When we met with a behaviorist about training Bea, she said that the toughest thing to deal with as a dog owner is the general public. She’s right, but I wouldn’t have put it as nice. I’d have said, “Don’t forget that the majority of people you will meet are idiots.”
Bea is a cute dog. She is friendly without jumping on anyone, small without being strangely freakish, and well behaved without being a robot. Part of why we adopted Bea is because the very act of looking at her melted us. As I’ve said before, her puppy-like features mixed with adult behavior make her very easy to love.
It’s because of this that walking her is often an obstacle course. She is still a very scared dog, as any dog who spent 6 years in a shelter has a right to be. She deals with strangers coming up and petting her pretty well – though her lip licking and tail downward show us that she’s nervous at best. She’s like a constant high school freshman: trying to project an air of confidence while obviously worrying if things are going to be okay.
There have been adults who have handled Bea in a dumb way – including one woman who insisted on standing over her and talking to her like she was a baby. I don’t always understand my dog, but at that moment I believe Bea and I were thinking the same thing.
The worst is when the behavior comes from kids. A parent needs to be responsible for their child’s behavior, so when a child hits Bea in the face, it is the same as the parent hitting Bea in the face. And yes, that’s happened several times. The kids are just trying to pet Bea, but young children don’t always have the hand-eye coordination necessary to gently touch a moving target. I imagine this is what George felt like in “Of Mice and Men.”
And the parents don’t always ask if Bea is friendly before they let their kids have at it. What would happen if a kid hit Bea in the face and Bea bit her? No court would see that as self-defense, and neither would many parents. Especially those who just let their kids swat at everything they think is cute.
“Do you want to pet the dog?” should NOT be the first question the parent asks. “Is she friendly?” and perhaps “is it okay to pet her?” addressed to me, should come first. Hey, I wouldn’t want their kid petting me without the parent asking first. Or at all – that’s a bit creepy.