Dog owners, like delightfully proud parents, are often blind to the misdemeanours of their charges.
In the same way that many mums and dads of affluent suburbs are apt to allow their toddler to crawl around the floor of a busy pub, chortling at their taste for adventure as exasperated staff try not to brain the child with a tray of glasses, many dog owners refuse to believe their canine companion could be capable of causing distress to others. After all: “look-a-da-liddle-face!”
I don’t mean serious danger or injury - the dog owners who are oblivious to that are a different kettle of fish entirely. I mean the type that happily exclaim “Oh! Isn’t he a one?” when their dog shoves its nose into your crotch and just won’t quit, or – as discussed in my last column – the type that when asked to call their small yapping dog away from your group of much larger ones, looks at you as if your overreaction is akin to removing a house spider with an axe.
Such dog owners are common, but one I encountered a while back surely takes the crown for mind-numbing ignorance. I was walking a peaceful group of four small dogs – mostly spaniels, which are my favourite because they’re relatively smart and not liable to fling themselves into ponds or get stuck in drains – and they were having a marvellous time, hoovering up flowers and peeing on everything.
In the distance I could see a lady walking a Labrador, which started trotting towards us. No big deal, the dogs I was walking were all well-socialised and well-behaved, and they greeted the newcomer enthusiastically. I let them sniff around each other as the Lab’s owner and I struck up the usual sparkling dog-walkers’ conversation, which mostly revolves around the weather.
And then, aware of odd movement in the peripheries of my vision, I look down to see this great hulking Labrador ‘going at it’ with a Jack Russell from my party. Bear in mind that Labradors are rather large, and Jack Russell aren’t, so the scene was both horrifying and hilarious.
Given the logistics of the ‘coupling’ I couldn’t simply drag the Jack Russell away, so I looked expectantly at the randy Labrador’s owner. Yet despite clearly assimilating the situation, she continued to drivel on about the weather.
“Er, sorry,” I interjected, awkwardly. “Could you get him off?”
“Well, you are just the dog walker,” she replied quite merrily, before returning to her climactic observations.
And I stood there, not entirely sure what had happened. Had I misheard her? Had I missed a chunk of conversation? Was I having a seizure?
“I’m sorry?” I said, acutely aware that little Patch the Jack Russell was becoming ever more desperate while the other dogs looked at me in horror.
“He’s just having a good time. And you are just the dog walker,” she reiterated, as if giving directions to a tourist, before sighing theatrically and beckoning her dog away, looking at me like I’d just sworn at a laughing child.
“So by that logic you’re saying that if my house was on fire the fire brigade would simply stand idly by and let it burn to cinders because ‘I’m only a renter’?” I said.
“I think you’re being a bit short-sighted,” she quipped, before turning on her heels and marching off, leaving me standing there with my mouth agape and Patch wide-eyed and blinking.
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