I needed to get my steps in before the day became unbearably hot. Gathering all the necessary gear: water, phone, pedometer, poop bag, leash…where is Yué’s leash? In the playroom, of course, there’s a two-year-old running amuck. Out the door we went, stopping 10 feet from the front door to poop. The dog, that is.
Some of you know Yué, most of you don’t. My professional dog colleagues would describe her as having “poor composition.” The rest of you would say, “she ain’t right.” Both are accurate. Regardless of how you feel about Pit Bulls, this Pit mix doesn’t look particularly friendly. She is, but it’s that composition/not right thing that would give you pause. Is she snarling? Nope, her lip is just stuck in her teeth…always.
She has been staying with us for the last 10 days, along with my son, his wife, and the two littles, while some work is being done on their home. It’s been fun, and I have a walking buddy, since Doug has been busy. So, we hit the pavement and are walking briskly up the first hill. I see a woman walking briskly down the hill. She has a definite advantage at moving briskly. I position myself on the right side of the sidewalk. This puts Yué between us. I know you’re thinking, well that was dumb. Why didn’t you put the dog on your right side? There’s a simple explanation. Habit, not the nun kind.
After 20+ years of Seeing Eye puppies, I still walk dogs, all dogs, on the left. Yué is in no way, shape, or form a service dog. Service dogs are smart. Yué’s not only a few fries short of a Happy Meal, what fries she has are a little undercooked. But, she’s family.
So, we’re walking. She’s on my left, and there are small trees on my right, giving me nowhere to go. The lady coming toward us has choices. She can move into the grass between the sidewalk and the curb. Or she can step into the street. That would also give us the proper 6’ social distancing protocol, since neither of us is wearing a facemask. I realize too late that Downhill Walking Briskly Lady is not going to yield an inch. I have no time to get Yué into the street without taking out DWBL. Sidebar—I don’t care if you are the Dog Whisperer himself, if you are approaching a dog you don’t know, you ought to give him some room. Not to mention the fact that this woman doesn’t know me. She has no idea if I can handle this weird-looking Pitt-mutt, straining at her leash making throaty, gasping sounds. I’m not too sure myself.
I’ve got Yué on a nice, short leash right next to me, so the worst I hope will happen is this woman will get slimed. But it’s her own fault. So, we make the pass. Yué slimes her. (She’s lucky we just started out. If this had been a mile in, Yué would have worked up a good lather, which she likes to fling, splattering everything in its wake, and landing in an perfect circle encompassing her head.) I say, “No, Yué.” We get a few steps farther, and I say, “Good girl, Yué.” A smarter dog might wonder if it was corrected or praised. Trust me, this dog doesn’t care.
Some things to remember when you come across an unfamiliar dog or dog walker:
- Give them extra room.
- Ask from a distance if the dog is friendly and IF you can approach it.
- Assume the person handling the dog really can’t handle the dog and refer to #1.
- Never, ever, allow you, your children, or your dog to distract a real service dog.