Please don’t release the hounds

I love dogs. I love people who love dogs. I love dogs who love people.

But I don’t love people who assume that everyone else should just know that their dog is “friendly.” Like when the giant mastiff’s jaws suddenly appear right above my toddler’s stroller, the dog’s dominance well established, and he’s barking.

BARKING. At my baby.

Oh, yes, he wants to play. Oh, yes, of course I knew that.

Too bad my kid’s cheeks won’t know that if the animal happens to graze them with those 2-inch-long fangs, as he “plays.” But there’s nothing to worry about since he’s “friendly.”

Perhaps your dog is delightful, but guess what? There is in fact something to worry about when your dog runs up to my kids uninvited, because, when that happens, I am decidedly not friendly.

I don’t bite, but I do start screaming about leashes, and fines, and sometimes even calling the authorities.

Oh, yes, she did. I once called the park police.

Back when The Younger was a tiny lad of two months, I stopped in a big local nature area to nurse him on a bench.

A few moments later, I was face-to-face with some form of crazy-eyed cattle dog and a pit bull (my favorite!). Giant head on my lap, right next to the newborn. These were big, powerful dogs. And what did they want with my lap? Did they want to lick my face? Sample the baby? Had they heard all about the new breastmilk ice cream? What? What?

Well, I didn’t find out, since my cave-mom instinct took over and I just screeched. After I caught my breath, I turned to the oblivious — and now, actually, amused — owner and said, “There’s a leash law, you know!”

To which I was told that my kids should, of course, be on a leash. Uh-huh. Right. Because there are signs in the parking lot that say that you can be fined $500 for off-leash preschoolers? No toddlers allowed near athletic fields or playgrounds? Is that it?

(And, hey, my feelings were also hurt. My kids were inexplicably seated and even somewhat quiet at that very moment.)

After restraining myself from the urge to get up and wrestle the guy while half-topless, I thought better of it and placed a call to the violators’ number at the bottom of the “dogs must be leashed” sign.

I hope those officers let him have it, if they ever tracked him down. The problem is, no city employees are ever out there in the mean woods of Seattle to enforce the canine code, so near-relatives of wolves romp free wherever they want, unless upstarts take their owners on, and well, nag them. A lot.

But whatever came of the situation, it wasn’t enough to prevent The Elder from having a terrifying near-miss experience this weekend at another park, when a bold little jumpy terrier ran right up to him, snapping in the air.

We got immediate revenge this time, as The Elder’s relentless howling and carrying-on struck fear into the heart of that clueless owner, and his wayward pet, since there is no known match for the horsepower of The Elder on a tangent. (Wailing banshees?)

Granted, we were walking near the off-leash dog park, but we were still a quarter-mile away, and, mind you, we were not IN the off-leash dog park. Maybe the dog people could start following the posted municipal rules, and my loud, burbling family would leave you alone once in a while, too.

So, how about you keep your dogs’ teeth at least 10 feet away from my kids’ heads, and I’ll keep my mouth shut and stop threatening you with visits from the park rangers? Deal?

Dogs are formerly wild animals that like us because we feed them weird pellets from factories. Babies and kids are future taxpayers. If my kid bites your dog, he’s never going down. I can’t say the same the other way. So back off and get your huge mutts out of my kids’ faces.

— Jillian O’Connor

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