Ever have one of those mornings where you feel like you’ve run a gauntlet before 8am?
Rain and I were recently at our neighborhood park on a Wednesday morning. We go to this park every weekday morning, almost always at the same time. In summer it’s already light outside when we do our park routine, but in the winter months we are often there before the sky is even getting light before sunrise.
Between the dark, the cold, and the Oregon rain, we don’t generally see other visitors in the winter months. But the weather this winter has been less cold, less wet, and our changing neighborhood has brought some irregular visitors out some mornings.
On this particular morning there was a relative motherlode of visitors. One person who has been running on recent mornings, another man and his Labradoodle(?) who don’t seem to have a pattern to their morning visits, and a couple of other random visitors. As we walked along one edge of the park we encountered a man with a tan pit bull.
The pit bull seemed eager to meet Rain, but surely Rain’s readers know how Rain reacted. She barked. Not a lot, by her standards. My mind was still boggling about how the park was so popular that morning and wasn’t as on top of her Reactive Rover protocol as I might otherwise have been.
But that’s okay, because The Dog Expert was about to school me.
The man had exited the park at a nearby break in the fence but was saying something. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or his dog.
“Excuse me, are you talking to me?”
“YOU NEED TO TAKE YOUR DOG FOR TRAINING!” He said something about having food and held up what was either a Nerf football or a loaf of bread with chunks out of it.
“Uhhh…Yeah, we have, for about three years now.” I was vague about the details, and also still a little confused. Rain’s behavior has come so far since she became my ward in 2015!
The man still seemed angry. Given how he was interacting with his own dog, I got the sense that he was using more forceful methods of behavior modification, shall we say. The pit bull had seemed eager to say hi to Rain, but potentially fearful of her person.
I don’t remember what he said next verbatim, but it lead to me pointing out that Rain’s barking is called being reactive (he didn’t seem to have the terminology considering his expertise about dogs), and yes, we’ve been working on it for a while. Then I pointed out the possibility of how we might come to the park before sunrise in January in order to avoid the bulk of park visitors.
Rain had also paused to watch the man with a stiff body and perky ears. At some point I also rewarded her with a treat, pulled easily out of my cookie belt. Did the man think I should be carrying around an enormous loaf of bread(?) instead of a more convenient cookie belt?
He probably wasn’t expecting a confident, knowledgeable response, but he was on his way and now my metaphorical hackles were up. When it was time to play ball later on, I threw extra far because I had a bunch of adrenaline pumping. It wasn’t until we got home that I realized the interaction had shaken me up.
But I realized that I had responded to the person’s assumptions with facts and without losing my cool too much. I was proud of myself! I was also proud of Rain because it says a lot about how far she has come in the last few years.
It seems like everyone gets irritated at times about a strange dog and their owner. Certainly I have. And I certainly have days when I want to yell at the person, although I almost never do. Next time you’re feeling like that about a stranger, maybe reconsider whether there are other circumstances you may not be aware of before lashing out.