Just came home from the Jewel where I saw a woman tie two active dogs to a pole just outside of the market doors. As a dog lover with a daughter who is a vet, the frisky canines did not intimidate me. I did wonder why their owner thought they would enjoy being tied up there on a pretty cold morning. But that is not my issue. I question whether dog owners have the right to subject those deathly afraid of dogs to have to get by them to go shopping. Or go to school. Or play freely on a playground.
One of my grandchildren is deathly afraid of dogs. So afraid that she was almost hit by a car running into the street in a panic to avoid the many dogs outside of her school. Some days, entering or leaving school is like running the gauntlet for her.
Dog owners might argue that her issue is extreme, and I admit it is. After being knocked down on a playground by a huge dog when she was two, she has never been a fan of dogs. If they bark or jump or come upon her suddenly, she transitions into flight-or-fright mode.
Knowing it’s a dog’s world, we have tried our best to help her with this phobia. When she was young, I took her to Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy where the wonderful volunteers patiently worked with her until she could walk the dogs on leash and brush them. That helped up to a point but never translated to dogs she encountered in everyday life. Unlike the therapy dogs, they barked and jumped and didn’t respond to her “sit” command.
After trying lots of informal sessions with a friend’s therapy dog, we hired a wonderful trainer from Adventures with Bailey, Susan Knack. My granddaughter did like her gentle 155-pound Leonberger, Sunny. That relationship helped a bit, but she soon discovered that most of the dogs she encountered in her daily life were nothing like Sunny.
So her parents bit the bullet and Penny joined their family. They had Penny trained as a therapy dog, at great expense I might add, and she is indeed a wonderful pet. I can’t say my granddaughter loves her, but she does tolerate her as part of the family. And her anxiety level around other dogs, while not gone, is greatly reduced
I have the utmost respect for all of the wonderful therapy and service dogs that have every right to be in public settings. I share this tale so all of you regular dog owners out there will understand how hard we have tried not to be afraid of your pet. Despite all of our efforts, and I know we are not alone here, when you tie your dog outside a store or the post office or a school (and to those of you who ignore the “no dogs” sign and bring your dog onto the school playground during school hours), you are being unfair to those who fear dogs. When you bring your dogs to a children’s park or playground, you disenfranchise some children who can no longer feel safe to play there. And when you let your dog run off-leash in public places…well, there are no words for you. That’s just plain wrong.
Next time your dog needs a walk, please think about doing it at a time other than school drop-off or pick up. And think about whether it is fair to tie your dog up outside of a store or school.
I know I will hear from folks whose dogs are delightful, sweet, and well trained like Penny. But honestly, do these cute canines really need to go to the Jewel with you?
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