Today, Archie and I were on our daily walk. We had just crossed over past the church and as we were making our way up the narrow path, a car pulled onto the kerb. When the passenger opened their door to step out, I halted, slipping my hand lower on Archie’s lead and holding him closer to my side because there wasn’t enough room for us to pass before the car door was closed again. The driver made her way around to the boot of the car as the man slowly got out of the vehicle. I didn’t mind waiting. I held back and smiled and told the lady it was okay when she apologised for stopping us.
As we spoke, a bus passed us, and did that loud, hissing thing buses do sometimes. Archie jumped backwards and was clearly afraid, and the lady said as much. “You poor thing! What’s wrong? Why are you afraid?”
“He’s blind,” I told her, reaching down to scratch his ears. “Loud noises spook him.”
“Oh, bless him!”
The man stood out of the way so that we could pass them, and I said goodbye and went on. We got to our house just as the rain started.
I was so relieved that the exchange went well. See, like I told the lady, my dog is blind – or mostly blind. He can see shadows and shapes but not well. When strangers approach him suddenly and try to pet him he gets a fright and begins to bark. When we’re out walking, he doesn’t really bark at all. Other dogs bark at him, and he definitely has a good nose at people we pass, but he doesn’t really make any noise – which is great because if he hears a noise in the house he will bark for ages.
Every time somebody stops me when I’m walking Archie, I’m holding my breath. It happens quite often, because my dog is (in more opinions than my own) the perfect mix of scruffy and handsome. He’s got “a lovely face”; a “handsome face”. And when we walk, he’s well-behaved. People stop us quite a lot. That’s fine.
But please don’t pet my dog without asking me.
Actually, please don’t pet any dog without asking the owner. And please teach your children to always ask first!
A couple of weeks ago on one of our daily walks, I could see a couple of kids up the road petting a dog. Their grandfather was talking to the owner, and then they said goodbye and went their separate ways. I took out one of my headphones as we headed towards one another in case they spoke to me. The children ran on ahead, and then hesitated a couple of feet in front of me.
“Can we please pet your dog?” asked the girl. She was older than the little boy. I smiled and bent down to pet Archie’s head myself, and he began to sniff the girl.
“Yes, but just don’t pet his face. He’s blind and he might get a fright.”
The children stroked his back and true to his lazy, dramatic self he dropped to the ground and rolled onto his back so they could pet his belly. The grandfather caught up to them and apologised to me.
“It’s fine!” I assured him. “He loves kids.”
He does. Archie adores children, and he’s always gentle and lovely around them.
“Dogs like to be stroked,” the girl told her grandfather.
“Yes, but you stroke them without asking and you can’t do that.”
I assured the grandfather that they had indeed asked, but I was so happy to hear his criticism because even though it was unfounded, it meant he was teaching the children how to be safe around dogs.
Every time somebody stops me, I’m always afraid they’re going to try to stroke him without asking me and he’s going to get a fright and bark and they’re going to get a fright and think he’s a nasty dog. He doesn’t bite, but he does have quite a loud bark despite his size and it can be quite startling when people don’t expect it. Every time that they don’t pet him without asking, I’m incredibly relieved.
My dog is lovely. He loves attention and if you ask, I’ll probably say that you can stroke him. But please ask me before you do. Ask anyone before you stroke their dogs.
Do you have a dog? How do you feel when strangers approach you? Do you let strangers stroke them or would you rather they didn’t?
Until next time, stay cool.