I Touch Their Poo: Miley and Me
People seem to assume that if you are walking a dog, you are an inherently social person, or at least, you have a driving desire to stop and talk to them. Chances are, when I’m working, I maintain no such desire, and just want to get the whole thing over with. Arrive at house. Attach leash. Walk dog. Make mental steadfast commitment to find new job.
But what’s even weirder is when people don’t acknowledge me at all and merely direct all of their greetings… and supplemental conversation… to the dog. Sometimes, they even ask it [hopefully rhetorical] questions about its life.
What am I supposed to do there? Answer them? Smile? Respond in what I think the dog’s voice would sound like? Its an awkward situation to find yourself in, because some of these people are really convinced that they have the ability to talk, out loud, to dogs.
Even when I explain that a particular pup isn’t especially social or interested in them, they persist, thinking that sure; with most people, Chuckles the Wolfhound is skiddish and toothy.
“But I’m me and I like dogs, so obviously, this antisocial creature is going to undergo a complete 180 attitude adjustment, just because I asked what his name was and once had a dog just like him, except a different breed, and he was actually my uncle’s, and he was more of a cat I guess.”
Those four weekends you spent volunteering at the animal shelter do not qualify you as an animal psychologist, I’m afraid. So when this thing goes bananas at the end of the leash, trying to get away as you wander closer and closer, arm outstretched, voice popped up a few extra octaves, please, do what you did when you couldn’t make any human friends and just give up.
The dog is not interested in you. And not only that, but what kind of parents raised you to think that offering one of your limbs to a strange animal is a fantastic idea? What happens when you find a possum in your garbage? Would you bring him a tray of trash-flavored cupcakes? Hell no, you do what any sane and rational person would do and try to connect a shovel with some important part of his skull.
Or at least, don’t try to be friends with it. It certainly doesn’t want to be friends with you. That’s what all the nightmarish hissing and squealing is about. He doesn’t want to scuttle through your legs, up to your bedroom, and fall asleep at the foot of your bed. He wants to suck the garbage juice out of a trash bag until his abbreviated existence is exploded under the wheel of a pickup truck.
Animals can’t be reasoned with, even if you had some reason to share. Which brings me back to my original point: You don’t.
“Hey there, buddy,” the contractor on his lunch break said.
I looked up and saw him munching a bagel and not looking at me.
Oh god. Here we go.
Thankfully, he didn’t get up, but the section of street Miley (Yeah… Miley) and I were strolling on was exposed enough to his position that we weren’t going to disappear anytime soon. Yes, I have spontaneously rerouted my path to avoid people who I can already see from a block away are giving the dog googly eyes.
No such luck. We were in it for the long haul.
“How’s it going?” he asked, his voice raising a bit. ”Poor guy… paws on the hot pavement. Probably need some water.”
Whoa-ho! This guy was not only a psychologist, but a veterinarian! This just in: Dogs need water. And, since he had yet to say a single word to me–not that I was jonesing for a debate with Beardy McHammerbelt–Miley and I were forced to fall back on Plan B.
Plan B is like an escape pod, and most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But when there’s nowhere to go to avoid goofy little encounters with dog enthusiasts, I will just smile as best I can and wordlessly speed up my walking, to the point that it probably looks like we’re trying to catch a train.
“Okay, bye!” he called. And that was the highlight of his day, I unfairly assumed.
Miley looked up at me. If she had been a child, this was where I would have explained the dangers of talking to strangers. Thankfully, she was a dog, and the closest she would ever come to such classic inquiries would be to blink at me in wonder as I try desperately to shut off her owner’s burglar alarm.