Park Dogs 2011

Muri and I are headed for Arizona on Friday, meaning we’ll get in very late.  We have Maddux’s football game and Reed’s baseball game on Saturday morning and we’re going out to celebrate my son-in-law’s birthday Saturday night.  The idea-hopper has been running low anyway, so today, you get – tada! – a rerun.  Hey, if NBC can do it, so can Older Eyes.  Back in August of 2009, I posted a two-part (true) story about a confrontation between My Inner Curmudgeon and a Dog Nazi.  I’m reposting it today as one post.  It’s long but it shows my Inner Curmudgeon at his finest.

GinninKittyMy favorite writing-painting-justsitting park is also a haven for local dog owners. The dogs come in every size, shape, and breed from anorexic chihuahuas to overfed Labs and Newfoundlands that look like well-groomed bears, often hilariously matched to their owners or hilariously mismatched. If you’ve noticed my gravatar, you can probably guess that I’m a cat person … though I’ve never met a cat I didn’t like, I take dogs on a case-by-case basis. As an observer of life, though, I enjoy watching the interactions of owners with their dogs, the obvious affection that exists between them and the peculiarities that an intimate relationship with a dog seems to bring out in humans (above and beyond talking to them like they actually understand, which cat owners do, too).

For example, it is hard to walk for more than a few minutes in our park without seeing a squirrel making a run for it from one tree to the next, on the lookout for a local dog who might give chase. It appears to me that some dogs are natural squirrel chasers and some just don’t care. But just as almost every father wants his son to play Little League, it seems that every dog owner wants his puppy to join the others in the fun of chasing squirrels. There’s a woman so desperate to have little Woofie be a good squirrel chaser that she drives around the park in her SUV until she spots one. She then parks and lets her somewhat over-weight golden Lab out of the back, which naturally sends the quarry scurrying up the nearest tree. Since Woofie has no interest at all, she leads him to the base of the tree and points out the little varmint. As a Lab, Woofie is easy going but eager to please, so he’s learned to stand there barking until she takes him back to the car. One day as I was watching, the squirrel ran down the trunk of the tree and made his getaway … Woofie obliviously continued to bark at the tree. Free entertainment for Older Eyes.

Dog person or not, seeing someone be cruel to their dog incites my Inner Curmudgeon. Occasionally, I see what I call Dog Nazis, owners who not only want to train their pets to behave properly but to dominate their every move. If their pet so much as falls a step behind or dares to try to sniff something by the side of the trail, it receives an angry HEEL, and a brutal yank on the leash. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have pets, I want to shout, but I usually I bite my tongue (a strategy that’s fairly effective at containing Inner Curmudgeons) until they move on. Except once two years ago.

I was painting with watercolors at my favorite table when a woman showed up with her fifteenish son and two Jack Russell terriers in tow. She was “training” one of the dogs and teaching her son to train the other. If her dog so much as glanced to the side as she walked or delayed a microsecond before dropping to it’s haunches when she stopped, she snarled loudly at the poor creature and violently yanked it off the ground by the leash. When her son failed to deliver his lessons with the same degree of sadistic enthusiasm, she snarled at him the same way … he was fortunate not to be leashed. She was not only cruel but loud and annoying … and they stayed only about twenty feet away. My Inner Curmudgeon began to stir:

Inner Curmudgeon (to me): We really need to say something.

Me (biting my tongue): No. They’ll go away.

Five minutes … ten minutes … later they were still at it. Fifteen minutes later they finally started to leave.

IC (to me): Please let me have her before she goes. Please. She deserves it.

Me (biting harder, coppery taste of blood): No. Be quiet. She’s an Amazon. I don’t want to deal with her.

My Curmudgeon is a talker, not a fighter, so he doesn’t care. If talk comes to shove, he’s sure to stay Inner.

IC (out loud, straining through clenched teeth): Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have pets.

The Dog Nazi’s pace slowed slightly. Just keep going, I thought. But she sent her son off ahead with both dogs and began to walk purposefully in my direction.

brunhildeYou don’t have to be an opera fan to visualize Brunhilde, the helmeted Valkyrie warrior of Wagner’s epic four opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen … which should help you picture the Dog Nazi striding purposefully across the parking lot, sans helmet, shield and spear but intimidating none-the-less. All I wanted to do was get back to my painting so I considered my options: retreat (my car is only a few feet away); denial (you misunderstood me); apology (I’m sorry … I’m really having a bad day). It wasn’t me, it was my Inner Curmudgeon didn’t seem like a viable option, so I tried intimidation.

Me (sternly): You don’t want to mess with me, lady. I’m having a really bad morning.

Inner Curmudgeon (aside to me): You wimp! Let me rip her a new one.

Me (under my breath): If she doesn’t stop, she’s yours. You started it, you can finish it.

Brunhilde didn’t even slow down until she was about five feet away. She stood with her feet apart and her arms crossed across her chest. I thanked God that she’d left her spear at home.

Brunhilde: Who do you think you are? Have you ever trained a dog?

IC: No, I haven’t. I like cats. So what?

Brunhilde: Cats? Then you don’t know what you’re talking about. You can’t train cats.

IC: I don’t have to train dogs to know cruelty when I see it…

Brunhilde: You don’t know about this breed, they’re very aggressive toward other dogs. You have to be aggressive training them or they attack other dogs. Is that what you want? You don’t know anything. You need to mind your own business.

IC: You’re not aggressive, you’re downright mean. You need to get a life, lady, instead of taking out your hostilities on little dogs.

Brunhilde: I’ll have you know that I’ve raised three children and they all have had perfect attendance at school. What have you done?

Do you remember the movie Defending Your Life in which a recently passed Albert Brooks had to prove that he’d made the best of his life in the courtroom of Judgment City? If asked to defend your life, there are many things you might bring up. A Nobel prize. A successful career. Fifteen patents. A long and happy marriage. You might even bring up parenting your kids and some of their accomplishments. You raised three honor students. You raised two children with high moral standards. You raised a Cy Young award winner. But perfect attendance at school? Yikes! My Inner Curmudgeon loved it.

IC (smirking): Oh,wow. Perfect attendance. That’s really impressive.

Brunhilde (unfolding her arms and stepping back every so slightly): You’re just an old grouch who’s never done anything. You don’t know me.

IC: Lady, I accomplish more in a single day than you do in a month. And I know your type. You’re a dominating personality who’s cruel to her dogs and talks to her son the same way. I’m surprised you don’t have him on a leash. I pity your husband.

Dogs, son and husband all in one insult. My Inner Curmudgeon was swinging for the fences.  She’d either retreat in shock or come after me. I wrapped my fingers around my largest paintbrush for self-defense, but she simply mumbled something under her breath then returned to her son and Jack Russells who were waiting at attention across the parking lot. I’ve seen her walking her dogs in the park twice since then, both times with her husband, a pretty big guy. I was seated at exactly the same table but they walked by as if I didn’t exist, much to my relief.

I had a meeting with my business partner and a client the day of The Vanquishment of Brunhilde. They’re both dog people and as I told them about my day in the park, they listened wide-eyed then asked if I wanted to postpone the meeting. When I told Muri, she just shook her head and said, Oh, Bud in that tone of voice.  Our good friends who are PETA members said, Good for you, but they think something positive comes from throwing blood on fur coats. Looking back, my Inner Curmudgeon may have been an Old Fool that day. But the three of us have no regrets … and Brunhilde’s head is still on our trophy wall.

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9 Comments on “Park Dogs 2011”

  1. Brlliant article…you can only imagine how much I struggle on a daily basis when owners yell at their pooches in my consultation room. I have to remain professional and carefully word my advise. I often nicely say the dog can hear you, they aren’t deaf and in fact their sense of heaing exceeds ours.

  2. Although Sammy is generally a pretty laid-back dog to walk, he does have his moments. Any animal he spies along any given walk is regarded by him as being a potential friend so he wants to go “meet and greet” that animal -of course. And, sometimes my time is semi-limited as I do occasionally have other things that I need to be doing so when he gets in an ultra-friendly mood like that I tend to give him a tiny bit of slack, time-wise, and then start tugging on the leash to get him moving again. One of the problems with him is if he has the chance to get up close and personal and make friends with the other animal, it increases the odds that he will lose his train of thought, forgetting completely that this is for the main purpose of his watering every possible blade of grass along our stroll and eventually, find a nice little spot of weeds along the edge of the woods where he can then deposit some fertilizer then too. The watering he never forgets to tend to but the fertilizing? That, he often overlooks until after we get back home and then he’ll sneak off into the bathroom and make a deposit on the floor there, occasionally -because he likes soft things to touch his butt -and to my daughter’s chagrin, he puts those gifts directly on the bath mat, which of course, daughter has almost always just freshly laundered too. Okay, I think he has a severe case of attention deficit so I try to keep him moving, on track, on target as much as possible but doing that with him does often involve some tugging, towing, yanking on the leash to get all things possible achieved in as short a time span as we can! Unless, that is, I’m in the mood for a really, really long stroll!

    • oldereyes Says:

      Of course, tugging the leash is one thing and what this woman was doing was another. I really do try to mind my own business and I know pets are just pets, but she was downright cruel.

  3. Rick Gleason Says:

    Excellent post Bud. I have a fondness for dogs myself, but a recent brush with a cat, with whom I briefly shared the same house, allowed me a new and better opinion about them. I had just yesterday started to draft a blog about her.

    I loved the way you retold the story, your conversation among your different personalities, and how your IC got the better of you and stood up to Brunhilde. It was as if I was sitting there next to you and inside your head.

    By-the-way, dogs never lie about love.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I really try hard not to get into confrontations with people any more … to old to be a fighter. IC really did get the better of me in this case. I just don’t understand cruelty.

  4. marjulo Says:

    I love this post! Like you, Dave and I are cat people too. However, I like dogs too–I just don’t want to own one. I’m glad you spoke up to Brunhilde and love the inner voice technique in relaying the story. I despise bullies like Brunhilde who prey on the weak and helpless, who hurt and humiliate animals, children and other living creatures. We are “grandparents” to some over-exuberant dogs, but I love them a lot. The late, great Greta was my younger daughter’s Jack Russell. She flunked obedience school but won over the trainer. The worst thing she ever did was jump into a baby carriage–with the baby in it. My granddaughter treated her like a sister. The entire family, men and women included, cried when she died before her time of stomach cancer. Great post!

  5. Judy Says:

    Bud, you are a great storyteller! You have a gift for conjuring images you want me to see, as well as drawing me in to want to know the outcome. Love it!

    And, if we do not say something when we see someone treat animals or people in this way, they may never know any better. That day in the park may have been a great gift to her … let’s hope.

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