Other People’s Dogs
I. Am. So. Angry.
This morning hellhounds and I went out for a hurtle. As usual. And we usually have our main walk first, and a littler walk or walks later when we’re all getting tired from the demands of the day.* But I was particularly determined that we have a good walk with some countryside involved this morning, because the weather is Doing Its Thing again** and it was going to be increasingly lurid this afternoon. So we set off down the hill to the footpath to Old Eden.
And met a dog. People with dogs come, and people with dogs go, and some of your problems disappear when Henry or Carlotta gets bored with walking the dog and stops doing it.*** This particular dog is one of the replacement problems that has appeared in the last few months. It used to be kept on lead. But its owner has evidently taken it to six half-hours of obedience training for dog owners who want to feel that they’re doing the right thing without having to work too hard on it, or equivalent, and has therefore started letting it off lead because it now does what it’s told, right? Six half-hours of obedience training is enough, isn’t it? There were twenty other dogs in the class (which is why they never practised the recall off lead) so every dog is now perfectly socialised to other dogs as well as perfectly obedient, right?
We’ve met this flower of canine discipline before, but in 20/20 hindsight I realise it’s been getting increasingly out of control, we just hadn’t met it under sufficiently malign circumstances yet. We saw it today at the far end of a long stretch of path with a hedgerow on one side and a big estate fence on the other—there’s nowhere to go. And it saw us. And I didn’t like its body language at all.
We stopped. I cranked hellhounds in on short lead, one on either side of me. The man shambling along behind it—I already know this guy’s a jerk, but that’s an old story—eventually perhaps registered that it was that evil cow with her two dogs standing there, the evil cow who doesn’t acknowledge his perfect right to have the footpath to himself so he doesn’t have to deal with his dog in any way. Anyway, he called the thing. Rudolf, maybe, or Rudolfa. It ignored him. Well of course.
This was still all happening at some distance. I know that you don’t turn your back on an aggressive dog and walk away if it’s close. You hold your ground, don’t look it in the eye and hope that there won’t be blood on the ground shortly. Rudolf(a) was doing that half-mincing half-stalking thing that is usually bad news. The jerk was still calling it. It was still ignoring him. I thought it was worth turning calmly and walking back the way we came . . . this is where the ‘getting increasingly out of control’ comes in: I had thought that walking away would give jerkface a chance to collar the bugger.
No. Wrong. Jerkface was now screaming at it. We kept walking (calmly) but I did glance back over my shoulder, and it was now streaking toward us with its head out and ears flat. OH *&^%$£”!!!!! GREAT.
And Jerkface stopped calling it.†
What saved us is the dog’s own personality, which is that it’s a lower-level bully rather than an upper-level bully. I’ll take what I can get, thanks. I was at this point looking over my shoulder kind of a lot because if it was really going to jump us from behind, I wanted it to hit me first: I have a much better chance of suing the ass off Jerkface if I can demonstrate teethmarks in my leg. But it would get about twenty feet from us and then oh-my-goodness there is such a fascinating smell emanating from the hedgerow right there. So it would investigate the hedgerow till we got enough ahead of it that it could morph back into the Incredible Hulk and come after us again.
Yes. It chased us all the way back into town because by that time I was streaming with adrenaline and in no condition to make any further decisions. Even at what passes in our case for a stroll†† we soared past some people we’d met on our way out—people with a dog on lead—and I said to them, there’s an off lead dog behind us, I should perhaps warn you, and it’s not friendly, and the woman said miserably, oh dear, yes, this happens so often, Tootles/Tamerlane has been attacked so many times he’s very nervous of other dogs—at which point Tootles/Tamerlane went nuts, and while my confused hellhounds shrank back against me†††, I commiserated—and kept going.
I have no idea what the end of the story was with Rudolf/Rudolfa and Jerkface. Once we were back among houses again perhaps it finally slunk back to its owner like a domestic pet rather than a jungle thug. Tootles/Tamerlane and his people were coming along behind us—on our new route—and I looked back again and they remained unmolested. But we had a town walk when we wanted to have a country walk and while hellhounds cheered up, which is the hellhound way, the hurtle was permanently ruined for me. And we’re going to see Jerkface and his bloody dog again. And sure, I won’t turn around and walk away this time, but . . . then what? How developed is the bully side of its nature becoming?‡
I hate this SO MUCH. That irresponsible [insert sexual perversion of choice here, preferably including excrement and dead things] owners can wreck it for the rest of us. Which is exactly what they are doing. The aggressive off lead dog situation has been relatively low-level for a while . . . but it’s getting worse again. And there is absolutely damn-all we can do about it.‡‡
* * *
* Holding down the floor of the dog bed is very tiring.
** On my way to tower practise last night suddenly there was lightning and thunder and fists of rain beating on the roof of the car. Frelling frelling. And small but alarming flash floods in the dips in the road. If I’d been going any farther I’d’ve turned around. My All Stars were still soaked through in the two-minute sprint—speaking of sprints to your tower—from car park to abbey tower door. I’m sure ringing with wet feet does not help your concentration. There. I knew I had an excuse.
*** And then can’t understand why it’s destructive in the house or mounts people’s legs or bites the children.
† I was so hysterical with rage that when I got home I rang up a friend with dogs—and a local dog problem—so I could bay at someone who would understand. And at this point she interrupted and said, Blokes don’t like losing face. And he was losing face. I bet he not only stopped calling it, but turned around and walked in the other direction, telling himself that that’s what whoever ran that six-half-hour obedience course told him to do if he ever lost control of his dog, and not because he’s a gutless piece of dog crap.
†† Again in hindsight we should have walked more slowly. But we don’t walk slowly. We were walking slower than we usually walk, exactly for this reason, which puzzled hellhounds, who were more inclined to get under my feet.
††† For which I am very grateful because my logical dog, which is to say Darkness, has defensive aggression problems of his own.
‡ I’m also hoping, rather urgently, that Jerkface doesn’t attempt to tell me how to behave around dogs. This has happened once or twice after some incident with some other human-ruined dog: that some pontificating moron wants to tell me I’ve got it wrong. Generally speaking I suffer from l’espirit d’escalier like most of the rest of us, but if I’ve had a chance to brood about something and then someone says something ill-advised—you will hear me in Albuquerque.
It’s not worth it. I’d rather use all that blistering energy on SHADOWS.
‡‡ PS: Yes. The weather this afternoon was diabolical.
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