This morning, I drove over to the dike to take a walk and talk to the wildlife. I had taken about a dozen steps along the graveled earthen ridge when I looked up to see a twenty-pound Jack Russel terrier about thirty yards ahead, crouching at his owner’s feet. Then, like lightning, he took off, snarling, hell bent for leather—right at me. The male half of the young couple who I assumed to be in charge of the dog (or not) laughed, made a half-hearted attempt to call off his mutt, and then just ambled forward as if nothing in the world were amiss; while I—fearing for my ankles or my butt or whatever part of my flesh the crazed little mongrel might decide to sink his teeth into—waved my arms, stamped my feet and hollered in my best “Bad Dog” mom voice, “No! Get out of here! Bad dog!”
The dog veered at the last second and trotted off into the weeds behind me. Unconvinced that the attack had been aborted, I turned to keep an eye on the little bastard; and out of the corner of my eye, ascertained that a second terrier had broken away from the people and was now also hurtling down the gravel path at me. The young couple strolled amiably toward me and looked slightly amused as I reprised my screaming, hand-waving, foot-stomping act, in two directions now, as by this time I was badgered from before and behind. I looked up angrily at the inexplicably unfazed young couple, who were by now about fifteen feet away.
“Maybe you should put a leash on these dogs!” I sputtered, still dancing and clapping to keep their pets a safe distance from my ankles.
The amiable expression disappeared from the young man’s face and he sneered at me, “Get over it!” Two leashes dangled limply from his hand.
In the ensuing few moments, he got control of his animals; acting all the while like I was some kind of head case for being so upset by his cute little dogs. Once he had the little devils safely tethered, I moved to go around the party and continue my now completely ruined walk. The young man was still looking at me like I was out of my mind.
“I have no problem with cute little dogs,” I informed him. “But when a dog comes charging at me with his teeth bared, that is not a good thing.” And I walked on.
Last I heard, he was whining something about, “Yeah, look at him!” As if his dog were so adorable and so inoffensive he could not possibly frighten a sane person.
WTF is it with people and their dogs?
I have a dog. I love my dog. But she’s A D.O.G. Not an animated stuffed animal. Not a child. Not a cute, cuddly four-legged package of fur with all the rights, privileges, needs and cognitive powers of a small human being. She doesn’t need to come into stores and restaurants with me. She doesn’t need to ride in airplanes, taxis, trains or city busses. She doesn’t need to come to crowded outdoor (or indoor!) events so she can be with me and “play” with the other dogs. She would, in fact, HATE doing any of those things and, though she does not like to be left at home, she is a lot happier there, in her familiar surroundings, than she would be if I dragged her everywhere I went.
And I would no sooner take her to one of those dangerous, germ-infested encampments of canine gang psychology—the “Off-Leash Dog Parks”—than I would incarcerate her in a cell in a dirty kennel and lace her water bowl with distemper virus.
I treat my dog like a dog. We go for rides, we go for walks, we play ball, she gets doggie treats. I don’t feed her from my dinner plate, because I don’t want her to get fat and ill—obesity is mortally dangerous to dogs. She doesn’t sit on the furniture and she doesn’t sleep in my bed. We take her to the vet, we keep her clean, we keep her free of fleas. And we love her. We cherish her, protect her and discipline her. Most people in our circle understand that our dog is a member of our family and is pretty damned spoiled. But she’s still a dog. And we respect that.
Dog owners have gone completely around the bend. They get a dog because they demand that something unconditionally love and be totally dependent upon THEM. Then they attach the poor animal to themselves by an impossibly short umbilical, insisting that the dog wants and needs to go everywhere and do everything the owner does. Not one millisecond of thought is wasted on the dog’s actual needs or preference. Or what might or might not be good for it. Humans have the bigger brains (theoretically.) Why are we not using them to understand how to truly enhance our pets’ lives, rather than building fantasies about how much they love us and need to be with us every minute of every day? Trust me—that kind of sick dependency does not come from the dog.
Then there is the subset of people that believes that controlling a dog in any way is somehow cruel or repressive. The relationship between humans and canines is not one big “Born Free” moment, people. We haven’t gone out into the woods, captured dogs and forced them into servitude. Thousands of years ago, humans and canines hammered out a mutually beneficial relationship. Each species has adapted behaviors to grease the wheels of the relationship; but though we’ve been in partnership for millennia, communication and bonding between the two species is imperfect at best. An uncontrolled dog can still pose a threat to humans…this is even more true since we have chosen to play god and breed dogs for aggressive behavior.
Dogs are pack-oriented animals. A dog’s behavior toward its pack is not an indicator of how it will treat strangers. To eliminate the fear that an encounter will end in bloodshed, dogs need to be under control when there is a chance of them coming into contact with non-pack members. If the human does not have verbal control over the dog, there had better be some kind of physical restraint used. This is known as a leash. It is not a torture device. It protects both humans and canines from the unpredictability of their behavior toward each other.
But we’re not concerned about our pets’ welfare, are we? We just want to puff ourselves up with that feeling of largesse and magnanimity we get when we let our companion run free and unfettered. And don’t nag us about the well-being of other people! If they’re frightened, intimidated or attacked by our pet, they need to “get over it.”
So now, I will either have to stop taking my walks when there is any chance that some fool with an unleashed dog is going to be claiming the territory, or I’ll to have to pack an umbrella, a walking stick, a can of mace or a grenade to ensure that I can complete my relaxing encounter with nature without fear of puncture or mutilation.
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