you have chicken?"

Owner: "Well, I call him and he won't come."

Me: "Do you have chicken?"

Owner: "The other dog will come just fine. I don't know why this new one doesn't. I guess he doesn't like me yet."

Me: "Do you have chicken?"

Just offer him some stupid chicken -- or any treat!-- when you call and he will suddenly think you are the best person ever and he'll show up with bells on every time you say his name! And you won't need rope! 

But I digress. 

The ropes are so pretty, all different colors, with speckles woven into them, blue and red and green and tan. They remind me of jump ropes from childhood -- 

And then I remember my five year old nephew is coming to visit this summer, and I've been slowly building up a stash of games and toys that we can enjoy together. Jump ropes! That would be fun! I find some pretty rope of the right diameter and look at the label. $1.20 So for three yards, that would be less than five bucks. A bargain! A different clerk is passing by, and I ask her to cut me three yards of rope. 

She squints. "So like, twenty feet?" 

"Yes, perfect."

She measures it out. "Are you sure? Once I cut it, it's yours."

"Yes, I'm sure."

She winds the rope and fastens the end, then attaches a slip with the pricing info on it, and I head to the cashier who rings me up and says "Twenty-six dollars and fifty-seven cents."


"No no no," I say. "It's $1.20 a yard. I have three yard..s.." Suddenly I realize why the cutting clerk mentioned the length in feet. "It's $1.20 a foot?"

The cashier swings the register display so I can see the math, and my frugal nature seizes up. I can't pay that much money for a little piece of rope! But I have to! It's cut to order! I told them I wanted this! The cashier smiles helpfully, and I reach for my wallet. My heart is pounding as I realize I will have to confess this bit of fiscal stupidity to my husband, because I haven't got cash and he'll see it on the bank statement.

Behold the majesty and the wonder of the Thirty Dollar Rope.

So I'm telling Dave this story as we stand outside and I water the plants, and when I get to the part where the cashier gives me the total, he stops me. 

"And you walked out, right?" 

"Well, I--"

"Do NOT tell me you paid thirty dollars for a piece of rope!" 

"I had to! It was cut to order!"

"You could have just walked out! What are they going to do, chase you?"


"And it's not like you'll never go to the boat store again. Why didn't you just leave?"

"It was an implied social contract! If you special order custom rope length you have to--"

Dave said some words I won't repeat here, not so much in anger as in pure disbelief. 

I asked him to reconsider the whole scenario as something we can look back on in years to come and laugh about. And someday when he does something I think is ridiculous and I look at him all sideways, all he has to say is "Thirty dollar rope." and I'll have to concede his point. It's like a get out of jail free card for him. 

I hope Louis is ready to do thirty dollars worth of jumping.

EDIT: My mom emailed me and asked why I got twenty feet when I'd only asked for three yards. You know what? This whole thing was a mess from the get-go. Where did my brain make the erroneous connection that 3 yards = 21 feet? A yard is three feet, not seven! No wonder the clerk was confused. No wonder my math was wrong. My takeaway from the whole thing is stay away from the boat store.

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