One of the “hallmarks” of my personality is that . . . I really don’t like to be misunderstood. This is different from not wanting to be wrong (although I don’t like that either). But mostly, I just really want to be understood.
Something happened last week that is really triggering that “misunderstood” thing in me, so I thought that maybe it would help if I ranted about it a little bit here, in an attempt to just get it out of my system, y’know? (Because, really, there’s only so much “airtime” Tom is willing to give this particular topic at this point.)
(Just a little view from my dog walk on Saturday. I love that haze of green from the willow trees in the background.) (And don't expect much from the other photos in this post. They are purely functional.)
So here’s the situation:
I live in a very dog-friendly neighborhood. There are lots of dogs, and they’re generally quite well-behaved – as are their owners. Pretty much every day - in all types of weather - you’ll see dog owners out there on the streets of my neighborhood, walking their dogs. On leashes. With poop-bags in hand. (We even have a neighborhood Great Dane. His owner walks him every day, carrying a small “shovel” and what appears to be a small garbage bag. Lucky him.)
We neighborhood dog-walkers are a jovial bunch. We know each other, at least by sight, and if we have time (and the inclination), we occasionally allow our dogs a little “together time” out on the street. (To sniff and “play bow” a little, y’know?) We keep an eye on each other. Several of my fellow neighborhood dog-walkers have stopped me to inquire about - and offer their condolences for - Jenny, for example.
Almost without exception, the dog-walkers in my neighborhood are caring and responsible. Some people actually leave out bowls of water near their sidewalks in the summer, for example, so dogs on walks can get a drink in the heat. And only on rare occasions do I find a “wayward poop” from another dog in my yard. My neighbors carry poop bags – and know how to use them.
JoJo and I join the dog-walking parade every day. We are very responsible. JoJo has been through obedience training, and “heels” well on leash. We stay on the street or sidewalk, unless JoJo needs to do her business (she prefers the grass for this), but I keep her just on the edge of a lawn - and I always pick up her “leavings.” I don’t let her walk through garden beds near the road. I don’t let her go more than a foot or two into someone’s lawn. I keep her out of any areas of active grass-seeding. She is always on her leash in our neighborhood.
Last Wednesday, we were out for our walk when JoJo stopped to poop on the very edge of a lawn. While she was in the process, as I was getting my bag out of my pocket - ready to pick up her mess, the front door of the house swung open, and the woman at the door started yelling at me.
I couldn’t quite get my head wrapped around the words she was yelling, but she was certainly incensed. I figured she was concerned about the poop in her yard. I waved my little poop bag and assured her I was going to pick it up.
NO! She hollered at me.
She was really, really upset.
Like, spitting-while-she-yelled upset.
I tried to be nice. I explained that I couldn’t really do anything about that right now (with my dog mid-poop), but I’d see to it that my dog didn’t get on her lawn in the future. Which apparently wasn’t good enough, because she continued to yell. I picked up JoJo’s poop, and quickly moved on.
I did scan the lawn, though, to see if there were maybe “keep off the grass” signs posted that I had missed. There weren’t.
(This is NOT a picture of the lawn in question, but it could be. The street/curb situation at that house is exactly like the one in this photo. JoJo was this far from the curb when she did her thing. I never leave the street.)
The whole thing was very upsetting.
And I've done a lot of "stewing" over this situation.
There are MANY dogs and their owners walking past this woman’s house every day. I wonder . . . does she just watch out her window and yell at people whenever a dog walks on her lawn? Have I been doing this dog-walking thing wrong (for the past 30 years) in allowing my dogs to step onto people’s lawns? Have I been missing a law or something? What made this woman so incensed about my dog being on her lawn . . . at the very edge of the street?
The next day I contacted my city’s municipal office to find out . . . what ARE the rules/laws of dog-walking in my community? I discovered that the rules are actually quite simple (and enforced) in my community: Dogs must be leashed. Dogs must be licensed. And that’s it.
It is this particular woman’s preference that dogs not be on her property. She has no legal footing – unless the dog is unleashed or unlicensed. Now that I know about her preference, I will honor it. But I wasn’t doing anything “wrong” or irresponsible. I didn't deserve to be hollered at. And, really, she should make her preference known in ways other than yelling at people out her door. Like with signs. (Signs that people have no legal obligation to heed, mind you.) Giving some notice would be helpful for people trying to be good neighbors; trying to do the neighborly thing.
I’d love to go back to that house and explain to the angry woman that I’m a responsible dog-owner, and that I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. (I don’t like to be misunderstood, y’know?) I’d also suggest that, perhaps, if she really doesn’t want dogs on her lawn, she should at least put up a few signs indicating her preference, and see if that helps. Because just hollering at people? Not nice. Although effective. (I certainly won’t allow JoJo anywhere near her lawn when we’re out walking in the future!)
But I won't.
I feel better now that I’ve had a chance to rant a little bit.
(I’d love to hear your thoughts, by the way. Especially if you aren’t a dog-person and have to deal with dog-walkers in your neighborhood. I am responsible with my dog-walking, but I’m always willing to be a better dog-neighbor.)