Monday, December 5, 2011
My only company in the room is in a cage on the floor. One bare bulb casts harsh shadows across us. It's quiet. I hear murmurs from the street below; people on the busy sidewalk going about their evenings. They have no idea of the struggle happening here.
I sit across from the cage in the room's only chair, fully dressed in a coat, ready to go at a moment's notice. In five minutes, I will take my ward from his cage and try, once again, to get what I want out of him. This can all be over in an instant, but how can I explain that to someone who doesn't speak my language?
My partner walks into the room. I say "Can you keep an eye on him? I need to get a snack and hit the bathroom." It's been a long day. She nods. We have to maintain constant vigilance if we want to accomplish our goal here. We had no idea this is what we'd signed up for.
In the kitchen I think about what got me to this place. I'd read the books. I knew the principles behind the training. I felt confident. All that confidence can erode in a heartbeat when you face your target for the first time.
That's something you won't learn in a book.
I go back to the chair and switch out with my partner again. I have to be near the cage, but it's important to avoid eye contact. Developing sympathy for the target is the first step on the path to breaking down. I pick up my book and keep him in my eyeline as I read, watching for subtle signs that he's ready to try again. We're walking a fine line between taking him to the edge without pushing him over. We crossed that line yesterday and there was an...accident. We don't like accidents.
Finally I see him becoming restless. "Let's go," I shout to my partner in the kitchen. She gets what she needs as I take the target out of his cage and bind him. We lead him to the designated spot and start this process with which we've become so familiar now. He looks at us, pleading, shivering, but we return his look with uncompromising faces and demand that he follow orders. We just need him to give us this one thing and it will be like this never happened.
This goes on for the longest ten minutes of my life.
It appears this round was for nothing, just like the one before it. I'm about to take him back to his cage when he urinates on the ground. I look at my partner, shocked.
"Good potty Omar! Such a good potty!" We shower him with treats and affection. "Awesome. Let's go watch Saturday Night Live."
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.