Opinion | Off the Cuff

Gunter gets to the other side

It took all our will to trust the training adage of ‘ignore bad behaviour, reward good behaviour’

  • By Gautam Raja Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 December 25, 2012
  • Gulf News

Imagine a Labrador dressed in Rottweiler clothing and you have Gunter. He’s jet black, with tan highlights and two prominent eye spots that wriggle and twitch as he looks around. But he’s also all waggly in the rear, food focussed and generally way too friendly to anybody who’ll pay him attention. But some Rottie personality is manifest as well—notably in his unflappability and strong will, as well as his constant power playing to be top dog.

A few weeks ago, Gunter was driven out on a multi-lane highway by his owners and abandoned. Of course, Gunter (unless this is a huge coincidence) wasn’t Gunter then, but while he knows his real name, there’s no way for us to find out. We tried several of the usual suspects, but didn’t get even an ear twitch. The person who saw the abandonment says that Gunter ran wildly after his owners and was hit by another vehicle and had to be hospitalised.

Judging by his reactions on the road, we think it was a speeding truck.

The signs show that Gunter came from a loving home. He shows no fear or cowering and has also been partly trained, most likely by a professional. It’s probable that this boisterous overgrown puppy (he’s approximately a year old and large), got too much love and too little discipline and finally became too much for his family to handle.

For a few moments on his first evening in our house, my wife and I stood looking at each other, wondering what we’d got ourselves into. Gunter had grabbed one of my shoes and was tearing around the house like he’d just been let out after 20 years in prison — bashing into things and not listening to a word we said.

It took all our will to trust the training adage of “ignore bad behaviour, reward good behaviour” and to simply turn away into the next room, even though Gunter might be rending my leather shoes from heel to toe. It wasn’t long before he appeared at our door and at our continued lack of interest in his ways (though I was peering at my shoe from the corner of an eye), he dropped it and settled down. In this way, our reactions have calmed him down exponentially.

It’s interesting trying to piece together Gunter’s life. He shows a great interest in cars, and also school buses, which he keeps trying to get into. He’s scared of nothing, but suddenly cowered when I picked up a bicycle wheel (and he’s not too keen on the bicycle as a whole either). He loves riding in cars and has clearly spent a lot of time in them, not just to be abandoned on highways. He’s got a pretty serious case of separation anxiety, but once he realises you’ve gone away for a while, he settles down and can stay quiet for several hours.

It’s been just a week, but it feels as if we’ve known Gunter for months. Anytime we shout at him for driving us crazy, he plops down with a sigh and one look at those darting eye spots and we forget all our anger. He’s brought a sense of peace with him, because for all his rambunctiousness he has an intense quietness that we adore. Sitting on the floor of our as yet unfurnished, unfinished flat, drinking a cup of chai with him at our feet, we looked out of the balcony at the sunset sky and thought, this is the true meaning of ‘home’. And then he got up, grabbed a sock and brought all that silence crashing down.

Gautam Raja is a journalist based in Bengaluru, India.

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