There’s nothing like a collision with a normal pet dog owner to oust me from my insular existence.
Having only three dogs now has made my household a lot quieter. Of course that’s due not only to the absence of merely a number, but also the absence of a presence and the effect of that absence on the remaining three (and me). Still, I find myself thinking how I now only have three dogs.
My dogs are far from perfect. In fact, they are very imperfect. I am incredibly conscious of this fact. For my life, I allow a great deal of latitude when it comes to certain things. Such as this:
The worse thing about this picture? I encouraged it. Yes, I actually encouraged Camm to do this. Why? Because she did it on her own and I realized how adorable she was with her expressive face asking me what I was cooking and if she could have some. However, I did not have my camera nearby. So I ran to grab it and asked her to repeat her offered behavior. Which she did all too gladly. And was rewarded with profuse praise. I was actually smart enough not to reward it with a nibble of what I was cooking. I already have Youke the Counter Surfer. I don’t need another.
I’m also very lackadaisical about actual leash training, which is why if I’m serious about actually walking my dogs on leash, I use a harness. Being that they often are not on leashes though, they have excellent recalls and know several important cues, such as “wait” and “close.” When actually on a leash, I’m pretty sure my dogs believe we are trying out for an Iditarod team.
My dogs are not necessary great with other dogs. I’ve written before about this. Mainly, they are snotty border collies with intense breed snobbery and firmly believe that only herding dogs know how to behave properly and know how to be polite. Most other border collies are acceptable. Some Australian Shepherds are also deemed admissible. Australian Cattle Dogs are also permissible. Youke will tolerate most anybody if he is off leash and as long as they aren’t trying to butter up to me. Brady, surprisingly for his lengthy history of dog reactivity, off leash will greet other dogs, even the boorish Labrador or unruly Golden Retriever, in a friendly manner, as long as they don’t push it. I guess this means I did an okay job with Brady. On the other hand, Camm prefers to live in her own little space bubble, her space uninvaded by any but members of her own immediate tribe. Hell hath no fury like Camm when another dog dares to solicit her when she has made it very clear that their presence is unwelcome. I don’t feel she’s aggressive per se. She is amazingly tolerant of other dogs around her and near her, as long as they are very much minding their own business. In fact, their eyes should not even touch upon her majesty.
So, with this, and much, much more naughtiness, I am acutely aware of my dogs’ shortcomings and faults. This is why most of time we visit places or go at times where we will not encounter others – other dogs or other humans.
The ordinary pet owner’s perspective:
I finished up work today at 4 pm and made it home at 4:15 pm. Being that it is mid-December, I was literally minutes away from it being pitch black.
This time of year sucks. It sucks for me, but mostly it sucks for my dogs. The lack of daylight seriously cuts into our fun adventure time, particularly as I must work for a living.
As soon as I parked this evening, I called the dogs and invited them into the vehicle for a romp. Needless to say, they were extremely pleased about this unexpected invitation.
I took them to a nearby park, taking a calculated risk that while it was dark at 4:30 pm, it would not be gated shut, and I was right. I had also calculated that the small dog park within the larger park area would be uninhabited and that the trails winding through the park would be deserted.
I was mostly right.
I did see a lone walker and dog off in the distance when we first arrived, but they were easily avoided as we took an alternate path going in another direction.
Silently praising my brilliance for choosing to walk the dogs in near darkness on a literal freezing cold evening, my foolish pride came crashing down when two male trail runners suddenly appeared behind us. Because Brady cannot be trusted after dark off leash, he was attached to me via a long line. Camm and Youke were off leash, a little bit ahead on the trail. I quickly called Camm to me. She came instantly, but not before the two young men burst upon the scene as well. Needless to say, she was startled and started barking fiercely. In their haste to avoid Camm, one of the men quickly ran inches past her – a move that would’ve earned him a nip if I didn’t have such a firm grip on her collar – and the other tried to go around. Unfortunately, the runner’s going around made him narrowly avoid slamming into me, but did not prevent him from tripping over Brady’s long line, shortened hastily by me to a mere four feet or so, but apparently still two feet longer than it should have been per his miscalculated attempt to get between me and the bushes.
I didn’t know whether to be pissed about the sudden ambush or apologetic about being out in the near dark in the middle of a trail with three dogs who clearly were not expecting trail runners when clearly we should’ve been.
As my brain was trying to process this, but slowly erring on the side of being apologetic, the two men stopped ever so briefly and offered an apology themselves.
So there the three humans stood for 4.5 seconds, profusely apologizing to one another. Meanwhile, Youke was happily exploring the bushes, Camm had her mouth wrapped safely around her Ball and Brady was wriggling enthusiastically hoping one of the men would notice him.
Luckily, we did not encounter any more living beings on the trail.
Once we reached the small dog park area, I took a look around and it appeared deserted. It was by then quite dark. I figured I could let Brady off his long line and let him run around a bit since the area is fully enclosed by a fence.
No sooner had I let my three free, when I saw a man with a headlamp and a small white terrier enter the enclosure.
Interesting factoid here: It is the nature of most humans, especially most pet dog-owning humans, to gravitate immediately toward the area in which another dog owner is playing with her own dogs. It does not matter if there are two possible enclosures to enter or many more acres of park to explore.
Thus, my three dogs and I found ourselves suddenly sharing a rather small space with a curious man and his curious small white terrier.
As is my way, I opted not to address the man or point out his rather undiplomatic intrusion. Instead, I talked quietly to Youke, Brady and Camm and pointedly (I thought) walked in the opposite direction. Those versed in body language will recognize that I was making a concerted effort not to engage. Okay, most humans would realize I was shunning this man and his small white terrier. I say most humans, but not the average pet dog-owning human.
The man and his small white terrier followed us.
Brady decided to introduce himself to the other dog, as did Youke. Camm, like me, was actively shunning him. However, like me, she was becoming increasingly annoyed with the invasion of personal space and personal time.
Being clueless, the man and his small white terrier continued to shadow our moves. I spoke quietly to Camm and advised her to “leave it” when I saw her lip lift ever so slightly. Although it was quite dark, I saw this quite clearly as her teeth are quite white. I handed her Ball to keep her mind on other things, and her mouth off the intrusive little white terrier.
“You don’t want to play with her. She might bite you,” I said quietly, and yet clearly to the small white dog. Then I called my three to me and suggested softly that we go “this way.”
“Are all of those dogs yours?” the man asked. Puzzled, since I only had three, I replied in the affirmative.
“They’re so well-behaved!” the man exclaimed. “Are you a dog trainer?”
For the first time in my life, and after giving a long two seconds of thought, I replied in the affirmative, while also praying that he would not ask me for training tips.
“Wow, you’re good! I can’t even get one dog to behave! And look at how yours listen to you.” And with that, the man decided to part ways and left, taking his small white terrier with him.
I stood in the enclosure, with my three apparently well-behaved dogs around me, pondering his words. It certainly did not seem true, and yet he seemed to think so. And then I realized that it was all about the perspective.