Practice Safe Petting

by Doranna

This is for the vibrant little Papillion named Java (Black Mtn Cup Of Joe RA MX MXB MXJ MJS), who should still be here.

leash.559Every so often, it’s time to blog about the subject of safe petting.

I should string that along, maybe–hey, I do write romance!–but I’ll be good.  Of course I’m talking about dogs.

Here’s something I found myself saying in a conversation elsewhere this past week:

…Because I’m so active with my dogs away from home (trialing, training, exercising, and Dart’s modest service role…), my chances of encountering inexcusably uncontrolled not-my-dogs runs pretty high, as do my chances of running into people who think the doggies are cute but don’t consider that the doggies might not feel the same way about them.

The conversation had been triggered, of course, by yet another …encounter… out in our neighborhood.

Picture, if you will, three Beagles running alongside a bike, neatly placed to heel and at the end of a brisk exercise session.  Picture a quiet rural street in high desert grasslands and the end of a hot day with the sun just down, bringing coolness and a nice breeze.

Now picture the bike rider as she hears that ominous sound from behind–the charging footfalls of a large, loose dog, punctuated by grunts of sincere effort.  I AM COMING TO GET YOU.

This is not a time for playing nice.

In general, I find I’m done playing nice.

Dear World at Large:

Leash your dog.  Contain your dog.  Take responsibility for your dog.  Keep your dog away from me and mine.  You are not special snowflake and your dog is not a special snowflake–no, he isn’t–and the rules, both legal and moral, apply to you, too.

Because one day, your dog will come home broken, and I will be the one who did it.  I am prepared to do it.  I have the means to do it.  And even though I’ll probably go home and throw up afterward, it won’t be my fault that it happened.

It’ll be your fault.

flags.567  (Special shout-out to the young man on UNM campus who, after all four of his large, unleashed dogs had uncontrollably charged a canine friend of mine, carried on extensively at volume.  “Wahh!  You scared the %$#! out of my dogs!”  Because my response is this:  “GOOD.  Then I did it right.”  My defense tool that day?  A batch of waving utility marker flags.)

Prevention, it seems, is everything.  When it comes to managing dogs at home, or greeting dogs in public.  It’s all too cute for me to say we should all practice safe petting, but you know what?  We all should.

So do not pet my dog (or any dog) without asking; do not bend close and loom over him or stick your hand in his face.   What are you, three years old?  Be nice!


(And don’t be surprised, if you do ask to pet, should I smile and say not now, thanks.  There are often things going on in their world that you may not have noticed–such as the fact that we’re actively training.)

While we’re at it, practice safe pettiquete in general.  Do not let your dog get close to mine, or sniff mine, or offer an unyielding stare and stiff tail from up close and personal.  I don’t care if your dog wants to be friends.  Mine are busy being with me.  When it’s time for them to play, I’ll arrange a playdate with their beloved pals–dogs I know and trust and love.

If you or your dog are in my space, you or your dog are the problem.  I’m not going to take chances with my dogs in order to spare yours.


In this most recent case, the charging behemoth in question had an abrupt change of heart when he saw my reaction, which is practiced and unequivocal and very, very fierce.

Not that it’s always possible to stop tragedy, and I know that.  I don’t go out without some way to protect us, but sometimes things just happen too fast when people think the laws don’t apply to them or their dogs; sometimes the dogs are just too big, and too aggressive.

As Java’s grieving family well knows.



About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
This entry was posted in Behind the Scenes, The Dogs! and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Practice Safe Petting

  1. Doranna says:

    I guess this is a timely topic! Here’s another take on it–after a tragic incident involving a child.

  2. Elizabeth Moon says:

    While I think it’s important for kids to know how to handle a loose dog situation, I worry about the usual victim-blaming that goes on (“My dog only bit you because you did something wrong” or “My dog bit your dog because your dog did something wrong” rather than “My dog bit you/your dog because it was loose–yeah, my dog shouldn’t have been loose.”) Especially with younger children, who do not yet have the self-control they will have later, in my opinion when a dog bites a child it’s an adult human’s fault. The dog was loose, or the child was allowed in the same space as the dog without an adult immediately present (within reach) to monitor and intervene to remove the child if the dog was showing less than perfect willingness.

    Such school visits may teach children (some of them anyway) how to be safer around dogs, but I hope that the instruction doesn’t lead to “Your child had that lecture at school and STILL made eye contact with my dog and thus it’s her fault she was bitten.” Both the deaths by dog attack in our area were defended by the dog owners involved with “She must have done something to bother the dogs; they’ve never attacked anyone before.” (One teenager, one elderly woman, both attacked on their own property, by dogs of “guard type” breeding.)

    I have to admit I yelled at a beagle who started coming toward me when I was riding my bike. It was a point on the ride where I stop and turn around (the stopping is necessary for safety) and a loose beagle near a parked truck turned, looked at me, and started coming toward me. I turned the bike around, facing back down the street, and it picked up speed, running right to me. So I yelled, loudly and firmly “NO! GO AWAY!” and it skidded to halt, tucked its tail, and ran back to the truck. I felt sad…I like dogs, and beagles, and…who knows? But it shouldn’t be running to strangers on, or with, a bike. Its owner may have been right not to shut it into the truck (big truck, not pickup) but was not right to leave it running around loose at hte convenience store–that’s a dangerous intersection, and the beagle ran across the street (fortunately not the highway!) to get to me. Leaving aside the potential for a bite, what if it had decided that running after a bike (all the way to my house) was more fun than waiting for its owner to return to the truck?

    • Doranna says:

      I agree completely! I’m discussing a limited scenario–where the dog owner (or her leashed dog, and this does NOT include Flexis) have had their personal space invaded by another person/dog. This absolutely doesn’t endorse problems that occur when dog invades another person’s space. (Including their yard, OMG–!)

      I also agree completely about adults being responsible for protecting children. Little ones not only don’t have self control, they don’t have fine motor control. Most adults can’t read the subtlety of dog language (“He’s friendly,” my left foot!), and it certainly can’t be expected of children.

      I think what you describe with the Beagle who ran toward you is a perfect summary of why people suck when they don’t control their dogs–and all the small pieces that go into making up that big picture, from responsibility to the dog to responsibility to other people. One of my own biggest conflicts when it comes to protecting myself is that I know the situation is the owner’s fault, but it’s either the dog or I who will have to pay (and yeah, it’s paying when I have to deal with an fight-or-flight rush and sadness at what occurs with the dog).

      But you never know. A sweet, responsive dog can trigger to prey drive. Just because this one responded by running away tail-tucked doesn’t mean it wasn’t headed for an ankle in the first place.

  3. Marilyn says:

    My profound condolences to Java’s people. Dear World, And when I take responsibility for MY dogs, who are part of my FAMILY, don’t you Deity-D@mned well undermine it. Yes, you, the rectal orifices who thought it was funny whenever I let my Babette Beagle and my Dachshund Duo out in our fully fenced yard, to go and open the gate on the side of the house where I can’t see you. After the first time Babette got out, I checked the entire fence line for any openings or tunnels, and made sure the gates were shut. And then I checked the gate again before I let her out… and a few minutes later, there was Babette, running down the street, and the gate was open. You’re why I had to go buy a heavy, coated bicycle chain and extra-heavy locks after you cut the one lock off my gate so you could let my dogs out. Luckily, that stopped you because my next step was going to be to buy some cameras and mount them by the gates so I could catch you at it. And then I’d’ve sued your equine behind off. And yes, you, the utility meter readers and line-men who complain about MY dogs in MY yard, and deliberately leave the gate wide when you leave. I opened it for you after herding the Hounds in the house so YOU could be safe, and specified that you should close it. You couldn’t be bothered, which is why I always check the gate and re-lock it after you leave. You’re why I called your bosses and told them to mark our accounts that no one was to attempt to enter our yard without permission. It’s just too freaking bad you might have to wait a couple minutes for me to reach the door and secure my dogs. Sorry, World. I take responsibility for my beloved Hounds, and I’ll see you in the Devil’s Domain before I’ll let your stupidity or malice hurt them.

    • Doranna says:

      Yeah…that’s a different matter, really, but another big sore point. I’ve lost a dog to someone who randomly decided to open my gate, and I’ve had several very close calls in the wake of service people. Our current gate is locked, and I was lucky enough to be able to arrange the back yards so access isn’t necessary for meter reading or propane-filling.

      Our neighbor recently had a nightmare week when her yard full of dogs (some recently arrived or emotionally fragile foster dogs) was turned loose by the propane guy, who thought it was a kick that they ran behind his truck as he drove away. Eventually all were recovered (Duncan and I went out and tracked the two most wayward of them), but one did not survive. Since then I’ve heard so very many similar stories…ugh. I’m very glad for my locked gate.

      • Marilyn says:

        I’m glad for my chained and locked gate, also. And for the tags all my dogs wear: Name, address, all our phone numbers, and the line, “If I’m out, I’m lost.” Before we figured out that someone was deliberately opening the south gate, that tag restored Babette to us four times. (She’s chipped, but the tag doesn’t require someone to take her to a vet to find out where she belongs, so is faster.) Now the gates are bicycle-chained. We’re adding a whole-house generator — the power company advised me that I couldn’t be on the list for emergency power restoration after a hurricane because the fact that I stop breathing at night without my machine does not, in their view, constitute a critical medical issue. (!@#$#@!??) One of the things I added to the contract was that the installers are responsible for the safety of the dogs during installation, with appropriate penalties. Mind, I will be here during the installation, and the dogs will be inside, but it seemed reasonable to hit them in their wallet for possible infringements. I could tell incredible stories of Katrina dogs… which is NOT the subject of this post, either. Sorry — just something about Java being taken untimely from his family kicked me where I live, and triggered an assortment of associations.

        • Doranna says:

          Yes, I see that!

          Really clever idea to add the dog safety to that contract. I’ll have to keep that in mind…

          My dogs all have ID collars with tags–phone info, email info, and microchip info, plus phone numbers for microchip people. The actual chips are only for back-up/collar failure. And may none of it *ever* have to be used…

  4. Marilyn says:

    Oh, and PS — Mr. Shadow’s best buddy in obedience classes was a Papillion. The sight of a 34 pound rock-solid and sturdy long haired Dachshund and a Papillion a third his size, taking a break from training to bounce and dance with each other is a memory I will always cherish.

    • Doranna says:

      The first time Dart saw our Papillion friend, he was still barely a year old and hadn’t been well socialized yet. He took one look and started to roar in fury–I had never seen him like that, and we were all significantly puzzled but didn’t make a big deal out of it, just cut the moment short.

      The next time out, Dart said, “Oh, wait…that’s a DOG. Why didn’t someone say so?” Never made another peep and now they’re all good friends. ;> It’s hilarious in retrospect–and so obvious that Dart was, that first time, simply horrified by this bouncing hairy monster NEVER BEFORE SEEN BY MANKIND.

      • Marilyn says:

        “That’s a DOG? B-B-but it doesn’t look like a Beagle, and everyone knows the true and sincere appearance for a Dog is a Beagle!” (Of course, the Pair o’ Dachs would say that the true and sincere appearance for a Dog is a Dachshund….)

        • Doranna says:

          I can’t speak well to other breeds, but I’ve found that Beagles have a pretty high awareness of breed. And yes, they accept another Beagle into the mix almost as a matter of course–a courtesy that doesn’t extend to other breeds!

          • Marilyn says:

            My observation at the Dachshund Club of America Nationals was that Dachshunds were fine with other Dachshunds. (Never seen so many Dachs in all my born days!) Certainly, Shadow was less hyper around all those Dachshunds than with large dogs, for reasons already mentioned. Babette felt very outnumbered!

  5. Patty says:

    So, here is my bad dog story. Patio Dog was lying at front of a coffee shop and when I took my ocoffee out to sit on the patio the Patio Dog came to sniff me. I am not a dog person recall, but i don’t hate dogs. Wasn’t too interested in meeting Patio Dog however, so, I gently pushed him away, where upon the owner came and told Patio Dog to lie down, which he did and he did not approach me again. Ok that was OK. Not perfect in my book,but ok.
    THEN a second set of people arrived with a young dog ON A LEASH. Patio Dog proceeded to greet Leash Dog and Leash Dog was beside herself. Patio Dog’s owner said the usual “Oh Patio Dog is friendly” and failed to leash Patio Dog making life miserable for Leash Dog and Leash Dog’s owner’s. No danger occurred, but GEEZ, Leash Dog’s people had a bad visit to the coffee shop all because Patio Dog’s owner was an idiot…If only one of you had brought Leash Dog! Patio Dog’s owner might have learned a thing or two.

    • Doranna says:

      It’s a perfect example of just the kind of rudeness that people inflict on others when they do think their dog is a special snowflake. Not dramatic, not enough to make Patio Dog’s owner think twice (obviously). But miserable for the other side of the equation.

      I do rather expect that Patio Dog’s owner would have responded differently if her dog had come up to one of mine. But I suspect she would have simply resented the bleep out of it as opposed to learning something.

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