Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Can't we all just get along? Apparently not.

I have an enormous problem with adults who actively encourage bad behavior.

My feelings apply equally to kid parents and dog parents.

The Grape loves to accompany Lila the Dog to our local dog park. It's the only place he will happily sit still in his stroller - sometimes for up to an hour if the dogs' antics are particularly engaging.

I understand that I assume a reasonable risk by taking him there. I also understand that the Grape smells interesting to Lila's canine friends. Dogs swing by his stroller to take a good whiff, root for stray crackers in the basket under his seat and sometimes one of them manages to sneak a wet puppy kiss onto the Grape's face.

Once in a while, despite my vigilance, some eager doggie manages to jump up on the stroller, only to be shooed off by its person.

Until this Saturday. A woman we vaguely know from the neighborhood encouraged her puppy to jump up on the Grape. Repeatedly.

Excuse me, but what the f--- is wrong with people?

I told the dog to get off and knocked its muddy paws out of the Grape's lap.

"But he can't reach to say hello!" she protested.

"He doesn't need to say hello," I replied icily.

(Full disclosure: Maybe I had a shorter than normal fuse. Before this happened, I'd already identified this woman as a total twit. She'd earnestly explained to me during one of our many winter storms that "you don't need to clean up after your dog when it snows." Nice one. That's the kind of behavior that gets all our dogs banned from outdoor recreational spaces that the Grape, Lila and I would like to enjoy together.)

But going back to the stroller jumping: What I wish I had said is, "Don't you realize you're setting up the puppy to fail?"

Because if you reward the puppy for jumping on the Grape's stroller, the puppy might think it's a good thing to jump on other random strollers.

Which I can promise will not end well for the dog every time.

Many moms and dads aren't as indulgent of our four legged friends as I am. When I related the incident to my mother, she assured me that I (for once) under reacted. Had a dog jumped on my niece's stroller, she said, my sister-in-law would have called animal control.

I grudgingly agree that, in such a hypothetical, she'd be within her rights.

I also think there's such a thing as karma. Another woman occasionally visits the same dog park with her labrador. She is a thrity-something visibly pregnant with her first child; the dog is an un-neutered adult male who likes to mark things.

"Such as strollers and bicycles," she explained with a laugh as the dog lifted his leg and hosed down the Grape's lap. "He marks every bike on our street everyday." She said this almost proudly, in the manner of a mom boasting, "Junior ate forty-seven jelly donuts today and barfed them up all over Great-Great-Grandma's Louis XIV chaise."

Um, excuse me? You let the dog do that?

Are you going to let your kid burn down your house if the urge strikes him? Or throw mud at other kids? Or finger paint on other people's furniture?

Or, God forbid, run up to strange dogs? Because that can turn into a disaster. Even a mild mannered dog on a leash can startle when approached by a speeding, flailing mini person whose squeals of delight stir up visions of wounded prey. If you ignore everything else I ever write, please remember this:

Do not ever let your kids bound up to an unknown dog. It sets the poor dog up to fail. You need to ask the owner if the child can say hello. Yes, even if the critter in question looks like the mellowest mutt on the planet.

I didn't ask the woman any of those questions out loud. Given my last post, I didn't want to risk being on the receiving end of a hormonal meltdown.

Suffice to say, her pup never gets within striking distance of my kid or his conveyance anymore.

Still, the karma in her case might turn out to be a bitch. I can't wait to see if mom-to-be finds it cute when someone else's precious four-legged darling soaks her baby's buggy.

It won't be Lila, though. I'm not about to set her up to fail just to make a catty point at the dog park. But I'm no saint. The Grape and I will laugh heartily when it happens.

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