Part II, see Part I here.
My parents have learnt a lot about their dog since adopting her from the shelter. She couldn’t stand the smell of smoke, or any vehicle noisier than a two-stroke motorcycle. She feared the kitchen and kitchen-type noises. She feared a door that was neither open or shut. She feared feet. She didn’t understand water could be found in designated bowls. She thought a ball was a weapon rather than a toy. She didn’t know grass, sand or dirt. She didn’t know she could dig. She cowered at any hand that reached for her.
My parents have learnt she loves children and will wag her backend off and/or cross traffic at the sight of one. She’s also an optimist. Despite evidence she’s been abused by the adult man of her previous life, she continues to approach men, cowering with appeasing Bambi-eyes, sometimes dragging herself along on her stomach to reach them in the hope of their approval.
I marvel at how adaptive and forgiving dogs can be and for Little Dog, most of the fears and anxieties she exhibited in those early days have dissipated, or in some instances, disappeared altogether.
This brings me to the day she was attacked by another dog. She survived, and she walks through the park where the attack took place without hesitation and continues to ignore other dogs like they don’t exist. The only thing that has changed is Little Dog gets defensive when strange dogs race up to her, even if they intend to play. They can bark or do cartwheels for all she cares so long as they keep their distance, but a fast-paced introduction leads to growling and a brief scuffle. This is compounded by my mum’s own anxiety on the issue, who’s now fearful of any dog off-lead.
This would be manageable except for the surprising number of dog walkers who disrespect our wish to not engage with their dog.
They say, ‘it’s fine, she won’t hurt’ or, ‘he’s friendly’ but it’s incidental – we don’t want other dogs racing towards ours but we cannot convey this, or Little Dog’s back-story before the other dog gets to us. Even if we manage to say ‘Can you please put your dog on lead’ they offer the same answers. A man told my mum to take her ‘f*cking dog elsewhere’ among other profanities as he had no control over his own dog nor had he bothered to even bring a lead. In another instance a woman told me indignantly it was an off-lead area. I said, ‘that’s fine, but as you have no control over your dog, how can I protect yours from mine?’
[Okay, so I wasn’t quite that eloquent, but I conveyed that point and it gave her something to think about.]
Even though we put our dog on lead when another approaches, it’s rarely read as a sign by them to do the same. One lady once let her dog off to meet ours. She was lovely, and the dog was lovely but that’s beside the point. By the time Mum was able to explain her concerns, the dogs had been with each other long enough to settle. Mum said it makes her feel like a over-reactive fool when she cannot prevent the exchange and then all her concerns amount to nothing.
As Little Dog is calm and unreactive, I guess people assume she’s ‘okay’ and they can please themselves, but I’m certain they’d be more cautious if Mum owned a Rottweiler or a Doberman or a German Shepherd. And simply because your dog isn’t the ‘problem’ dog, doesn’t mean you should be inconsiderate of others. Here’s another perspective, in this blog post by Liz.
Our dog is great with other dogs, if given the time to adjust to their presence. Please think about the dog walkers you approach – they may be one of those wonderful people who’ve adopted a ‘broken’ dog or they have a dog with a complex history. Respect that.
You do not know their story.