Making Friends With Dogs

I was standing out in front of my house the other night, enjoying the evening air. There was a nice sunset, and the birds were out happily chirping. But something more sinister was out, too.

As I looked up the street, I saw the largest dog I have ever seen. He was about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and he was coming directly for me. He would stand still a moment, then bark — a sound that suggested a cruise ship entering port – then resume running in my direction.

But that didn’t bother me.

Then I noticed a woman standing on the porch at the house at the end of the street. She was in a housedress, and she was yelling at the top of her lungs, “Harold, the dog is loose! He’s loose, catch the dog, Harold! Hurry and catch him, Harold! HAROLD…” And the dog was still running, stopping and barking, running…

But that didn’t bother me.

Then I saw a man running from the house toward the dog. And he was running hard, as fast as he could. And he was not gaining. The dog was still running toward me, stopping and barking, running… And the man wasn’t catching up.

Now that bothered me!

I just tried to be cool. I stood my ground without showing fear, hoping that the dog would pause long enough for the man to catch him.

Which he eventually did, much to my relief . That got me to thinking about how we treat strange dogs. Whenever we meet them, there’s always the temptation to try to make friends, to do the “Nice doggie!” thing by smiling and walking toward them.

But stop a minute and consider how that comes across to the dog. What it sees is a larger animal coming directly at it, showing its teeth. O-kayyy!

Of course, I live in a suburb, where large, vicious dogs aren’t a problem because they’re  safely behind fences – invisible or otherwise. No, I’ve found the most dangerous city dog to be the large, overly friendly sheep dog – the kind with long hair everywhere, especially in their eyes. They’re dangerous because their first instinct is to lick your face. So you just try to keep from being knocked down and smothered. And the owners are no help at all; they think it’s cute! They’re standing off to the side, smiling that smile parents usually save for those precious moments when their offspring (usually the two-legged variety) do something incredibly clever. And all you want to do is stand upright and breathe!

So if you live in the city and see a strange dog – and it’s not large enough to sit on you and clog your airways – it’s okay to try to make friends… as long as you remember not show your teeth.

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