A few weeks ago, I was walking Angus when an unleashed German shepherd came racing up out of nowhere, baring its teeth and growling. Angus growled back. The shepherd barked. Angus barked. This was not good.
It was one of those dreary, sunless November days, a cold rain spitting down, mixed with snow. Maybe the dog’s owners had let it run loose thinking nobody else would be out on such a day. But dog walkers are always out.
The shepherd wore a bright bandanna tied around its neck, perhaps to indicate friendliness, but it did not seem friendly. For a minute or two all was chaos, the shepherd circling and barking; Angus barking back and twirling, trying to keep the dog in front of him; and me tugging on Angus’ leash and yelling, ineffectually, “Go home! Go away! Go home!”
The whole confrontation was brief — I heard someone call, “Luna! Come here!” and the shepherd ran off. A neighbor poked his head out of his front door to make sure we were OK, but by then all was calm.
We walked on. Angus was deeply agitated for the next few blocks, but other than that we were fine. But what if Luna’s owner hadn’t heard my yells?
That feeling as I tugged on Angus’ leash and shouted was one of profound helplessness. I cannot stop a fight between two big dogs. If things had escalated, all I could have done was run away and hope that Angus would follow.
I love dogs. But I do not love your dog unleashed. And I do not expect you to love mine.
I have a friend in Scotland who recently got a kitten. The kitten likes to be outside, and my friend worries about it getting hurt — in his city, apparently, there aren’t leash laws, just laws that require dogs to be under the owner’s control.
But what does that mean? Lots of people think they’re in control of their dogs when they’re not. And even though Luna obediently ran home when called, much can happen in a very short time. If Angus had been that Scottish kitten, he might now be dead.
Not everyone loves your dog.
Not everyone loves dogs.
This is something we dog owners need to keep in mind. Not everyone is charmed when your dog runs up with a slobbery tennis ball, or tries to climb on their lap. And very few people are happy to see an unleashed dog running toward them, especially one as big as a German shepherd.
And lest I sound too cranky, it bears noting that a week later we were walking across a golf course when an unleashed chocolate Lab came barreling toward us. That encounter ended happily, with Angus and the strange dog bonding immediately and playing enthusiastically. But there’s never any way to predict how these things will go.
My father was a tennis player, and he used to package up his spent tennis balls and mail them to my old dog Toby. Toby would lie down on the floor, rip open the package and run off with his prize.
It was a great thing for my father to do — a kindness, for sure. He was happy to be nice to Toby from a distance. But only from a distance. In person, he intensely disliked all dogs.
Once, during a visit, Toby wandered into the room and my father said, without even looking up, “Get that animal away from me.”
And I did.
Because not everyone loves my dog. Not even my dad.
Laurie Hertzel is not a dog expert, just a dog lover. She is chronicling the first year with Angus on these pages. Follow along at startribune.com/puppy
Coming Dec. 22: Angus is unlike any dog we’ve had. But then they all are.