I held my breath as my dog Annie sniffed at the little boy. Perhaps she thought he was an odd-shaped dog. After all, she knows even less about children than I do. But this little guy was barely old enough to walk, and my 80-pound pup was getting awfully interested in his diapered bottom. Any second, she’d jump on him and scratch or nip his pure white skin, and we’d be in big trouble.
The boy’s mom had let her three kids, ages about 1 1/2, 3, and 6, run free in the fenced dog park, a rectangle of bark chips, poop and shredded tennis balls. The boy’s older sisters played on the dog agility apparatus. Their own dog, a skinny brindled bulldog mix, sped around the park, touching noses now and then with Annie and a massive long-haired dolt of a dog determined to hump everything in sight. (His embarrassed owners would soon haul him away.) Meanwhile, the little boy staggered around in the middle of the park.
I grabbed Annie just before she got too friendly. The mom shouted out something like, “Hey, Winston(!), not all dogs like little boys.” To which he did not react. To him, a doggie was a doggie.
Mixing kids with other people’s dogs is risky. Dogs, as much as we love them, are animals. They communicate with their mouths and their paws. In a flash, they can bite or accidentally scratch someone. Poor Annie hasn’t been around children since I adopted her at seven weeks old. She knows nothing about them, does not understand you can’t sniff, paw or roll around with them the way you can with dogs.
Annie is a childless female like me. Spayed at six months, she occasionally displays romantic feelings, but she doesn’t know anything about puppies or baby humans.
Annie didn’t hurt the little boy, but things got out of hand when the mom passed out cookies and opened a Styrofoam box of French fries. Food! Annie tried to grab the cookie out of the little boy’s hand. I pulled her back. The bulldog dashed over to defend her family–or get some of the food–and a fight ensued. I dragged my snarling dog out by the collar.
I don’t hate kids or mothers, but the dog park is for mothers of dogs, not mothers of people. It’s one place where we can all be equal as dog owners. As my late husband used to say, “Grumble.”