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We went to the lake again last Sunday, when it seemed that everyone and their brood had come to enjoy the fantastic spring weather. The area was bristling with activity that day, and the Bows found themselves caught in the midst of it at a couple points. Though there were children everywhere, they behaved themselves wonderfully. For the most part, they just kept their distance. Occasionally they would get impatient and streak ahead past some toddler who was stalled and blocking a narrow path, but both dogs are quite surefooted and nimble, whisking by and barely brushing the kid.

We explored the back trails, where there was more shade and fewer people. It was a mostly pleasant time.

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Photo taken 3 April 2011

One incident soured the afternoon, and I keep thinking back and wondering how I might have handled it better. There was a woman, her husband, and their son on the main trail with a very young Husky puppy who, estimating from her size and her uncoordinated, clumsy movements, couldn’t have been more than three, maybe four months old max. I would have been surprised if she had all her shots. She was quite a bit smaller than Bowdu, so she didn’t trigger his typical hatred of Huskies.

The puppy took an immediate interest in Bowdu, and as they were merry-go-rounding about, nose to butt in a circle-sniff, the woman pointed to Bowdu and said to her husband, “Look! THAT’S the kind of dog we should breed her with! It’ll make her smaller!”

I immediately prickled when I heard that, and reflexively let out a terse, audible snort. And once I realized I made that sound, I figured I might as well say something, too. But what could I possibly say? I had nothing witty up my sleeve, so I just spit out the first thing I could think of that would not be what she wanted to hear. Instead of agreeing that Yes, yes, a mini Shibsky would be SUPER cute and profitable and you should strike a deal with the next good-looking Shiba you stumble across, no matter their temperament or genetic health status or owner’s ability to find good homes for the puppies!, I just said, “No, no it won’t” in as icy a tone of voice as I could muster.

That was all I said. Apparently it was enough to express my utter disdain. The woman glared at me hard as we got the hell out of there, before she could bother to ask me what kind of dog Bowdu was (if she didn’t already know). For a moment she looked like she wanted to throw me in the lake.

Her puppy kept following us up the hill, and I could hear her screeching after him, as if unleashing her fury on her poor pup who was all too interested in the snobby Asian lady and her pair of runty dogs. “TIMBER! TIMBER!! Get BACK here!!” She even called her bad dog at one point, as if it was the Husky’s fault that she was excited and off-leash in the wild, open woods without having been properly recall-trained. We just moved faster up the steep hill, and since the puppy was still in her wobbly, uncoordinated stage, we soon left her far enough behind that the woman was able to recover her dog and we were able to continue our walk in relative peace.

But I remained disturbed. I wonder if it would have made any difference if I had been just a tad nicer, if I had stopped to chat seriously with this woman who was merely out to enjoy a beautiful day with her dog and her family, if I had tried to explain all the dozens of reasons why she should not be thinking of breeding her pup, least of all to deliberately create a mix that serves no purpose other than miniaturization. Could I have changed her dog’s possible fate in a single afternoon, with a single conversation?

Would it even matter? Because even if this woman wasn’t serious, I know that every single day, many others deliberately entertain the idea that they have to breed their beautiful dog, that it would be great to create a bigger/smaller/cuter/rarer special wolfy mix, and that they’ve got a smart idea even though they have no clue what they’re doing.

This was also a reminder, yet again, that every time they’re out, my dogs advertise themselves and their breeds. With or without my intervention, they’re eventually bound to capture the attention of someone who will covet and acquire one with no clue as to what they’re doing.

As happened to me so many years ago now…

We can all learn at some point. But it takes someone to extend that opportunity and provide a meaningful context. Snark and snap judgments are more likely to make for ego flares and opportunities lost.

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Maybe Bowdu gets that from me (and to some extent, the Doggy Daddy as well — though he’s the one who reminded me that nastiness towards strangers is unbecoming of me). Our precious little Sheeb wasn’t perfect at the park that day, either. He tried to boss around a couple dogs who were splashing around after a ball in his favorite corner of the lake, and he got snapped at and shoved into the water for his interference. No harm done, just the shock of cold water and some mud thrown on his face.

He probably deserved it, as I would have if the woman had thought to call me out on my rudeness.

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