by Michael Chill
LOS ANGELES, CA
Client: “My dog is suffering from a severe case of repressed hostility.”
MC:”What seems to be the problem?”
Client:”I just told you. He’s suffering from a severe case of repressed hostility.”
MC:”No, I mean, what is he doing?”
Client: “He’s repressing hostility! I’m a psychiatrist; I know these things.”
Great. Here I’ve got Freud on the phone, and I lent out my last copy of the official English-to-Psychobabble translation book.
My mind raced, looking for a possible question that could elicit the answer I needed, and then I tried, “Sorry, doctor, I mean, in what behavioral response is this problem manifesting?”
MC: “Well, why didn’t you say that?” Pay dirt.
Client:”I just did. Anyway, how is it manifesting itself?”
MC: “He’s exhibiting male-dominance-oriented, raised-leg-urination behavior on my marble mantel piece.”
Client:”You mean he’s peeing inside?”
MC:”Not inside, he is urinating specifically and exclusively on my marble mantel piece.”
Client:”Is your marble mantel piece inside?”
MC:”Well, of course it is.”
Client:”Then he’s peeing inside.” Since one of the psychiatry credos is, “If you don’t pay for it, it won’t work!,” I offered him a consultation. When I told him my fee, he almost had a stroke!
Client:”Why, I don’t charge my patients that much!”
MC:”I bet none of your patients is peeing in your house.”
Client:”Well, that’s true. Of course, there is Mr. Ferguson….”
We made the appointment for the following day.
The next morning precisely at ten, I arrived at his beautiful house in Westwood. I was greeted at the door by the good doctor and a wonderful, outgoing, one year old shepherd-mix named Max. We exchanged pleasantries and, leaving Max in the foyer, the doctor showed me to the living room. It was to the left and had double doors, which he closed, thereby sealing it off from the rest of the house. I asked, rather innocently, as to whether he had ever closed the doors at night to keep his dog away from the marble mantel piece.
“Yes I have and, to anticipate your next question, no, he has not urinated anywhere else.” I was willing to think that maybe the doctor did have half a brain.
“Why don’t you just keep the doors closed?”
“That is unacceptable! That would be merely avoiding the problem, and not confronting the hostility.”
I was right…one half brain, present and accounted for. Why certain people refuse to observe the obvious and simple solutions to their pets’ problems is beyond me. Then again, why certain people refuse to observe the obvious and simple solution to life’s problems escapes me as well. But then, psychiatrists wouldn’t have all the patients they have, and couldn’t charge the money they charge, so they wouldn’t be able to pay me the money they do so I can give them information they should have learned in their freshman Psych 101 class.
I took Max to the back yard and spent some time “evaluating” him. After a short time, we actually just started playing…he was a terrific dog, with a great personality, and was eager to please! When I came back inside with the dog, I sat down with the psychiatrist and told him my opinion. “Your dog is terrific (in spite of you, I wanted to add); he’s command responsive, enthusiastic, and eager to please. I don’t see a dominant tendency at all. There’s got to be another cause to his urinating.”
We all went to the living room, and the dog immediately walked over to the mantel piece and started sniffing. A light turned on in my head.
“When did he last urinate there?”
“Last night. I cleaned it up before you arrived.”
“What did you clean it with?”
He went to the kitchen, and brought back a bottle of Formula 409. That was it.
“Doctor, this cleanser has ammonia in it. To a dog, ammonia smells like the urine of another animal, which is probably why Max continues to mark there. Stop using that, and get a good odor neutralizer from a pet supply shop.”
“That’s all?” asked the good doctor.
“Probably. Call me in a week or two and let me know if the behavior continues but, unless I miss my guess, that’s all there is to it.”
Ten days later I received a call from the good doctor. He had immediately gone out that day and purchased an odor neutralizer, and there had been no “mistakes” since that day. He thanked me profusely, and complimented me on my insight. He was much more relaxed and a lot less stuffy; in fact he sounded almost human.
He thanked me again, and then added, “Imagine, his having repressed hostility over my using Formula 409.”
I started to laugh at this self-deprecating stab at his own pretentiousness and then I realized, to my horror, that he was completely serious! I tried to explain to him that “repressed hostility” had nothing to do with it, that it was a simple case of odor association and that his dog was simply marking where he thought another animal had been urinating, but the doctor would have none of it.
I finally ended the conversation by thanking him for his compliments, and couldn’t resist one final attempt at humor. “Maybe you should try this with Mr. Ferguson.”
“That’s ridiculous. Mr. Ferguson isn’t repressing hostility, he’s regressing into infantile behavior due to his having been breast fed for too long as a child.”