No, you cannot pet my dog.
I have a dog who does not like people or other dogs. And no, I will not stop taking her in public.
My dog is indeed a rescue, I don’t say that as an excuse or for pity. I say it because it is part of her story, part of her psyche. She was taken from a high kill shelter (which she had 5 days to get adopted or euthanized) by a local Pittsburgh rescue, then bounced from foster home to foster home until she came to live with my husband and I. She was skittish, cowering away from a hand that tried to pet her on top of the head, she scavenged the kitchen floor for crumbs, and she wouldn’t even come in the same room as my husband for the first three days. Prior to us, she had a rough start, and by damned, I decided that we were going to give her the best life in the world. We worked with her a lot, training, medication, and patients and we can finally leave her at home alone without her panicking and have not had any trips to the emergency vet because she was pooping blood because of an ulcer like stomach condition. But the thing is, she still is not secure around unknown people and dogs. And I am okay with that.
I only take my dog on walks and to other places where dogs are okayed to go, I abide by leash laws, and always have spare poop bags — which are my main criteria for being a responsible dog owner. The issue that people seem to not understand is, that I am taking her on these outings for her enjoyment, not theirs. If she doesn’t know you and you get too close to her, she will snarl, bark, and growl — which I believe is her right, I don’t let strangers that close to me either. People jump back and walk away horrified at this point. I usually laugh, saying that it is a good think that she is only thirteen pounds, or spew her back story, “She is a rescue”, “She was abused”, “She was bitten by another dog”. But recently, not only have I become exhausted by this script, and I got fed up. Who the hell are these people and why do they think that they have the right to invade our personal space? I get it, dogs are super awesome and we want to pet them all the time, but that is not an excuse to go up to a stranger and then get mad at her dog for not wanting to be petted.
So to those people, I would like to offer some insight and advice.
You and your children (especially your children) should ask before you approach someone’s dog who is on a leash. Just because they have fur does not mean that they welcome being touched by strangers. Would you just go up and pinch a strange child’s cheeks? Would you be surprised if a parent tackled you at that point? I didn’t think so. Pretend my dog is my kid. Ask permission before approaching.
If I am walking my dog and she is on a tight leash and we cross the street when we see you and your dog approaching, take the hint. I do not want our dogs to interact. Please don’t try to convince me that your dog just wants to be friends, my dog does not.
If you have disregarded my two previous warnings, and you, your child, and/or dog approaches. Take the barks, snarls, and growls as a hint. She is warning you that you are too close and she is uncomfortable. She’s never bitten anyone, but she is an animal, respect her personal space, especially after she has warned you.
We go for walks in the park, it is one of her most favorite things. We only walk on trails and carry enough poop bags for an army. I expect the same of every other dog on that trail. There are specific area to let your dog off leash, if you want your dog to run around freely, go there. I am tired of scooping up my dog because a leash-less dog comes barreling from the woods. Also, your nonchalant attitude and reassurance that your dog is friendly does nothing for me. My dog is not, that is why she is not in the off leash area with the other dogs.
I am here to make her life awesome. I am here to give her a warm home, belly rubs, treats, toys, walks, and days in the park. All without the interference from strangers and having to apologize or explain a situation that would have never occurred if you followed the rules of decorum in the first place. Pretend that she is a little furry person and apply all those rules that you would to a child. Just because we are in public, doesn’t mean we want to meet or interact with everyone else who is also in public. She is like her person, fairly anti-social.