With Dogs Leashed or Unleashed, People Still Harass Dog Owners

I’ve written a number of posts over the short life of EMP about my evolving relationship with the Erie Canal, which I’ve gotten to know primarily through daily walks with my dog. Indeed, if it weren’t for my dog, Macey, and her seemingly endless energy, and hence her need for extended walks, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have ventured along the canal a third of the times I’ve walked it over the past two and half years. Many of the pictures of the canal I’ve posted here contain images of the happy hound roaming the trails off leash. For most of Macey’s 13 years, we have let her walk off leash both in dog parks and people parks. I have picked up a leash-law ticket here and there (Wisconsin, Connecticut, and maybe elsewhere), but she has never been in a confrontation with other dogs or people (or cars) that has led me to think her or others’ safety was in jeopardy. I hasten to note that I do monitor her closely when she’s off leash, typically hooking her up when I see other dog owners with their dogs leashed, and I almost always leash her when a lot of people are around (especially bikers and joggers, who seem to get particularly miffed when they have to dodge a dog). But over the last three weeks, I’ve found that I can’t win the leash situation no matter what I do, as the two following incidents illustrate.

The first incident occurred on a daily morning walk just before the end of 2010.  As I squatted down to pick up Macey’s shit, while Macey ran freely in the snow about fifteen yards away from me, I saw a jogger approaching me a ways down the path. I recognized  instantly it was the sixty-something with whom I exchanged words last winter about having my dog off leash on the canal trail. That exchange was brief, maybe a minute, and basically went down like this: From behind me, I was startled one early winter morning to hear some guy yell at me three times, “Restrain your dog!”  I spun around, and saw this short, winded (from jogging), oldish guy standing about three feet from me. I snapped back, “Uh, no. Why don’t you just keep running.  My dog’s not interested in you.” “You know what you are?” he asked, and then answered,”An asshole!” I was shaking my head in disbelief at this point, a bit wild-eyed from being knocked so aggressively out of what is normally a peaceful morning walk through the snow along the canal. Now pissed, I said, “Listen, there’s no way in hell I’m leashing my dog for you, and I suggest you move on before this escalates any further.” And he moved on. That was about a year ago. When I saw this guy about three weeks ago, even at fifty or more yards away, I knew I was in for an unpleasant experience. While I tied up the bag of shit I had just collected, I kept my back to the guy, hoping he’d run past me sans confrontation. Just when I realized that he should have reached me at that point, I hear the guy, right behind me, almost piggyback, yelling at me, “CALL YOUR DOG!” To which, I said, trying to be calm, “What would you like me to call her?” He quickly said, “Leash your fucking dog, you asshole.” And he stepped right up under my chin, and said it again. “Leash your fucking dog, you asshole.” I couldn’t help but think that this guy is standing so very close to me, closer than anyone has apart from my wife, in many years. Because he was also about the same height as my wife, a good foot shorter than I am, the whole scene struck me as somewhat surreal and sort of comical. He was very red in the face, from running I’m sure, but also from getting angry. His whole whole persona oozed anger. He was good at being angry. I told him, like I did the year before, that I’d never leash my dog for him, that  my dog is utterly uninterested in him, and  that he should back up. And, when it seemed like he was going to push me, I angrily snapped, “Don’t touch me, little man. Keep running.” He backed up, didn’t touch me, and then went on a rant. He told me that I apparently didn’t realize where I was, and that his son-in-law is the deputy mayor or some such “authority” and he’d have me arrested. I suggested he call his son-in-law, and ask him to post some leash law signs, if that’s the law on the this part of the canal. He said, “You’re a fucking immature asshole. You need to grow up, fucker. You remind me of my sixteen year old son.” And then he ran away. I stood there feeling flabbergasted and unnecessarily attacked. Macey kept sniffing around the snowbanks, apparently oblivious to the shouting (she’s pretty deaf nowadays, actually) and jockeying for position on the canal trail. I’m still shaking my head at the whole affair three weeks on.

The next incident occurred just two days ago. Macey and I set out earlier than usual. It was heavily snowing big, fluffy snowflakes, the kind that you can easily catch on your tongue. It was kinda warm, too. The combination usually makes for a great walk. Before we even got to the trail, while crossing the bridge above the canal there was a youngish, amply rotund woman on the sidewalk ahead of us. Just as we were about to cross paths, she froze, staring down at Macey, her face tightened with a horrible grimace. She didn’t move. And Macey sniffed her leg. I tugged on Macey’s leash, said “Mornin'” to the lady, and we kept walking. About ten steps later I heard the lady say something but couldn’t tell what she said. We kept walking. Five more feet, and I heard her yell something. So I stopped, turned around, and shouted, “What?!” She hollered back, “You got a problem,” holding her arms outstretched to her sides as if inviting me to fight. I shook my head, and as I turned around I heard her scream, “You better watch yourself, God sees everything! God sees everything!” Of course, this lady was clearly afraid of dogs, and Macey only paid attention to her when she realized that the she was afraid. Still, Macey didn’t do anything aggressive, and I had her on leash at that point. And I still got reprimanded. I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why God got roped into this.

6 thoughts on “With Dogs Leashed or Unleashed, People Still Harass Dog Owners

  1. wildbillyscircusstory

    Sigh. I’ve had many similar experiences, though none quite this confrontational. However, I do have a beef with irresponsible (emphasis on irresponsible) owners who let their dogs off leash. This is a disturbing trend in my neighborhood. Too many times I’ve been walking Mac through the neighborhood when an unattended dog romps up to him with the owner nowhere in sight. This isn’t in a park, mind you, but amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Mac becomes quite defensive when he is leashed and his canine confronter romps free. I’m then left in the unenviable position of arbitrating the territorial grousings of the dogs while at the same time looking out for the “free” dog’s safety. In December, another dog, probably sixty pounds, came bounding up toward Mac. His intentions were clearly playful and Mac outweighed him by a factor of two, but he found him to be menacing and wanted no part of him. Compounding matters, this dog kept running in and out of the street attempting to get Mac to chase him. Fortunately, no harm came of the dog, but I had to stay in the general area for almost five minutes hoping for the owner to appear – walking away was not an option as he’d just tag along with us. The owner finally came out of his front door and called the dog inside. That Mac clearly wanted to take this dog down concerned me; that the owner had no interest in attending to his dog’s safety infuriated me. It was dark and the roads were snow covered; it could have ended tragically.

    Again, this is very different from the situation you described and this guy sounds overly confrontational. He’s pretty lucky though. Mac would have been very defensive toward someone displaying that level of aggression against me.

    I’ve had people screaming at me when my dog relieves himself on their yard, even as I’m cleaning it up. One lady heaped effusive praise upon my dog until she learned his name was “MacArthur” and she huffed off calling me a warmonger and some other choice words.

    But returning to your recent encounter, it reminds me (paraphrasing) of the Will Rogers’ comment that if dogs don’t get to go to heaven, he’d rather go where they are than be in the afterlife with other humans.

  2. andykorki

    Wow, what a bunch of jerks! I have to be honest, I’d be a little nervous even if the guy was half your size. You never know how crazy people will react. Funny how the guy called you an immature asshole AFTER he verbally assaulted you. Maybe if HE wasn’t such an immature asshole he would have tried having a normal conversation with you about his concerns.

    I remember the incident we had with the guy at the one park that was a big hill in CT, I believe. It was a few years back when I came to visit and Macey was running around when the guy called us “stupid” because he didn’t think we could read English (infuriating at multiple levels) because there were a couple of “No Dogs” signs posted (ok, well we might have ignored those 🙂 I think the response after a few beers that evening was that at first we were going to buy some yellow Gaterade and dump it on his lawn and that quickly degenerated to lets just go back and piss all over his lawn. I think G stepped in at some point and knocked some sense into us….

  3. peashoot Post author

    Yeah, she stopped us, or convinced us that we were, as usual, out of bounds. It was actually in Somerville, MA, in the neighborhood of Tufts University and a stone’s throw from Harvard, at Powder House Park — http://www.somervillema.gov/cos_content/images/PowderHouse.jpg One thing I hated about living in that area was that it was full of arrogant, condescending know-it-alls, and I was convinced that we were scolded by some professorial types. As I recall the event, it was an older couple, a man and a woman, who bitched at us for letting Macey piss in the freshly fallen snow in the park *across the street* from their house. That they spoke down to us, saying “What are you stupid? Can’t you read?” just verified for me how rife the area was (still is, to be sure) with loads and loads of folks who see themselves as intellectually superior to the rest of the world they don’t know (as well as plenty they do know, I’m sure).

  4. peashoot Post author

    Somewhat to my surprise, the back and forth between me and the the old man I mentioned in my post on 12 January 2011 escalated yesterday. Not thanks to me. Here’s what transpired: Macey (leashed at the time) and I were standing with a friend and her dog on the canal path, when the aforementioned jerkstore appears from underneath the bridge, slowly jogging eastward towards us. As he approached, he suddenly veered in my direction — even though I was on the left side of the trail, and foot traffic in our village invariably moves on the right side. He thrust his hands at me, fists clenched, and gave me a jab in the ribs, mumbling something like, “thanks for making room for me.” I wobbled a bit, and my friend asked, “Do you know him?” I shook my head in disbelief, staring at the guy as he jogged away, and told her I do not know his name, but that he’s been hollering at me and Macey for almost three years on this trail. When I explained that I didn’t think this was a friendly slap on the back, her jawed dropped. She was shocked. She lives on the canal trail, and never has she heard of anything like the stories I told her about this guy. Unfortunately, she’d never seen him before. I’d like to know who he is, perhaps find out what he does day-to-day. He looks old enough to be my father’s age. As much as I wanted to clobber him, how could I? I wasn’t hurt, just shocked that what once seemed a war of words to me, this guy felt okay stepping up to physical contact. Needless to say, I’m happy someone was there to see this. But as in the past, I’m miffed that this little, nasty old man keeps on keeping on with this malarkey. I thought about calling the cops or the village town hall. But I didn’t. I left it as just another incident with this j-store. I think I’ll bring my camera with me on the walk this morning, and see if can’t get a photo of him. I am sure he’ll be tickled pink if I snap a couple mugshots of him.

    1. andykorki

      Wow, he actually hit you!?!!? Wild Bill Circus Boy could probably say more, but that sounds like assault even if he didn’t hurt you. Definitely bring the camera and watch out for this guy! My guess is that if you hit back, being half his age and twice his size, you would end up on the wrong side of the law. Keep us posted!

      1. peashoot Post author

        Yeah, I can’t imagine myself ever actually wailing on the old guy. He’s too old. But I have had it up here with his bullshit. He radiates asshole and overall badness without even opening his mouth. Hopefully he’ll get his comeuppance for his foul play one of these days.

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