written by Joshua Brand of Fatherly
I love dogs. There it is — right there, in the first sentence. Please refer back if you find yourself saying, “Well, he just isn’t a dog person.”
Nine years ago, while on a nighttime bicycle ride, I found a puppy outside a closed animal shelter. I’d grown up with dogs. (Again, I love dogs.) When I called animal control, they said to leave the puppy there — they would “get to him when we can.” I tried to take him home by bike, but he was heavier than I thought. My friend ended up riding home solo, sending back a car to pick up me and the puppy. The abandoned dog had parvo, but he survived. He’s sitting at my feet while I type this.
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Goddamnit, I am a dog person. Here’s the thing, though. My two little girls are at an age when they want to explore nature. Exploring with them has rekindled my love for the outdoors — every weekend, we’ll set off to find a waterfall, collect leaves, or throw rocks into the river. They’re still little, so we stick to trails shared with horseback riders, bicyclists, runners, fellow hikers — and dog owners.
Most dog owners suck.
I didn’t say “all.” But that vast majority suck. I can’t count how many times we’ve just barely missed walking in dog shit, right in the middle of the trail. Lately I’ve seen baggied-up dog poop, left by the side of the trail for someone else to pick up. Who does that? Does that mean if my youngest drops a dookie in her diaper, I can leave it on the side of the trail with the four bags of dog poop?
Most dog owners suck.
“It’s OK — he’s friendly!” I usually hear this as the speaker’s dog makes a beeline for me and my family. I guess you were surprised that other people use the trail? My kids don’t want a wet dog to knock them over or jump on them — and I don’t want to make myself into a human shield to protect my girls from a 60-pound fur baby. Never mind that we’ve passed 15 signs noting that dogs need to be leashed.
What if one of us is allergic to dogs? What if your “friendly” dog gets startled and does something that dogs do, biting one of us? I saw a colleague lose most of her upper lip because a “friendly” dog nipped her at her as she leaned down to greet it. This sort of thing doesn’t happen a lot — but it happens frequently enough that as a society, we created leash laws. Because people like you, sucky dog owner, think it will never happen.
Most dog owners suck.
I love taking photos, and I love sharing pictures of my girls with our family and friends. Not long ago, I was positioning both my girls on a rock next to a river — a good backdrop for a couple quick shots. As I was getting my youngest situated, a small dog ran under my squatting legs and went right up onto my daughter. I quickly pinned my daughter’s leg down with one hand because I was afraid she would jump back and fall. Do not think that just because your dog is small, it isn’t a threat or a nuisance. My kids could have been hurt. I could have been hurt. Or the dog could have been hurt.
I keep my dog on a leash. He’s big, loud, and anxious. When we pass other dog owners and their off-leash dogs, they’ll promise that their dog’s “friendly” — and then they’ll scramble when I reply, “Yeah, mine’s not.” You might be a great dog owner, with a perfectly behaved pet — but life is full of complicating factors.
I’m sure dog owners wouldn’t like it if my girls ran all over their beach towels, leaving it a wet mess. I’m sure it wouldn’t go over well if they started jumping on passersby. And I know for certain nobody would like scraping my daughters’ shit off their shoes before getting back in the car.
We teach our kids to treat others with respect. Dogs are great, but that’s a trick beyond their skill set. That responsibility falls on the person, not the dog. But most dog owners can’t seem to handle that, and those that can’t…they suck.
Joshua Brand is trying to find the perfect balance of being a good father and a good husband. He’s an avid sports fan who enjoys exploring Northern California with his two small daughters, drinking craft beer, and channeling a sense of inner peace while riding his bicycle.