By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
"Now you wanna see something?" he says. "I don't know if she'll do it or not, but let's try." He scoots away from the dog, but her paws remain in his lap. Margolis smiles broadly. Her owners are suitably impressed.
Margolis recommends Misha for seven to 16 weeks of socialization, at $395 a week. "Now, you have to be ready to make that kind of investment," he says. "I mean, we can take a look at her in six weeks and maybe do the rest at home."
"Oh," says the man of the couple. "We wanna leave that up to you."
A few days before I met Margolis, a state humane officer named Barbara Fabricant had de-scribed for me a scenario by which I could "trap" him. "Get one of your friends to dress up really nice and send her over there with a pit bull in a Mercedes, dripping with jewelry," she advised. "I'll tell you what he does to these people. The dog is in the car. He goes over and bangs on the windows, screams and yells and goes into all kinds of gyrations. The dog thinks someone is trying to attack his owner's car, so he barks and growls. Matthew will go, 'You have a lethal weapon here!' When people hear how much it's going to cost to put the dog in the kennel for training and tell him it's out of the question, he'll say, 'Well then, you should put this dog down.'"
But there was never a need for a setup. All I had to do was hang around the kennel for a few hours on a Saturday morning before a woman drove up in a silver Honda Prelude with two dogs, one of them recently adopted from a shelter. Sure enough, Sherry Davis asked her to leave the dogs in the car, and subsequently approached the car to knock on the windows. As if on cue, the dogs went crazy, jumping from front seat to back, snarling and yapping as dogs will do when they're feeling territorial. The woman signed the pair up for 12 weeks of socialization. Never mind that her only concern was about the new dog chewing up her sofa.
Her new German shepherd puppy, Leybourne's Prin-cess Ariel, had already had a hard life. At 5 weeks of age, she'd been taken from her mother, who was recovering from an infection. Within days, she came down with parvovirus, a deadly communicable disease found in dogs under a year old. She survived only with a blood transfusion donated by her mother, Cinderella. According to a letter Katz wrote to Barbara Fabricant, "Cinderella's temperament was so incredible [that] after a five-hour car ride, [the vet] took a pint of blood from her jugular vein without having to muzzle or sedate her. She just sat there and let him do it."
Ari completely recovered at 8 weeks, and by 3 and a half months had grown big enough to cause trouble. Katz had never owned a German shepherd before. "She frightened me to death," Katz says. "I was afraid she would hurt my 2-year-old son. She was nipping at my hands, and I would scream and she would nip more. It turns out she thought my screaming was fun."
On a friend's recommendation, Katz signed up for home training with NIDT trainer Nikki Litwin at $999 for eight weekly lessons. But at the end of the eight weeks, Ari was still nipping, and Katz was nervous. "I wanted someone who is an authority on dogs," she wrote to Fabricant, "to tell me that Ari was not dangerous."
In November of 1991, Katz brought Ari to Margolis for evaluation. "He put on a good show for us. He held her down, looked into her eyes and elicited her best fear response." Ari scratched and fought, but never attempted to bite. Katz wrote that she "turned away in tears."
Margolis diagnosed the dog as dangerously fear-aggressive, and told Katz, who also had a 6-year-old daughter at home at the time, that if she was not willing to pay to have the dog trained at his kennel for four months at $6,300, the dog would hurt her children, and that she should have the dog put to sleep. "He told me she wasn't a bad dog, that she was a good dog with 'major' problems. But he told me I couldn't give her to a shelter, because she might be adopted, and then she'd be a danger to someone else's child." When Katz told him that was too much money, he offered her one month and 20 home visits for $4,300.
Katz wrote NIDT a check for $2,320 as a deposit and drove home, "debating whether to bring her to the Humane Society to be put to sleep so she wouldn't hurt anyone. But I didn't." Instead, when she got home, she contacted Bob Penny, an animal handler who currently serves as chairman of the temperament committee of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America.