Another week, another rant, or so it seems. However, this one was requested by one of my childhood friends, so I must deliver. (She knows things about me.)
This last weekend, over drinks at the pub, my friend Annie went into a dog diatribe. Really. I don’t remember how it happened. Or why. We were sitting quietly (no, not really) giggling about men, when all of a sudden she switched to dogs. No joke. (I will gloss over the train of thought and any comparisons out of respect for my readers.) She begins this story about walking her friendly juvenile pit bull through our beautiful green and winding streets of Olde Del Mar. (According to later accounts, her story was “continuously interrupted” by me “banging on the table” and pointing at the Sports Center replays, squawking, “I can’t believe we lost to the Mets. THE METS! Oh, the humiliation! We might as well be the Astros!”) Eventually she was able to weave the following tale of dog walking horror.
Annie’s dog, as I’ve mentioned, is a juvenile pit bull. She’s still quite young and in that hyper stage all young dogs are prone to. In our tiny village, we have one area where all dogs can go without a leash. It’s across from the Del Mar Racetrack on the beach (Yes, Bing’s Del Mar: “Where the turf meets the surf.”) at Rivermouth. There you can let your dog run amok through surf and sand. It’s a doggie free for all and I adore driving down Highway 101 and seeing them bound through surf (usually in hot pursuit of some smaller, passive dog). It never fails to make me smile, and why wouldn’t it? Dogs are such joyful creatures. Where else in life do you see such pure elation from the simple act of butt-sniffing? Really. It’s a life lesson for us all. I’m humbled. But I digress.
As in other towns, your dog must be on a leash when out in public. Not just for its safety, but the safety of others. These are remedial Doggie Lessons 101, people. Now, I don’t do the dog walking in my family. I leave that to The Husband. Well, that and taking out the trash. But I do know the rules and they’re fairly simple. Leash your dog. Pick up its poo. It’s a no brainer. In our case, The Husband likes to take our dog out into a deserted section of coastal wetlands and up through canyon trails where he seldom runs into other people. This way he can let her off the leash to sniff everything ’til her heart’s content. Common courtesy dictates, however, that when you see another person (with or without a dog) you leash yours. Now our dog has an invisible sign on her that says, “Kick my ass.” She’s never met a dog that hasn’t done so. She’s very sad about this, as you can see.
To avoid conflict among dogs, you leash yours and rein it in. Again, common sense. Well, Annie has to go one better because she does have a pit bull. People see pit bulls and freak out. “Oh my God, will it bite my face off?” No. No it won’t. She may lick your face off, but that’s beside the point. Pit bulls aren’t evil, it’s the people who breed them for dog fighting that are. (Don’t get me started.) On this particular occasion, Annie was jogging up a hill with her baby when coming over the crest was a dog running off its leash on the right side of the road. It was unaccompanied. Moments later, two women appeared on the left side of the road. Being out of breath from said jog, Annie stopped and reined in. She cast a meaningful glance the way of the ladies but neither seemed particularly concerned that her dog was about to be accosted by a rogue butt-sniffer. As it drew closer, her dog was becoming more and more squirmy, she clearly felt defenseless and unable to escape. Well, the inevitable happened, Rogue Butt-Sniffer got a few sniffs in, and then there was some nipping, barking, and frantic canine and human behavior involving leashes and shouting.
Eventually the two dizzy women approached and tutted (actually tutted) at Annie and her dog. This wasn’t acceptable, and Annie logically returned their stupidity with a tirade about dogs needing to be on leashes. Look, I’m sure Rogue Butt-Sniffer was a nice dog, if perhaps just a bit forward. The owners were clueless. In fact, I can honestly say I’ve only ever met one dog who wasn’t nice. He killed (and ate) an entire brood of baby squirrels at the local elementary school – in front of my ten-year-old son, who came home crying. Yes, I flew over there so fast it made the owner’s head spin. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed so loud in my life. “HEY, YOUR DOG IS AGGRESSIVE AND SHOULDN’T BE UNLEASHED ON SCHOOL GROUNDS!” The old woman (yes, old woman) claimed she didn’t speak any English, so I kindly led her over to the remains of squirrel guts spattered all over the play structure and said, “NO! BAD DOG! BAD! IF I EVER SEE THAT DOG OFF THE LEASH AGAIN ON SCHOOL GROUNDS, I’M CALLING ANIMAL CONTROL!” Then I walked around and gathered up the little bodies and buried them in my backyard. The parents stood nearby, in front of their now empty little squirrely domicile. It was tragic.
I know you’re now all wondering, “Did she do it again?” Yes, the dog’s been off the leash again, chasing my neighbor’s cat across our very busy road. A mini-van and a Volvo nearly hit them as they shot into my driveway. Slowly meandering my way was the owner. She greeted me with a look that can only be described as sheer terror, as if I were one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. That dog is bad. Period. But these incidents wouldn’t have happened if she knew her Doggie Lessons 101. There are only 2 rules, people! Say them with me: Leash your dog, pick up its poo. Easy peasy.
Oh, 3 rules. Pay attention to signage: