My doggo is a rescue. It was very apparent when she came home with us that she was abused. She wouldn’t let us pet her head. She cowered if we raised our voices, even if it was in laughter. She was afraid of other dogs. She still gets worked up with loud noises or if we have rambunctious guests. However, she has come a long way! She lets us pet her head now. She gets along really well with my parents’ dog. She is loving and loyal. She is such a success story and inspiration.
I have been taking her on walks around our neighborhood and around our local school district. With everything going on with COVID-19, I have to get out of the house somehow. I know we are going to come across other walkers, but I feel that fresh air and getting to wave to old people and my students on our way is spreading more joy than germs for everyone. We do our very best to keep our distance, even if it means shouting across the street to talk to a hard-of-hearing 80-year-old. My dog’s leash is only 4 feet long, so she is never far from my side. We cross the street when we see someone else coming on the same side as us. I never come within 6 feet of another human.
Other people, not so much.
When I come across other people with dogs, I try to avoid them the most. My dog is not friendly with other dogs. I have been met by countless people, who I am sure are well-meaning, that allow their dogs to invade my dog’s space.
For example, I came across a lady yesterday walking a golden retriever. I pulled my dog’s leash in closer to me, so she was only walking 2 feet away from my body. She did well – her ears perked up like she was interested, but no growling. I nodded a hello and kept walking at our normal brisk pace.
“Oh, she is such a pretty dog!” I hear as I see the lady stop with her dog.
“Ma’am, if you don’t mind, we are going to keep our distance. She’s not very friendly with other dogs just yet,” I replied as I put some pep in my step.
“Don’t worry, my dog is so friendly!” I feel her closing in on me.
“Ma’am, I would really appreciate it if you gave us our space!” I shout as her dog comes to sniff mine.
My dog turned around and gave a warning nip on her dog’s nose. She barked and growled and put her body between me and the intruder. The owner cursed me up and down, even though I had warned her that my dog wasn’t friendly and expressed that she needed to give us space. She threatened to call the cops about my “evil mongrel” who “shouldn’t be in polite society”.
Here is a list of Doggy Social Distancing Rules everyone should follow:
- Ask before approaching. Always. We should do this with humans too if I’m being honest. If the person says no, back off.
- It doesn’t matter if your dog is friendly. What matters is if ALL of the dogs involved are friendly. If the person says no, back off. If they say no and you don’t listen, it is your fault if something happens to your dog.
- It doesn’t matter where you are. Even though my dog isn’t friendly, she still deserves to go on walks. She is kept on a 4 foot leash and I pull her into 2 feet if I see you coming to minimize our contact. She still deserves to play in our yard on a proper tether. It is her yard. If you step onto it, you’re an intruder. Not all dogs are friendly and you don’t have the right to invade the space of others, even if it is a public space.
- Size doesn’t matter. I don’t care that your dog is a Great Dane. My dog is still very protective and will take your dog down if she feels like I’m being threatened. It doesn’t matter if your dog is a puppy chihuahua and is “just curious”. My dog is not curious about your dog. Her only interest is keeping me safe.
- If you see someone coming and they cross to the other side of the road from you, that is a pretty firm indicator that they don’t want your dogs to interact. Don’t cross over to their side of the road so your dogs can meet each other.
- Don’t assume just because my dog looks well-behaved that she will tolerate you or your dog. My dog listens pretty well and walks well on a leash. That being said, the second she feels like I’m being threatened, that all goes out the window.
If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught me, it is to respect (and absolutely love) my 6 foot radius. Please, people, respect the space of everyone and everything.