In September 2015, I wrote a short piece I called ‘Assimilated‘. A short while later, I wrote a sequel titled ‘You have nothing to fear, but …‘, which I produced in response to a challenge at esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com that asked for a story about fear.
Using those as a start-point, we now follow Victor’s adventures after his exposure to Martinus mendax.
Let’s run with this for a few weeks, to see where it takes us.
I will welcome storyline suggestions or even complete scenes, as long as they fit the overall scheme (which I hope will emerge before too long).
Catch up on earlier episodes of Martinus mendax at this link
I felt sure, given Jim’s implied challenge, that Martin would have me do something to Jack and Jill, Gina’s Jack Russells. I was equally sure that it wouldn’t end well for those two noisy, bad-tempered, quarrelsome dogs. Against that, experience showed me that Martin was often wont to do exactly the opposite of what I expected him to do. Thinking about it: it wasn’t really the dogs’ fault. Jack Russells are just like that.
I decided to take some action. You know by now, that when I said that I had decided to take some action, the chances are very strong that it was not I, but Martin, who took the initiative. I popped around to Gina’s house and knocked on the door. Jack and Jill went mad. Gina opened the door, and invited me in. I immediately gave the two dogs a treat.
“I want to do this a few times every day, Gina,” I said.
“Do what?” she asked.
“Knock on your door and give your pups a treat.”
“Because,” I explained, “I want to desensitise them to a knock on the door. That way, they won’t go wild every time someone comes.”
“They’re alright once I let people in,” she said, “they’re just letting me know that someone is there. I don’t always hear it and I don’t want one of those awful bell things everyone else in the street has.”
“No problem. Let me get them not to bark, but to come and find you when there’s a knock on the door.”
“Can they do that?”
“Gina. Jack Russells are highly intelligent dogs. With the right training, there’s no limit to what they can do – within their physical capabilities, of course.”
For a couple of weeks, I worked with the dogs. At the end of it, they were still going ballistic when Jim arrived whistling, but not when someone knocked on the door. When they heard that, they ran to Gina, who by then, always carried a supply of treats of a type that wouldn’t make the dogs put on weight.
The next job was Jim. It was his whistling that triggered them, not his knock on the door. Jim offered to stop whistling, but we didn’t want that. We wanted the dogs to change their reaction to the trigger, to modify their behaviour, not the other way around.
“I’m doing some work with Gina’s dogs, Jim,” I said one morning, “I want you to carry on exactly as normal, with one small change.”
“What’s the change?” he asked. I gave him a packet of treats; the same type Gina had started using.
“When you come to Gina’s house, whistle as normal, and knock on the door. Do that even if you have no mail for Gina. Once you’ve knocked on the door, open it and walk in.”
“What? Have you taken leave of your senses? Those dogs are wild.”
“No, Jim. Those dogs are noisy. They have no history of biting anyone. Ever.”
“Okay, so I open the door and walk in; then what?”
“Then you give Jack and Jill a treat each, fuss them, talk to Gina and quietly leave again. I’ll lay good money that, within a fortnight, they won’t bark when they hear you whistling, or when you knock on the door. Once they no longer bark at you, it will be okay to go straight past the house if there’s nothing to deliver.”
“If that works, Vic, I’ll owe you a pint or twelve.”
“I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t work. The timescales might be optimistic, but I think they’re achievable, and I’m sure the method is sound. I aim to go back to France for a bit, once we’ve got this settled.”
“Okay, Vic, but I didn’t know you were such an expert on dogs.”
“I’m not, Jim. I’ve had some good guidance from someone who seems to know what he’s doing. The main thing is Gina can come out of it with a pair of dogs that are calmer and better balanced, and you come out of it having lost the frantic barking you’ve had to put up with. In fact, everybody wins, there will be no losers.”