After almost 2 years of living with Ray, I still reflect with a degree of sadness on what his previous life may have entailed. He was found with no collar; no license tag; no microchip, and he was neither reported missing nor claimed.
We found out later that he also had heart worm, which is terminal if not treated but preventable, so it would appear that he was not particularly valued. It is probably of no surprise to regular blog readers that I am very protective of him.
Ray has made huge improvements in his reactions to people and dogs since he has been with us however, he regularly makes it very clear that he still likes his “space” but then, don’t we all? It is also very clear that he is very protective of me, and misreads body language such that he may well react very badly without any obvious provocation. He wears a muzzle when out for this reason.
When on our walks, I am always looking for circumstances that could result in Ray getting a little stressed. Typically it could simply be a small child who has seen this large cuddly dog coming towards them. I hear “Look! Big doggy!” and my protective side engages immediately as I position myself between the child and Ray and give a very clear “Don’t touch!” Where adults are concerned, this is generally not an issue and, in fact, one benefit of the muzzle is that most people will give Ray lots of space!
Off-leash dogs, however, are a very different story. I was bitten by a “friendly” off-leash German Shepherd a very long time ago and so have an appreciation of potential possibilities! Given that Ray is both leashed and muzzled, the approach of an off-leash dog becomes a serious concern. Ray cannot go anywhere because of his leash, and he cannot protect himself because of his muzzle. He could be in a very difficult situation.
Not too long ago in a local park, I saw a large brown dog running towards us and heard “It’s ok …… he’s friendly!” The dog may well have had good intentions, but I recalled being bitten by a friendly dog. It also crossed my mind that Ray may not appreciate this fast approaching dog. It always amazes me that people can actually believe that because their dog is friendly, all will be well.
Why doesn’t it cross their mind that the person to whom the dog is running may have had a bad experience with a dog and may become very apprehensive as the dog approaches? Why doesn’t it cross their mind that an apprehensive person with a dog, is a recipe for complications because the dog will sense its owners discomfort and may well react accordingly? Why doesn’t it cross their mind that there are many dogs that, as a result of human stupidity, neglect or simple delinquency, are very nervous about approaching dogs?
My reaction in these situations is to position myself between the oncoming dog and Ray, and take a broad upright stance which will hopefully bring the dog to a standstill, which it usually does. In isolated instances where the dog is clearly trying to find a way around me, and where Ray is certainly not happy, I usually make it clear to the owner that either he/she gets their dog under control, or I will, and they would probably not like the way I do it.
Recently, a more serious situation developed as we were returning home after an evening walk. It was dark and as we passed an unlit alley between two buildings, a large black dog suddenly came running at us out of the darkness with its leash trailing behind it. Its manner dictated that friendship was not on its mind. I positioned myself as usual, which stopped the dog however, it then started making very menacing motions to Ray. Lips rolled back and snarling is a pretty clear message and, as I have absolutely no reservations about kicking a dog if the circumstances dictate such a drastic measure to be necessary, I shifted my position such that I could kick if it lunged.
A young woman suddenly came out of the alley and, sizing up the situation, started screaming at her dog. The dog was totally focused on Ray (and me?) and ignored her. She then told me that if I kicked her dog, it would bite. From my perspective, that was likely going to be the outcome anyway unless something changed, which it did. A man walked passed us and, during the time that the dog was momentarily distracted, the woman grasped the end of its leash.
People are exasperating at times. As the woman walked away with her dog, she mentioned that if anything had happened to it, she would have held me accountable. I suggested she consider the fact that it was her dog that was off-leash which contravenes our local By-Law. Her response was simply “My dog was on his leash!” I guess she chose to ignore the fact that she was supposed to be holding onto the other end!
My actions have come up for discussion a number of times in the context of “You could have been badly bitten.” My response is simply “If I did nothing, a helpless dog could be brutally attacked.” Perhaps I am missing something here but, to me, it’s a bit of a “no brainer!”