In my pre-Ray days, I would walk into town and, when faced with an approaching person, would have to make a quick decision. I consider myself to be a relatively outgoing person and will happily initiate a casual greeting…………… but what if that approaching man has an issue with greetings from a male stranger? What if that approaching woman has an issue with greetings from a male stranger?
My solution was to try and make eye contact. If unsuccessful, then I did not say anything. If eye contact was made and then averted, again I did not say anything. If however eye contact was held, then I would smile and say “Hi” or “Good morning” or some such greeting. It seemed to work well even though there surely had to be an easier way of being sociable without potentially aggravating an individual’s sensitivities. A significant number of people have received, and responded to, my greetings in an appropriate manner however, I cannot recall any casual meeting which was followed by “What’s your name? How old are you? What are you? Is it ok if I pat you?” In fact I cannot recall any greeting that did not simply reciprocate my initiative.
Taking Ray into town is like walking into a whole new world. With Ray, I don’t have to think about the eye contact routine because invariably the person will see Ray, smile, and start a conversation about him …….and this is where I am having problems. Men and women now initiate an interaction with me ! The smile is generally followed by “What’s his name? How old is he? What is he? Is it ok if I pat him?” and this goes on and on such that a 10 minute dialogue is not uncommon. By the time we say our farewells, I know all about the various dogs in their life and they know pretty much everything there is to know about Ray. I have no idea who they are and, of course, they nothing about me!
This social inconsistency is compounded further when age (human ….. not dog) is factored into the situation. When walking with Ray, I have received warm smiles from every possible age group. I have been acknowledged by young women, not so young women, older women and senior women. The men are a little more conservative in that generally it is only the older men, and senior men, who seem to want to chat about Ray but even that is much different than my pre-Ray days.
What power do dogs have over people? Why are people so interested in talking about a dog, but have no interest in talking about the person holding the leash? Why do they need to know Ray’s name, but have no interest in mine? Why are they interested in his age but not in mine? Why are they interested in his genetic background but are clearly totally disinterested in mine? Why don’t they want to pat me? Why do I feel very reluctant to give a stranger my best smile and say “Hi! What’s your name? How old are you? What are you? Is it ok if I pat you?”
I am pretty sure that somewhere in our distant past there was a person who dictated a social necessity to be cautious! I really hope that he or she is seeing the confusing and contradictory results of the social etiquette created and is suitably ashamed.
Regardless, I will continue to just love walking with Ray because I get to meet so many nice people! “Hi! What’s your name? How old are you? What are you? Is it ok if I pat you?”