Other people’s personal crap and hideous baggage
Below, I will tell you a story regarding the agony and the ecstasy but now, I just want to list my top 10 tips for walking your dog off-lead and dealing with the bitter, the twisted, the angry that you may come across, who give you grief because they are anxious about all sorts of personal crap that has nothing whatsoever to do with you and your canine gang but for which you’ll bare the brunt nevertheless:
- Make sure you have your dog under control – which means they aren’t liable to attack anyone, jump onto someone, knock someone over. Generally, people who have dogs off their leads know that their dog isn’t going to do anything bad so anyone who his afraid of dogs should probably bear this in mind.
- Have plenty of pooh-bags. I find it best to walk by a river in case any of the bags are defective and have a hole where there shouldn’t be one. Rest assured, that never ends well.
- Lots of parks have a rule where dogs can be off their lead for the first two hours in the morning and the last hour before the park closes. If anyone gives you any hassle, point this out to them. If necessary, wave a pooh bag at them.
- In many places your dog doesn’t need to be on a lead at all, ever. By law, they need to be under control – which doesn’t automatically mean they have to be on leads.
- If you get hassle from someone, be polite. There’s no point in effing and blinding. Being straight with someone, and pleasant, is more effective.
- If someone is having a bad day and they take it out on you and your dog, that’s their problem, not yours. Have a good day regardless!
- Point out that it is far more likely that they will get attacked by another human being than by a dog. That’s the truth. Should we take comfort in the fact that humans are far and away the most dangerous living creatures on the planet? That’s a question for another day…
- As for people howling to you that their child is afraid of dogs, well, it might be worth pointing out that now is a good time for them to get that child’s phobia sorted. I find that parents love being told how best to deal with their children especially by people who don’t have children of their own. They’re especially grateful when someone suggests that their child should be brought to a psychologist.
- Okay, the advice in point 8 will definitely get you into trouble. However, I do mean it when I say that people should get over phobias like that as soon as they can (I’m not being sarcastic – seriously, what good comes from it?). Dogs are everywhere and they are not going away. Lots of people love their dogs and like to relax on a walk, process their own thoughts, ideas, dreams and problems…without someone coming down on them like a ton of bricks just because they have an unreasonable fear. We’re all trying to get by in this world and we share it with animals…who have just as much right to it as we do. And they could do with a lot less interference and a lot more understanding.
- If your dog really is a pest find a way of keeping it under control – get lessons on how to manage your dog on and off a lead (there are loads of places that will teach you how to look after your dog such as Positive Dog Training and King of Paws). Remember that dogs also need personal space – which means that they can find other dogs, even friendly ones, annoying. Let them deal with it themselves – they haven’t made it this far in evolutionary terms with humans sticking their oar in constantly (actually, in spite of humans sticking their oar in, they’ve done well). Now, I don’t mean site back while a dog fight ensues, I mean let them show their teeth and walk off. If your dog won’t leave an irritated dog alone, make sure you get your dog away from it. Dog fights are simply not that common* any more and again, people whose dogs tend to start fights are generally kept on a lead anyway.
Beautiful private universe
In the meantime, love life with your dog and realise that you are occupying a world that non-dog people don’t, at least for the moment, understand. It is a shame for them to miss out on the heavenly experience of dog ownership.
I love animals and have three dogs and two hens. My dogs come into work with me every day, they meet and greet other people in the building and my landlord is completely fine with it. In fact there are a couple of others who bring their dogs in as well.
At home the dogs are allowed upstairs, on the bed, on the couch (in fact they have their own couch in my studio too). They travel about in the car. I take them with me to as many places as I can but in Ireland that isn’t always easy as we can tend towards the nanny-state here, and for certain people dogs on buses, trains or inside a shop is an outrage so serious that sometimes I’d swear that my dogs were a troupe of mountain gorillas bent on reeking carnage and mayhem.
The punchbag as public service
Its annoying and ludicrous. But perhaps I should view the anger my little gang have to deal with as something of a public service: allowing pissed-off Dubliners to take their upset out on me while I’m just minding my own business. They can (mis)direct their rage towards me, get it off their chests and then feel better. There, there and onto the next unsuspecting set of victims. But, in order to be fair on this topic, I will accept that some people have a phobia about dogs – an unreasonable (unreasonable being the operative word here) fear of dogs. But, that phobia shouldn’t impinge on private people going about their business either…fairness should reign for all of us!
And now for my cautionary tale…
Early one morning, while walking my dog Toni in Bushy Park before work, a young female jogger stopped in her tracks to let me know that she was afraid of dogs. She actually jogged up to me to inform me of this state of affairs. Bushy Park is located in a suburb of Dublin and is 50 acres of open land, about 10 football pitches, four tennis courts, a forest, a river running through it, a duck pond, a skateboard park. With plenty of room for everyone. It was about 7am so there was not another soul in sight.
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked pleasantly. She looked confused. Her head tilted to the side slightly and her brow wrinkled. Toni, my gentle Whippet/Merle Collie X had her back to us and was sniffing at some flowers. The jogger pointed at Toni in response.
“If you don’t like dogs maybe you shouldn’t jog in the park” I suggested. An indoor track was more suitable for her. A few trips to the psychiatrist wouldn’t go amiss either. I pointed out to her that she could see me and Toni from about 300 metres away and that she continued, in spite of her fear, jogging towards us. Instead of taking a wide berth, jogging down a different path, crossing the football pitch, skirting around the playground, diving into the bushes…she could easily have just run right past us.
But she decided to interfere with me and Toni during a walk we were enjoying on a beautiful morning in a beautiful place. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping. It was her decision to approach us and use passive-aggressive shite to exert control on a situation she didn’t like and to try and make me feel bad about utter, first world, Pantene Pro-V because I’m worth it, bullsh*t. She looked like the kind of person who had a phobia about armpit hair too – she was looking way too good for a jog at 7 in the morning.
I don’t like that sort of thing. It isn’t right. Actually, it enrages me but I find it is always more effective to be pleasant and polite to anti-dog whingers while at the same time pointing out the errors of their ways. I told the jogger she should get that phobia seen-to; it is unfair to project her issues onto total strangers and make them responsible. I told her that UCD had running tracks that didn’t have dogs walking on them. I told her to enjoy her day. Me and Toni went on our way and left her standing with her mouth open. She seemed to be aghast at the truth: I wasn’t cow-towing to her special needs? I wasn’t apologising and leashing up my dog? I had the temerity to suggest that the problem was hers, not mine, and it would be better for everyone if she sorted it out?
Things, slowly, are changing here (when I say slowly I mean it). Dogs and cats are now allowed into restaurants in Ireland (since November 2017) but not everyone is enthusiastic. I’m not surprised and if you bring a badly-behaved animal with you into a public place it can get messy for everyone – and does a massive disservice for those with well-behaved animals trying to promote a more animal-friendly society. But here is a list of some pet friendly hotels in Ireland and pet friendly cafes and restaurants. Sadly, the Dublin restaurant Pupp has closed but they were great over the last few years for promoting a more dog-friendly Ireland.
Paris in springtime!
Now, the way the French are so relaxed about animals in cafes and restaurants is impressive*.
The first time I visited Paris was in the spring of 1994 and to see how people and animals live together in such a chic city was manna to my eyes. It was interesting and inspiring to see them getting along, minding their own business, without the kind of knicker-twisters we have in Ireland sticking their noses in. Ah yes, Paris in springtime! In Ireland we have people screeching that they are afraid of dogs. Why are they telling me that? I have three dogs so clearly I don’t have an issue with dogs. Oh, I’m sorry, my mistake: my dogs are sniffing at the base of a tree 50 metres away, oblivious to this person’s very existence but somehow the offended party thinks I should do something: take their naval-gazing on board, admit that the world does revolve around them and immediately restrain my dogs. Perhaps I should have the dogs put down. That seems like common sense, everything is nice and tidy now.
*Having spent most of the 1970s and all of the 1980s in Dublin I can testify to the fact that back then there were so many stray dogs, so many dogs wandering about (who weren’t stray) and virtually every dog had its wedding tackle in good working order, that there was literally a dog fight going on on every street corner. Thankfully things have changed HUGELY here!
*There is definitely a major disconnect here though: when it comes to animal welfare, like Ireland, they’re not great when it comes to animals other than their own pets (fois gras anyone?)…I’ll write about Switzerland animal welfare soon as they are the ones to watch in the animal welfare department!
Do you have the occasional argey-bargey when walking your dog? Let’s hear it! Disagree with me? That’s allowed…
Can you recommend anywhere that is dog friendly such as a pub, club, restaurant etc? I’d love to hear about other people’s tips, stories, experiences and opinions…even if they differ to my own.
Check out my website for animal jewellery and art.