Indoor garden equipment offers many multi-purpose utensils, particularly for pet owners on muddy spring days. For example, the small pruning shears are handy for excising burrs from the fur of Jake’s feathery hind quarters, and the 50ft curly hose (the one that stretches all the way outdoors onto the deck) is particularly useful when attached to the warm water faucet of the kitchen sink on a cold day. I know what you’re thinking… shame on you. I use it to spray off all the mud and gunk he picks up at the park. Otherwise, it dries and falls off him, leaving me to sweep up the sand and dirt dunes that accumulate wherever he happens to lay down — including the bed. I pray that this “Spring” thing is over soon.
The park is supposed to be a place for Jake to work off steam, and for me to relax while I obediently throw the frisbee for him. I should have known that today wouldn’t be that kind of day the moment I stepped out of the car; the field was ankle-deep in mud, and the wind was howling. It may be spring, but even bundled up in a hooded parka and winter mitts, the wind was bitterly cold. It brought new meaning to the expression, “chill out”. How on earth could the ground not be frozen in this weather?
An adolescent German Shepherd ran over to worry Jake as he fetched the frisbee, and as Jake tired I could see that the young dog was determined to beat him to it on the next toss. Willing but wary to include the dog in the game, I asked the stylish young woman who followed if her dog would bring the frisbee back if he actually got hold of it. Let me take a moment to say that I have spent many hours in parks and green spaces watching dogs bounce away with my $20 floppy frisbee and waiting while their owners chased them round and round, fruitlessly trying to get it back. My tolerance for people who let their unschooled dogs off leashes in crowded urban areas is already low, but today, it was as far below zero as the wind chill factor. It seemed a reasonable request.
The woman, who made no move to retrieve her dog and looked ready to settle in to watch her dog chase my frisbee, responded with an inane smile and an, “oh, I’m starting to teach him how to do that”. Great, I thought. I politely asked her if she would take him back to the other end of the park so that I could continue to play fetch with my dog. Her indignant and haughty response caught me off guard: “WHAT? He’ll run wherever he wants to, how do you expect me to keep him away?! You mean you want me to put him on a LEASH???”.
I was speechless (uncharacteristic, I admit), and mumbled that I would take my dog to the other end. I turned my back on her, and made my way to the other side of the (large) park with Jake. I was relieved when I spotted her walking in the opposite direction. When we were what seemed to be a safe distance away, I resumed throwing the frisbee for Jake. Within seconds the young German Shepherd was back, it’s owner a dot in the distance. I called out to her, “Yes, please put him on a leash!”. She didn’t appear to hear me as she walked closer, and I yelled louder, “I think you should put him on a leash now!”. Apparently she heard me the second time, because she had worked herself into a high dudgeon by the time she reached me. She stopped in front of me and yelled, “if you don’t want your dog mixing with other dogs don’t bring him to the park — leave him in the back yard!!”.
That did it. At this point, the only steam being worked off was coming out of my ears (like any good Canadian, I may *look* nice – and I am — but “pugnacious when riled” is my secret middle name). The woman launched into a spirited (and loud) offence, but by the time I finished verbally beating on her, she was desperate to get her dog and get away from me. The dog took her efforts to grab him as a big game and refused to be caught, giving me ample opportunity to berate her for being an irresponsible dog owner and for being “one of those people who spoil it for everyone else”. By the time I caught her dog and handed it over to her (with a final “you should be ashamed of yourself”), her humiliation was complete and she was literally in tears. I was heartless. I said, “cry all you want now, but you’ll really have something to cry about when your dog runs into the road and gets hit by a car. What were you thinking to let him off leash when he won’t even come when he’s called??”. I relented a bit, and continued a bit more gently, “There are dog obedience classes you could take at High Park”. She didn’t stick around for the details, and high-tailed it out with her unruly dog, snuffling all the way. Yeah, I’m a hard-ass. I didn’t spend a full year investing time and money training my dog to take guff from nitwits. My dog may be obedient, but dogs don’t come that way, people.
Jake and I finished our game unharassed, and made our way back to the car. It was so cold that he trailed muddy icicles from his underbelly and legs, and all that was left of them by the time we got home were black puddles all over the back seat. I hosed the rest off on the deck with warm water from the 50 foot curly hose, and once back indoors, watered the plants for good measure.
There’s nothing quite like a heated exchange on a cold afternoon.