Appropriate Touching


The girls and I were up and at ’em by 8:15 this morning. We were meeting Rachel and Tiller at the park. Since I moved (and then moved again) we don’t get to see Rachel and Tiller every day. Sadly, we are no longer a 5 minute walk from them. Saturdays are our puppy-fun-date-days.

These days start at 9am in our old stomping grounds, the Montgomeryville Bark Park, where they run and play with all their old Saturday morning friends and Rachel and I catch each other up on what we’ve missed in each other’s lives this past week. From here we drive the few minutes away to the Peace Valley State Park where we walk the 6.2 mile loop around the lake there. You would think that we are dragging the kids the last few steps to the car, but no, we find a little space where we can finally take them off leash for the last 0.5 miles after such good work and, whoosh, like lightning they take off…forgetting that they’ve been nonstop for the past 4-5 hours.

Mommies need sustenance so we stop for a quick bite for lunch and then decide where we’re off to next. Puppies recharged, we select a new dogpark.

New dogparks are always a lot of work. New dogparks mean new dogs and new owners. It’s a little nerve-wracking to be around so many new dogs whose temperament and behavioral quirks you don’t know. It’s Saturday so you never know what kind of dog-owners you’ll meet: good owners or…the other kind of owners. I am not an expert (yet) but I feel pretty adequately educated on how and why dogs do what they do and what kinds of things should be allowed or should be corrected and when dogs are okay with their environment and when they are not. The people I have gravitate towards in our dogworld are like-minded “dog centric” folks. New parks, new dogs, new people shake things up for sure.

Today at the new park the girls were having a really great time with Tiller and all the new dogs. Analaigh is my sweet and shy girl…who sounds like a demon when she is playing. Lots of dogs are vocal when they play and although vocal does not also mean aggressive a) it sounds like she is possessed by a demon, b) she has a block-head that tends to put people off, and c) a and b together basically assure that someone is going to react poorly. I know this. It’s part of the responsibility I accepted when bringing home my girls: to acknowledge people may fear first and ask questions later and to do whatever I could to make sure people are shown fear need not be the knee-jerk emotion.

Analaigh was rough-housing with Rose and a new black lab friend whose mother followed to keep an eye on the goings on. Analaigh started her *singing* (which sounds a little like that scene from The Exorcist when Father Damien records the demons talking and you wonder why the hell he’s listening to that alone in a dark room ’cause that’s just creepy). I immediately say to the woman “She’s vocal. She’s just playing.” To which the woman replied, “I don’t like that sound.” I said, again, “It does sound weird but she makes that sound when she’s playing.”

Now, I know. I absolutely know that you do not know my dog. We are as new to you as you are to us. So I get that you could think that I’m lying or that I might not know what I’m talking about. I really do.

So now I point out “But they all seem to be okay. They all have floppy ears and tails are wagging.” And really they do, they are all wrestling and playing really well together.

“Oh” She replies, “Oh. O.K. I wasn’t…”

…and then she touched my dog. She pushed Analaigh away. Then she lifted her foot to keep her from coming back. And she reached out, again, and forcefully and frustratedly pushed her away, again, because Analaigh still wanted to play.

You may be thinking I should have stepped in and called Analaigh off. This all happened in a matter of seconds, and frankly, I was shocked given we were actually engaged in the conversation about whether this was O.K or not. I suppose it was not.

I called Analaigh. Again, told the woman that all seemed fine and none of the pups were acting in any way other than playfully. She said, “Oh. O.K. I just wasn’t sure.” And she walked away.

Rachel and I exchanged a look of “Did that really just happen?” Then we fell into conversation about when it’s appropriate to touch another person’s dog. My feeling is that when it’s obvious that one or more of the dogs involved are not O.K. with the situation, you step in. Or when a dog exhibits a behavior that should be corrected like jumping into one’s lap. I will hug anyone who pushes Rose off sternly instead of praising her adorableness for finding their lap. She’s not clever, she took you for an easy mark. But when a dog is not doing anything wrong and no one involved is out of sorts, not only should you just not correct the dog but you do not have the right to lay your hands on my pup.

In this particular situation, she reacted out of concern for her pup because she didn’t know. I get that but I think that is irresponsible. She should have.

I don’t know. What are your thoughts? Just more of me being too hard on people?