“Is it just me, or is that really stupid?”
The lady gestured broadly toward the six adults chatting across the dog park. I had been thinking the same thing and found myself catapulted onto my feet like I’d been swept up at a tent revival. The open invitation compelled me to commiserate with my newly-found kindred spirit.
Minutes before, a little girl in that oblivious group’s “care” had met me at the gate. Her grabby little mitt thrust through the chain-link holes as she yelled “DOGGIE!” at my little buddy. I’ll give her credit; Lemmy is indeed a doggie. But he’s a very particular kind of doggie: the kind that doesn’t like children. Or little people. Or people with crutches or walkers. Or people who run, or seated people who then elect to stand up. Or men.
He makes a begrudging exception for me, mostly because I have treats. And I always share them with him.
Lemmy is a rescue dog. We don’t know much about his earliest experiences, as we adopted him when he was around one year old. We weren’t able to conceive a dog naturally, so it was our best option. Maybe check your privilege, okay?
We have figured out most of his quirks in the four years since then.
For example, he doesn’t like to get wet, so he hides under the bed all day if we embark upon a routine reminiscent of a Sunday, his typical bath day. He does the same anytime we touch the linen closet door, as that’s where towels are and towels are for bath time. Sure, we’re probably getting a towel for one of the humans who each bathe seven times more often. But maybe this time it’s for Dingus. One cannot be too cautious against the ever-impending bamboozlement. I’m assuming he has PTSD from being waterboarded in Guantanamo.
When we go to the dog park, he always poops twice. He eats grass. He barks at random people. He tries to hump a dog or two, gets a couple of good runs in, then returns to eating grass. He checks in with us occasionally, just to make sure we’re still there. We are.
There’s one less silly nuance to Lemmy’s behaviors. Once, about three years ago, Lemmy was attacked by a dog the moment we opened the dog park gate. I dove into the middle of the two dogs, swept my arm through the melee, and tossed the attacking dog about ten feet. Lemmy’s mama simultaneously scooped him up like a baby and ran a few steps away from the scrum. That was in his pre-Chungus days; if done today, mama would have thrown her back out. We should run drills to keep her ready just in case the need arises.
Little Bub’s ear was cut and bleeding a bit, but he was otherwise physically fine. The other dog’s owner had the nerve to yell at me for separating the dogs the way I did. “You didn’t have to throw him!” she cried in reference to her decidedly non-bleeding pet. As I told her, I wouldn’t have needed to do anything if she had done something instead of standing there while her dog took a hunk of my dog’s ear.
I gritted my teeth as I seethed.
“Lady, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a woman who rises and sleeps under the blanket of dog fights I break up and then questions the manner in which I break them up,” I yelled at her. Unfortunately, and despite her insistence otherwise, she could not handle the truth.
Ever since then, Lemmy goes on high alert when he walks through the dog park’s gate—the very gate through which a wee babe’s tender, meaty hand was just lunged at him.
“It’s totally stupid. Thank you,” I blurted to my new misanthropic friend. “I wouldn’t bring my dog to a playground and turn him loose, but they seem to think it’s fine to let their kid run around a bunch of strange dogs.”
“Exactly,” she said. “And if anything happens to that kid, you know who’ll be on the hook for it. Our dogs. Not their kids.”
“I know,” I said, shaking my head. “They hardly ever euthanize children anymore.”
We traded a few stories as we witnessed the girl continue to make lunging, grasping motions at unfamiliar dogs. If it weren’t for the guaranteed shitty aftermath, I would have been rooting for the dogs to teach the unsupervised kid a lesson. Not a face mauling or anything. Just a quickly-healing puncture wound to the hand, something that leaves a small scar that tells the world, “I have bad parents.”
I cut our visit to the dog park short that day. It was, in part, because I was worried that Lemmy would fulfill my barely-subconscious wish. But to be honest, it was also because my mood went from “let’s go to the d-o-g-p-a-r-k” to “f-u-c-k these people.”
I’m human, or a very advanced AI with unnecessary simulated gastrointestinal problems and male pattern baldness. As such, I’m prone to allowing the chance encounters of the day to influence my mental state. That’s not a bug; it’s a feature.
I wish it weren’t the case. I would prefer to have a rock-steady and centered mindset that simply observes the train full of assholes rather than being infuriated by the train’s existence. After all, if everything pisses you off, the common element in all those negative interactions is you.
Or, more to the point, the common element is me.
There’s an old fake Native American/African/Asian proverb that has been handed down from the elders of memedom that goes, “There are two wolves inside each of us, a good one and an evil one. Which will win? The one you feed.” There’s a lot of wisdom to be learned from ancient made-up people of color if you’re just open to their teaching.
There are two rescue dogs inside me.
One is a happy-go-lucky boy who loves everyone unconditionally. He gives all people the benefit of the doubt, forgives quickly, and lives his life entirely in the moment. His tail’s always wagging because he’s genuinely, abidingly happy.
I think the other mutt must have been attacked when he entered this earthly dog park. He’s suspicious of everyone, randomly barks at strangers, and assumes every misstep is calculated to inflict harm on him personally. He’s not sure, but he suspects you might be a ninja bent on killing him. He lives in the moment, too, just with a heavy helping of “don’t think I’ve forgotten what those other biped a-holes did to me.”
Which dog will win? According to the “ancients,” it’ll be whichever dog I feed.
I guess that means it’ll be a tie. I’m a sucker, and I always share my food with dogs.
Like my stuff? Good! Me too. Sign up here so you’ll get an email every time I publish. And SHARE my work with your friends so more people will cheer me on, other than you/my mom.
Want to read more now? Try this one: There Ain’t No Doubt, I Love This Land. Or maybe you’ll like this one: Blink And You’ll Miss Yaupon Season. I personally like this one: Bring This Essay To Your Next Gun Fight.