OK, I just have to rant here, my popularity amongst strangers in cyberspace be damned.

I was out walking my four Westies yesterday along a path adjacent to the Mississippi River, and we encountered three adults and a 2–3-year-old girl. I could see from the “I’m ready to pounce” body language of the kid that she was, well, ready to pounce on my dogs. With Blanche, a.k.a. Miss Congeniality, or Ambrose, our Mr. Mellow Playfulness, that might not be a problem. And face it, these dogs ARE phenomenally cute (see the following photo), so I understand the attraction. However, having learned from painful experience that Keely does NOT like kids and barks at them angrily if they move fast past her, and that Oliver even bites ME if I try to grab or pick him up, I knew this could be a recipe for disaster. 

Ambrose, Keely, Oliver and Blanche

I was pulling my pack away from the pouncing child and trying to explain the folly of this situation to the adults, who all wore vapid, “Isn’t my kid cute as she lunges at this stranger’s unfamiliar dogs” looks. I told them, trying not to overtly blame the actual offending party—the kid, “These dogs are all rescues, so sometimes they have issues about being grabbed.” Still they stared, though a little bemused by my supposed ruination of their kid’s fun. I went on to say, “I’m sorry, but even though it might be safe with this one (Blanche), this other one has even bitten me when he’s startled.” My face registered the expression that said, “I’m protecting YOUR kid, guys! I’m doing YOUR job here!” Again, these idiots said nothing and did nothing to either protect or correct or plain old teach their kid a thing about asking permission first before approaching someone’s dogs and, even then, approaching them slowly and calmly—never pouncing.

Now don’t get me wrong, my dogs are not “dangerous animals.” In fact, they’re amazingly well-behaved on walks—people comment all the time about this—and they’re all awesome when reasonable adults (and even sometimes kids) approach them to pet them. Even Oliver is much less likely to get aggressive while on a leash and out on a walk like this. But we must always remember and respect the fact that they ARE animals, first and foremost. They can be instinctively territorial or self-protective, and that can be expressed by growling or snapping. Thus far, this hasn’t happened with my dogs while in public—in fact, being the alpha bitch, I’M the one who’s most likely to growl and snap at annoying people out of the lot of us—but I for one don’t feel like risking a law suit over a dog bite when it’s clearly the fault of the stupid adults who couldn’t be made to heed my polite warnings and pull their child aside and let us pass. Besides, it’s not my job to teach their child proper behavior, as I had my hands full trying to keep both my pets and her out of harm’s way.

The little troupe of supposed grown-ups looked befuddled by what I’d said and stared at me now as if I’d popped the child’s balloon or thrown her half-eaten lollipop down the sewer drain! (She didn’t actually have either of these things. I’m just saying…) I extricated myself, shaking my head in exasperation, and continued our walk.

A short while later, I passed a group of teen-aged boys goofing around on a foot bridge and had the one with dozens of piercings and metal doohickies protruding from his face—which may be neither here nor there as far as his mental capacities, but it was pretty gross to look at just the same—check out my furry pack and tell me, in case I’d been previously unaware, “You have four dogs.” All I could say was an affirmative, “Um-hum” and keep on walking. Who says our school systems are failing? This teen successfully counted my dogs and articulated that in a complete, albeit simple, sentence.

I thought I heard the faint strains of “Dueling Banjos”* in the background and wondered, too, if there wasn’t something in the water around here.—Sid

*”Dueling Banjos” was a song played in the movie “Deliverance” by an inbred hillbilly, rendered otherwise mentally deficient as a result of the too-small gene pool that spawned him.

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