It seems like almost every time I go out for a jog lately, I come across an unleashed dog in some form or another. During one run a couple of weeks ago, I encountered three separate unleashed canines. Two were yappy little ankle biters charging at me full throttle from their lawns in code-red attack mode, ready to chew off my Achilles tendons.
Y’all, I really, really, really do not want to be put in a position to have to defend myself against someone’s dog. As much as I promise myself I would never, ever, under any circumstance harm a dog, what if I panicked and kicked out of reflex? This thought terrifies me. Thank goodness each of these tiny terrors chickened out once they got about two feet from me. But seriously, why can’t people just leash their damn dogs? Besides the fact that they terrorized me, they could get hit by a car.
The other off-leash dog I saw on that run was a large pitbull mix walking with its owner. I love pit bulls — I don’t subscribe to the notion that they’re vicious. However, pit bulls are large, muscular animals, known for loyalty to their masters. And this pit bull’s back was to me. I had no way to know if my jogging up on this owner would startle her dog and cause it to react in defense. As calm as it appeared to be, it’s still an animal, and animals sometimes react unexpectedly, sometimes with their teeth. I paused my running app, turned off my music, slowed to a walk, and shouted to the woman to ask if her dog was going to be okay with me passing by. We ended up having a nice exchange, and I even pet the dog — total love muffin — but I still came away from that situation annoyed.
This woman’s decision to walk her dog without a leash forced me to have to modify my behavior and take precautionary actions. No one should have to stop everything they’re doing and formulate a plan of action because someone else doesn’t feel like leashing their dog.
Just yesterday I was out for a run and suddenly heard a galloping/panting sound over my music. I panicked and spun around, and sure enough, a huge dog was charging me. It took me a second to realize it was only a dopey golden retriever with a giant grin on its face just wanting to be my very best friend, but it scared the everloving shit out of me. My heart rate was already up from running, so it went through the roof when I momentarily panicked that I was being attacked.
And yet I want to recognize that for all my complaining, I’m not afraid that I’ll end up dead if I complain to the wrong dog owner. Because I’m white.
Christian Cooper should never have had to say a damn thing to Amy Cooper when she was walking her dog off leash in Central Park. Her racism is obviously the most glaring problem in that interaction, but her entitlement about her dog was big issue too. In fact, her racism is intertwined with her assumption that rules don’t apply to her. In both cases, she believes — whether consciously or subconsciously — that she is superior.
Amy Cooper assumed no one would mind if she bent the rules a little, teehee, who’s gonna say anything? Mr. Cooper was right to ask her to leash her dog, but he shouldn’t have had to say anything in the first place. A crucial point that white people need to understand when they engage in entitled behavior that makes other people feel nervous is that we might not just be disrupting someone else’s day. We could very well endanger someone’s life.
We dog owners are so in love with our dogs that we can’t imagine anybody could ever look at our sweet little ball of fluff and think they could possibly be a danger. And I get that — I’m obsessed with my dog to a degree that probably merits a psychological evaluation. Literally, if you don’t like my dog, we can’t be friends because I’ll assume you’re a sociopath. It’s super gross how much I love this animal.
But I would never attempt to walk my dog off leash around strangers in an area that wasn’t specifically designated for that purpose. Because I’m not a fucking asshole and I realize that not everybody likes dogs. Not only that, but not everybody can read dog body language. For someone who can’t read dog expressions, the happiest dog running up to greet a stranger could be a terrifying, traumatic experience. And, yes, I am aware that in a yard situation, a barking dog very well may be contained behind one of those invisible electric fences — but passerby don’t know that, and your territorial pooch may be causing a heart attack for someone who’s out trying to take a walk. Why would anyone want to make another human being feel that way? Just because you think your precious pup is cute running around off leash? It’s not cute. It’s rude AF. Use the dog park or other designated off-leash areas. And if those areas are closed and you’re super bummed that Pooch can’t stretch his legs the way you think he needs to, walk faster.
People, it doesn’t matter how nice your dog is. Not everyone likes dogs, not everyone feels safe around dogs, especially when said dog is unleashed, and other people shouldn’t have to modify their behavior or have a conversation with you about your dog just because you don’t feel like using a leash. If you’re going to be a dog owner, the only way to do that is to be a responsible one. You have to commit to making sure you have the equipment that a dog requires to keep the dog and everyone around them safe. And that means getting, and using, a leash.