Ever since I was in the second grade at school, I got increasingly fond of dogs. But it was not until a hundred books read and a course of lectures attended that I got my first dog at the age of 13.
Since then my interest in these species has never subsided, it brought me to meet a lot of new people, join a respectable poodle breed club and a wonderful club of flying disc dogs. And yet, when I hear something along "the more I see of men" lines, I start to feel bad... There is something wrong about declaring the preference of other species over your own.
Recently, Mark and I were attending a birthday party of our pal Matthew, who just turned two. There were about a dozen kids invited, ages 10 months through 6 years or so. A nice table was set up in the shade in the city park next to the playground.
From the corner of my eye I noticed a dog emptying its bladder just 3 feet away from our setup. Having multiple experiences returning run-away dogs to their owners, I started looking for a supposedly concerned owner who'd be trying to locate and call his dog back. The dog was wearing a jacket of some sort, but it didn't have a collar, which made me assume at that moment that it had somehow slipped out of it. Well, no one else was watching the dog or looking concerned.
Next I saw a tiny blind poodle heading our way, also without any collar or tags. Only then I saw the owner — an elderly woman. She sat at the table next to ours and started unpacking her lunch. She definitely didn't need my help handling her dogs so I switched back to the conversation with other moms, while keeping an eye on my son enjoying the slides.
But just in a few seconds I broke the conversation again — the woman put the dogs' bowl on the ground and offered them to join her meal. One of the younger kids followed one of the dogs to see what it was doing and perhaps pet the dog on the back. This was the last drop for me:
- Excuse me, this is a public park. Your dogs must be on a leash.
- it's illegal to have your dog off-leash in the park next to the playground.
- Yes, but these are companion dogs, the law does not apply to them.
- They have to be on a leash, what you're doing is illegal, — I begin to lose my patience.
- Look, this dog is blind, it won't do harm to anyone, — she says, pointing at her toy poodle.
- Exactly! It is BLIND and SMALL! If some kid approaches it while it's eating from its bowl, it can easily get scared and bite the child.
- It won't — it's a COMPANION dog.
Well... I would definitely not trust the judgement of someone who respects the dignity and freedom of their canines to the degree that she would not dare to put a leash on her "companion dog". I told her that I would call the police, but she didn't even care.
Moms around me tried to calm me down:
- Look, these dogs are really quiet and they seem nice.
Suddenly I couldn't even explain in simple words why I opposed that lady so hotly, being a dog owner myself. Those free roaming tag-less dogs were not just illegal, they were a threat by a combination of factors: they were unlikely to be vaccinated, they didn't look as if they were washed very often, or given anti-flea or anti-worm medication, they were wandering and EATING right next to the playground, and with such an owner I doubt that they have ever been trained to respect humans.
The reality is that too many people nowadays resort to dogs as they try to compensate for something in their own lives — for their inability to form satisfying and deep relations with other people, to build breath-taking careers, produce brilliant and charming offsprings or simply make other people listen to what they have to say...
To me this woman and her attitude was a live explanation of why many people dislike dog owners so much: while treating her dogs as her equals she forgot that others could have a different point of view. Such people do not even notice when they create inconvenience to others, and feel deeply offended when somebody addresses them with a valid remark or request.
For some women and men, the glory of breeding a champion puppy or obtaining a championship title on a dog compensates for not being anywhere close to winning the "Miss Sunshine" or "Mr. Olympia" contest. Others trim, dye and dress up their dogs to attract attention which they generally lack. In my opinion, such escapism does not do any good neither to dog owners, nor to their canines.
I often hear how good it is for kids to have dogs, how dogs make them more humane, more caring and responsible, and I always tended to agree with that. But from this sudden perspective, could it be that dogs with their unconditional love and forgiveness also teach children to be inconsiderate and weak-willed? This is something to think about...