I’ve discovered that there are two types of people in the world: people who like dogs and people who don’t. When I take my dog for a walk in the Hamptons, I’m absolutely terrified of running into the latter.
All I have to do is say the word “walk” and my dog loses her mind. She gets so excited about it, which in turn gets me excited, and then the two of us giddily walk down Main Street in Southampton. This seemingly nothing-but-joy experience has one flaw, and this is a person who your dog has interest in but who doesn’t reciprocate that interest.
My dog likes everybody, so as we walk she will naturally pull against the leash so she can go up to a person and say (or at least this is what I think she is saying) “OH MY GOD IT’S YOU! ISN’T THIS JUST SO GREAT?!?! WHAT’S GOING ON?!!? YOU LOOK AWESOME!!!”
There are two types of reactions a person will have to this behavior. The first comes from the person who likes dogs. This individual will smile, bend down to pet my dog, ask her name, then say something like “Aren’t you just a happy little guy!” (To the dog, not me.)
The second type of person is very different. When my dog, wide-eyed and happy, approaches them, they glance at me as if I am about to mug them. They give me a look directly in the eye that says, “How dare you! HOW DARE YOU! GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR!!” They then speed up the pace of their walk in the exact opposite direction that I’m walking, reinforcing the sense that I’m some sort of criminal.
The old me used to feel kind of guilty when this would happen. I’d want to catch up with the person, apologize more fully than I already had, and express to them in some way that I’m ashamed of having this happy dog that they were upset by, and that I’d try to be a better citizen of society in the future.
I’ve had my dog for about two years now.
I no longer have this emotion.
I’ve tried, many times, to put myself in the shoes of the person who does not like dogs, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there may very well be something wrong with these people, perhaps in a clinical sense. I don’t need to apologize for having a dog that just wants to say hello—THEY should be apologizing to me, and my dog, for not liking dogs.
I’m hoping to start a little dog-culture change with this column. If you are the type of person who scowls at a dog owner whose dog approaches you in public, you should try—just one time—to change your approach. Recognize that there very possibly may be something wrong deep in your core, and offer an apology. A simple, “I’m terribly sorry, but for some reason I do not like dogs. I know this is incredibly odd, but that’s just the way I am. It’s a good dog, though. Have a good one.”
Just this little change would have the exact same result that you were looking for with the scowl—which, of course, is to get away from such a wonderful animal. However, with this solution, there is an added benefit of having us Hamptons dog owners not want to scowl at you people so much.