This is for the vibrant little Papillion named Java (Black Mtn Cup Of Joe RA MX MXB MXJ MJS), who should still be here.
I should string that along, maybe–hey, I do write romance!–but I’ll be good. Of course I’m talking about dogs.
Here’s something I found myself saying in a conversation elsewhere this past week:
…Because I’m so active with my dogs away from home (trialing, training, exercising, and Dart’s modest service role…), my chances of encountering inexcusably uncontrolled not-my-dogs runs pretty high, as do my chances of running into people who think the doggies are cute but don’t consider that the doggies might not feel the same way about them.
The conversation had been triggered, of course, by yet another …encounter… out in our neighborhood.
Picture, if you will, three Beagles running alongside a bike, neatly placed to heel and at the end of a brisk exercise session. Picture a quiet rural street in high desert grasslands and the end of a hot day with the sun just down, bringing coolness and a nice breeze.
Now picture the bike rider as she hears that ominous sound from behind–the charging footfalls of a large, loose dog, punctuated by grunts of sincere effort. I AM COMING TO GET YOU.
This is not a time for playing nice.
In general, I find I’m done playing nice.
Dear World at Large:
Leash your dog. Contain your dog. Take responsibility for your dog. Keep your dog away from me and mine. You are not special snowflake and your dog is not a special snowflake–no, he isn’t–and the rules, both legal and moral, apply to you, too.
Because one day, your dog will come home broken, and I will be the one who did it. I am prepared to do it. I have the means to do it. And even though I’ll probably go home and throw up afterward, it won’t be my fault that it happened.
It’ll be your fault.
(Special shout-out to the young man on UNM campus who, after all four of his large, unleashed dogs had uncontrollably charged a canine friend of mine, carried on extensively at volume. “Wahh! You scared the %$#! out of my dogs!” Because my response is this: “GOOD. Then I did it right.” My defense tool that day? A batch of waving utility marker flags.)
Prevention, it seems, is everything. When it comes to managing dogs at home, or greeting dogs in public. It’s all too cute for me to say we should all practice safe petting, but you know what? We all should.
So do not pet my dog (or any dog) without asking; do not bend close and loom over him or stick your hand in his face. What are you, three years old? Be nice!
(And don’t be surprised, if you do ask to pet, should I smile and say not now, thanks. There are often things going on in their world that you may not have noticed–such as the fact that we’re actively training.)
While we’re at it, practice safe pettiquete in general. Do not let your dog get close to mine, or sniff mine, or offer an unyielding stare and stiff tail from up close and personal. I don’t care if your dog wants to be friends. Mine are busy being with me. When it’s time for them to play, I’ll arrange a playdate with their beloved pals–dogs I know and trust and love.
If you or your dog are in my space, you or your dog are the problem. I’m not going to take chances with my dogs in order to spare yours.
In this most recent case, the charging behemoth in question had an abrupt change of heart when he saw my reaction, which is practiced and unequivocal and very, very fierce.
Not that it’s always possible to stop tragedy, and I know that. I don’t go out without some way to protect us, but sometimes things just happen too fast when people think the laws don’t apply to them or their dogs; sometimes the dogs are just too big, and too aggressive.
As Java’s grieving family well knows.