I’m what you’d call animal friendly. Or, as my accountant puts it every year when he looks at my charitable deductions, “Aren’t there any people that you want to help?”
My animals are my family. They are my companions, my dear friends and my confidantes. But here’s what they aren’t. They aren’t human. Even I know that.
This means that if someone is going to be in charge, it should usually be me if only because I’m the only one with the opposable thumb needed to dial 911 in an emergency. It also means that I am responsible for their behavior because I am the one requiring that they live in human society according to human rules
And on those occasions when I know they are apt to forget the rules, I need to take extra precautions to make sure they are still under my control.
So when I take my dog out for his daily constitutional, he is always on a leash. This is because I know that as much as he wants to please me (allow me my fantasy here), he gets distracted when the wind blows some cotton by or a fly buzzes his ear or he denotes a smell indicating some other dog had the nerve to mark over his territory since yesterday.
When distracted, he doesn’t hear me no matter how loud I yell. He doesn’t see me despite my sizeable girth and the fact that I am jumping up and down while running after him waving my arms. He is unaware of my existence because something vital has caught his eye and he is required by some arcane law of dogdom to follow whatever it is to its logical conclusion. Which is most often another clump of weeds needing to be marked.
As I bike around my neighborhood each day, I’ve come to encounter both the best and the worse of dog owners. The best is exemplified by the dog that sits in a yard near a curve at the top of a hill I pass each day. The dog seems to be one of those hyper Australian varieties that is happy only when engaged in herding the earth in a misbegotten attempt to ensure that it does not spin out of orbit.
This dog had been clearly trained to know its property and to stay on it no matter what. At first I suspected a hidden fence but I was disabused of this notion the day the dog ran down the driveway as I went by and actually came out into the road. I wish I had a picture of that dog’s face as he realized he was off property. It can only be described as horrified.
He turned tail and ran back up the driveway, turned around, sat down facing me and assumed an expression that clearly said, “I chose to believe that I’ve been here the whole time and I don’t care what you say.”
Each day this dog runs down the hill with me while staying on his property. When he gets to the end of his part of the run, he sticks his head out of the trees and barks once as if to say goodbye. This is a dog that someone has taken the trouble to teach and teach well.
Further down that same road are three dogs that are the epitome of everything wrong with training dogs. They are loose on their property, there is no fence and they have not been taught to stay on their land. So everyday as I go by on my bike with my dog leashed and trotting by my side, I am suddenly accosted by three dogs racing down a driveway, barking like crazy and heading for my little Schnauzer.
Now maybe these dogs are friendly at home. But when three dogs that live together encounter another dog and have no human supervision, they become a pack. And so I end up leaping off my bike, scooping up my dog and standing there screaming at the three dogs to go home till their owner inside the house bothers to lope down the driveway and call them.
That is not the way good owners take care of their dogs. And that jolt of adrenalin I feel every time I see those dogs bolting down the driveway is not the exercise I was really planning to have. Since I can’t change my route without taking my dog into a more heavily trafficked street, I guess I �m stuck with this situation.
But I do wish that people who owned dogs, especially three dogs, would take the little extra time needed to either train them or restrain them. It would make the world more pleasant for everyone.