dog distance (Washintonian)

Our three dogs are playful – perhaps a bit unruly. It was the man knocked off balance by them and awkwardly splayed out on the sidewalk during one during a powerful winter snowstorm who used the phrase “untrained”. Or something slightly stronger.
They are a happy group, friendly and cooperative, but they get very excited about new people and dogs. Actually, wildly and embarrassingly excited.
So walking three dogs is challenging enough, especially when they seem to feel they are a lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce and the park is a cocktail reception at the Republican National Convention. They are all over it. I can almost see them reaching for their business cards.
And other well-meaning dog owners like to chat about the trio’s breeding (two quirky and quick small mottled tan-and-white mutts and a luggish over-sized British black lab) or their own dog’s engaging personality or habits — though believe me, like new parents, dog owners often see the most common and tedious achievements as wonderfully unique.
I’m not opposed to dog networking, but those encounters often don’t turn out well. Legs get peed, leashes cross (we once met another foursome and within seconds six leashes looked like something a spider on crack created) and sometimes a tussle begins, usually involving our big, powerful black lab who can take exception to quick move or specific dog butt scent, I guess. And all of this takes place while the plastic bags brimming with dog poop swing wildly swing around us.
I don’t personally feel they need more friends and there are days when I’m just not in the mood — when I’m feeling crappy or in a hurry or both. But where I live in Takoma Park, the only thing more popular than dog socialization these days (we’ve been directed to dog parks, offered dog play dates and once had a woman suggest one of our dogs “sleep over”) are flack seed and the comeback of the Birkenstock.
Sometimes I create a wide arc away from oncoming dogs and when asked the inevitable “are they friendly” query, somberly shake my head and pull my three back firmly, as if I can barely keep them under control and they have just viciously murdered a flock of sheep.
The other dog owners usually walk on, though often seemingly offended – like a parent whose child didn’t get accepted at Brown. And a surprising number aren’t satisfied and nudge closer, apparently thinking they can be converted
One man just ignored me and came closer, muttering something about “that just can’t be”. He was the same guy who was one morning earnestly talking to his garbage can. Another keeps his bull dog off leash and lets him inch slowly over, which every dog owner knows spells trouble.
One difficult morning recently after I smiled and herded my dogs around a tree and past a woman dog walker, she stood staring at us long after we passed, hands on her hips, looking as if I’d just farted in her car or stolen her purse. I didn’t like her and was even less enthusiast about her dog, who seemed like the sort of pointy over-achiever type.
“They don’t really want to be friendly (and, get this) with unknown dogs,” I said, surprised at both the soaring level of my irritation and sinking level of my maturity.
“They’re dogs,” she responded, her voice rising. “They are supposed to be friendly.”
“And maybe you are ruining yours, “ I responded, hinting vaguely that she was spoiling her dog or trying excessively to build his self esteem.
My dogs glanced back, seeming to say “Man, you guys are crazy.”

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