|It's my job to be responsible so my dogs can be carefree.|
No matter how much I talk to the Ginger Sisters and treat them like family, I never forget that they are dogs first and foremost. No matter how well-trained (speaking in general here as I am a dog training novice and an admittedly permissive pushover), no matter how well you think you know your dog, they are living creatures with minds and reflexes of their own. There will always be an element of unpredictability because they are not machines or robots. I've witnessed a few dog-related incidents lately that have made me question what people are thinking and why they eschew such simple precautions as leashes, collars and fences.
My office is located near a major thoroughfare, which is congested with traffic at rush hour. While driving home from work earlier in the month, I saw a man crossing a busy intersection with a German Shepherd. I had to do a double take to confirm that, to my complete shock and dismay, the dog wasn't wearing a leash or a collar. The man was empty-handed, not even carrying a leash. The dog was following him happily, and the man didn't appear at all concerned. I couldn't comprehend why he was taking such a huge risk. I've seen this before in other parts of the city - people with the leash in their hand instead of attached to their dog, strolling down the sidewalk alongside cafe diners and speeding traffic. It almost seems like arrogant swagger, brandishing (illusory) control. As a chronic worrier who outfits her reactive dog in an array of collars and harnesses with security features and backup attachments, I don't understand the carefree attitude. What if the dog sees a squirrel across the street? What if a car backfires and startles the dog? What if it can't resist the temptation to snatch a cookie from a child and gets a finger instead? A leash can be a lifeline protecting dogs from the world's many variables we can't foresee. Tragedy can happen in a heartbeat. Even to the very best of good dogs. Even to the very coolest people.
A lab mix aggressively charged Ruby, Boca and I at the end of an otherwise wonderful walk on Saturday, just outside the building adjacent to ours. Its owner left their gate open while they were next to their car - maybe they'd just returned with the dog or were unloading groceries. The owner would probably say that the dog is friendly or that it wouldn't go anywhere, and yet as it was barreling toward us with its head low and its ears back all I could think was that I was about to be in the middle of a three-way dog fight, with the strange dog greatly outweighing both of mine. Thankfully, the dog did put the brakes on as soon as its owner screamed "NO!" just before it reached us. It happened so quickly that Ruby barely had time to react. I resisted the temptation to say something and just led my girls off briskly - we were so close to home, anyway. A moment of inattention and a day that could easily have gone terribly wrong, with the animals paying the price as they so often do, and the humans left with apologies and regrets.
Sometimes I do wish that I was a more easygoing person, and that my mind wasn't constantly circumnavigating the world of worst case scenarios, but at the same time I feel that my caution and prudence are assets when it comes to protecting my animals and being a responsible guardian. My animals' lives are not a fair extension of my ego nor should they be expected to transcend their natures. I'm supposed to be the more advanced thinker. These examples are just two of the many instances I see on a regular basis both in real life and on the internet where people seem to let their best judgment lapse. We all make mistakes, but a brazen disregard for safety, thinking that the rules don't apply or that nothing bad will happen is a disservice to the animals we are charged with safekeeping and those that share our space. I try not to take unnecessary chances but I've still had close calls of my own. I use those moments of hindsight to make improvements for the future when possible. It's the best I can do. It's what my sweet dogs depend on and deserve.