Allow me this rhetorical question, if you will.
As a pet owner, I am continuously amazed by how friends and strangers alike seem to think they know other people’s pets better than the people who live with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Case in point: You are merrily walking your dog along the street, noticing for a few minutes how the sun is shining and the birds are chirping or, as is more often the case during this severe northeast winter, how the tree branches are covered with beautiful snow…when all of a sudden, you feel your dog’s tension travel swiftly up the leash. Suddenly, you too are on high alert. For whatever reason (and in the heat of the moment, it’s really not worth fretting over why), your dog is indicating that he does not like the creature making a beeline towards the two of you.
You attempt to stand to the side, or even to court danger of another kind by taking a sharp turn into the street as cars drive by, to avoid the inevitable confrontation. You would think your body language, and that of your dog, would say everything that needs to be said, and yet 8 out of 10 times, the other pet owner will say, “Oh, it should be fine. It’s okay, my dog gets along with everyone.” With exasperation, you mutter under your breath that this has nothing to do with the other dog. Out loud, you say, “No, really, my dog doesn’t get along with all dogs. Please don’t come any closer.” And yet, the person begs to differ. My new line, which has met with greater success, is, “I don’t want your dog to get hurt.”
You might think this wouldn’t be the case with friends, and yet here too, issues arise. A well-meaning friend finds it hard not to give my dog a treat, even if I explain that there’s a sensitive stomach issue and that there really is no need. Again, I find that I have to insist.
Does this happen with kids too? Do other mothers make their way over to you and tell you how to discipline your child? Do they offer your child a treat? Are you more forgiving than I am?
Maybe I’m particularly aware of these things, as I’m not a busybody. When I witnessed a man and a woman rigging up their dog and inflatable tire into a fun-filled dog-sled-toboggan run, I would never have dreamt of having a word with them and suggesting that their plan was ill-conceived. Rather, I admired their ingenuity and thought, ‘How creative of them to give their dog a job!’
As for my future dog walks, I’m tempted to take my cue from a New York City street sign and give my dog a sandwich board that says, “Don’t even THINK of coming any closer!”