Steph and Chloe hit the Bullshead dog park today after dropping me off at work. We take Chloe there often because of the proximity to work. The park is split into two sections, a big dog area and a small dog area. Until today Chloe has been able to enjoy the benefits of being neither a big or a small dog. She's a basset hound/retriever mix weighing in at 35 pounds. She's stout and strong and while she shares some characteristics of the retriever, her attitude is all basset. She spends her time at dog park and on walks with her nose firmly turned to the ground. She's easy going, but standoffish. Typically Steph and Chloe going to the dog park is not really note worthy, today however, Steph called immediately after with a truly bizarre tale.
Chloe has never really had to pick a side of the park. She enjoys small dogs and is not an exuberant greeter. Her trend is to do a casual sniff and greet then mosey around the edge of the park and occasionally yodel to the prairie dogs on the other side of the fence. And while she enjoys small dogs, she also has many buddies of the XXL persuasion.
Today when Steph and Chloe entered the dog park (on the big dog side) she was approached by a woman wearing a humane society t-shirt who was very nervous and concerned about one of her dogs (she had two malamutes). She said it was big dog play time and pointed out that Chloe had short legs and should therefore be on the small dog side. Steph, not really wanting a confrontation, said that that was where they were headed.
When they were preparing to leave a little while later she was hoping this woman was already gone, but there she was hovering near the divide of big vs. small dogs. All the other big dogs and owners were completely cleared out, and she stood there peeking over to the small dog side. As soon as Steph and Chloe crossed into the big dog side this woman came up to them, offered to carry our dog to the other gate, and then tried to pick her up.
I completely freaked out when Steph told me. I can't believe a complete stranger would try and pick up our dog. She's not tiny and she's not light, and she wasn't having any of it. She barked at the woman and backed away. Steph told her that if she was worried about her dog, then her dog was the problem. She also told her that technically Chloe is not considered a small dog and is in fact ten pounds over the small dog limit. Then more madness from this complete stranger.
She tried to talk to Steph about how she had volunteered for the humane society and had learned some things about dogs and how they have teeth (really? news to us!), again Steph said if she was worried about what her dog might do to another dog at the dog park, she was the one with the problem. Then she made it seem like Steph didn't care about Chloe's well-being or her dog's well-being...she said she just wanted to have a relaxing time at the dog park, as if it was Steph's fault that she couldn't....as if Steph and Chloe didn't also want a relaxing time at the dog park.
Madness really, all of it, as none of the dogs behaved badly according to Steph. (Chloe was not remotely interested in her dogs, which is not unusual for her.) And I can only imagine the reason the entire park was cleared out by the time
Steph and Chloe were ready to leave. And I can't imagine how the dogs could relax at all with this woman on the verge of a full on meltdown. The thing is that I am somewhat sympathetic with the idea of not really knowing what your rescue dog has been through, what might or might not be an issue.
Chloe's full story is one for the ages. Rescued from the pound after two previous "incarcerations", she came to us with crippling separation anxiety (a complete surprise to us at the time, though in hindsight it shouldn't have been surprising at all). There were vet visits, behavior experts to our house, everything short of an exorcism was done to help ease her blind panic at being left alone. After many years of working with her, and by years I mean 6 years worth of working with her, she has settled down. Aside from this one thing (and it was a big thing for awhile) she is perfect for us, sweet, loving, and her personality is very matched with Steph's which is even funnier if you know Steph. When we are out and about at some of our usual places people recognize Chloe before us. Even at her standoffish best she makes an impression. My point, in a long, rambling way, is that Chloe is intrepid, and is also kind of a rock star, but also that being responsible for a dog that has "issues" is also incredibly stressful.
That said, if she was worried or nervous about how her dog would act around a smaller dog, there are all kinds of things she can do to be smarter and safer. A muzzle comes to mind (though I'm not sure about this, not being an expert in this maybe someone else has a better idea), and I know for a fact that there are classes that can help address issues of dog on dog aggression. But the bottom line is that the responsibility is still on the dog owner. You can shout to the rooftops that you're concerned, that your dog may or may not have issues, but your dog's actions are still your responsibility. Telling people there is a potential problem doesn't make the problem go away either.
Taking your dog to the dog park involves risk. We've seen dogs get into it over something or other. We've seen people do some not smart things in the dog park i.e. fast food eating with children, or the Three Dog Bakery birthday cake for "Fido". That said, we have personally never had a confrontation or issue until today. And as much as it was bizarre, it was also ridiculous and upsetting that a complete stranger would label Steph as a poor dog owner and our dog a problem when clearly the problem was hers.