My youngest daughter often says that she's having the "worst day ever." She used to use the phrase so often you'd think I was hiring her out to sweat shops for slave labor. Yesterday, however, I totally had to use her phrase as my own and I meant it as well as I could ever recollect necessary.
I was out walking my dog on a very dog-friendly trail - that we've been on quite a bit lately. It's the trail that I take him out on off-leash, which has made my life my with dog here worth living. He's thrilled to meet and greet the other pooches and all was going well.
Right near the trailhead we encountered a huge pack of people and dogs. There must have been ten of each. My dog sniffed at most of them as happy as can be and kept moving along. Without any warning he was about to have an altercation with another dog but I called him off the dog before he had a chance to eat him. (Key words to remember: called off, before.)
The owner of the dog had two dogs. One of which was in the pack and had a friendly encounter with my pooch. The second, for some reason, triggered some sort of response in my dog. If you know me and my relationship with my dog, you know that he's very protective of me and has had some issues with other dogs in the past. He has not eaten any other dogs or cats and to my knowledge is all bark and no bite.
In any case, it's an issue with me that I'm extremely self-conscience about. I'm super-sensitive about this and concientious about keeping my dog on good behavior. I have found, though, that there are two types of dog owners. There are owners who think that dogs are people and those who think that dogs are dogs. The people-dog camp is full of owners with high expectations that the dogs will always be submissive and have tea with you. The dog-dog camp knows that these are animals and act on instincts and will sometimes not get along with other animals but given the chance to work it out amongst themselves, will. Usually, the dogs will figure out who is higher on the ladder and go about their business.
I am straddling the fence as an owner. I expect my dog to behave perfectly, but there have been times where my dog is accused of poor behavior because he looks the part of the aggressor, when it is rare for him to actually start anything. He's a Lab, for crying out loud. He loves to socialize and meet any animal of any kind.
So here we are, on the trail and my friend thinks the other dog must have told my dog that he slept with my dog's mother or something as equally insulting and my dog got ticked off. I stopped my dog from doing anything and the owner - a big man who looks like Kenny Rogers started yelling at me. He said I had to have my dog under voice control and insisted that I walk my dog on a leash. I put my pooch on the leash and was not in the mood to deal with this guy. Only in retrospect, did it occur to me that my dog was in voice control if he did not, in fact, eat the other dog. I was able to stop my dog from doing anything. But this big guy, we'll call him Asshole, just kept taunting me. I told him he needed to put his dog on leash and he let me have it again. Not wanting to get into it further, I started walking back to my car. Asshole was following me and kept saying stuff as we walked in the same direction.
After enough of the taunting, I turned around and told him I was going to put my dog to sleep and he could shut up now. He did. I started crying soon after that. It was like someone put a needle in a water balloon and there was no plugging it up until it was empty.
When I got to the street, my happy-go-lucky dog, tongue and tail wagging looked fine so I took him off leash again. Stupid dog, though, starts walking in the middle of the street and I called him to the side of the road so he would get out of the way for the approaching gold-ish colored Suburban-looking truck. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I look up to see Asshole shaking his head that he has to wait for my dog to get out of his way. The passenger window is rolled down and I think they (yes, THEY, his wimpy wife was with him the whole time) were about to say something to me and must have thought twice after seeing my tears. I called him a Fucking Bastard as they passed though.
When I got home, I was hysterical. If I was going to be bullied off the only trail that was working for me in my dog-walking-misadventures, what was I supposed to do? I couldn't give him up knowing that he has this unpredictable side (you know, where he acts like a dog). I actually considered that putting him to sleep might be the solution. That thought lasted just long enough for me to look at him with his innocent brown eyes and the look of devotion he gives me back.
I called a guy I know who loves him and asked if he wanted my dog. He told me I needed to cool down and not to make any decisions in haste. I would surely regret them. Then, after having heard the whole story, went off about what an asshole Asshole was. Dogs will be dogs.
My best friend then imbued me with her crystal clear insight by telling me that Asshole's dog had to have said something to my dog to start the fight. Then, as only a best friend could, she told me how to act psycho on the guy next time and that he had no right to harass me and I should tell him that I will call the police next time.
Perhaps it's the special spin that I put on my telling of the story, but everyone sides with me. As it should be, of course. And if you don't agree with me or think I'm wrong, just kiss my ass. We'll agree to disagree for now. In any case, since I am the responsible pet owner that I am, I investigated classes for my dog and even looked into muzzles. I was talked out of that by a person at the pet store, however, as being a worse option. More training is the way to go.
My dog really is a good dog. He just wants to protect me and I need to teach him that I'm supposed to protect him, not the other way around. I didn't go on that trail today and I'm not sure I will for a while. Yes, the bully, Asshole, wins this round. I ran my dog today, instead, and that was good for both of us. Sure, he didn't get to sniff stuff and eat grass, but I didn't have to deal with bullies or spend my day crying. Yesterday sucked.