Early Sunday morning, I took Daisy to play fetch in Cadman Plaza. We lined up between a row of lime trees, well away from the walking paths and the playing field, and she began to bark for her ball. Out on the field, a kid jumped off the bike he’d been riding and threw himself at his father in screams. I threw the ball a couple of times before the inevitable ricochet. Daisy scuttled under the park bench, got the ball and wheeled to bring it back to me. The kid was now hysterical.
“Would you please leash your dog?” the boy’s father asked. “This isn’t a dog run.”
“Actually, it is. From nine to nine, the Plaza is off-leash.”
“Where does it say that?” he snapped.
“Just read the signs,” I said as I scooped up the ball and threw it down our alley of trees. I didn’t add, “…the same signs that prohibit bike-riding on the Astro Turf,” nor did I point out the dogs flittering around at the far end of the field or the sixteen of dogless places he could have taken his kids. He stomped off and I was left with a slow burn of righteous indignation.
The primary definition of righteous, should you care to know, is ugly in its narrowness: “without sin or guilt”. I had no right to my anger because I’m not without guilt in handling my dogs.
Word on the street is that someone’s looking for me. One of the dogs I walk has taken an intense dislike to a woman’s indistinguishable shepherd mix. Recently, in fact, in the midst of untangling leashes, my dog saw it crossing the road and booked on over to taunt it in her usual fashion. Without going into further details, I’ll leave it as an incident that was terrifying for both humans but blessedly brief. The owner and I crossed paths not long after and she launched into righteous indignation. I apologized but she wanted to hammer it. Apparently it still isn’t over. She either wants my dog’s owners to fire me, get rid of the dog or, more probably, suffer a long harangue of the guiltless addressing the mortally guilty.
In two weeks, I’ll have a year of Lab Lady posts on the Brooklyn Heights Blog. I’ve been treated to some lovely responses and others that run from petty to hateful. I’m pissed off at all the righteousness directed at dogs and, therefore, at their owners and walkers.
Has that generic looking shepherd never been too rough with another dog? Has it never snarled or barked at another dog or a human? Had the owner never dropped its leash and suffered the fear of seeing the dog skip off?
Because I’m on the Most Wanted List, I’ll quote more of the word on the street, which was that the shepherd was yacking its head off at a dog sitting with a ball in its mouth as this conversation took place.
I spend my days weaving dogs in and out of traffic in order to make the Brooklyn Heights sidewalks as dog-free as possible. Sometimes I f**k up and sometimes I’m right. It feels a whole lot better to be in the wrong because I can apologize and learn from it, while wallowing in the love of my righteousness means I don’t have room for something more honest and more entertaining in my brain.
If you want to learn about people, get a dog. If you want to know the depths of people, become a walker.