Monday, June 9, 2008

Changing Dim Bulbs

Had another unpleasant encounter with a dog owner on the trail yesterday. This couple had two huge rottweilers off leash. We stopped when we saw them so they could get a hold of the dogs. When they went by us, I said dogs were supposed to be leashed on this trail. The young man said quite sarcastically, "Good to know." And then the woman said, "You should be leashed." Huh? Oh man. That pissed me off.

The furies rose up in me big time. My better nature did not take over. I swore at her. She swore back.

Then we went our separate ways. I wished all kinds of horrible things on them. Didn't even take it back.

I fantasized about all the things I would do to their car, realizing that I would have no idea which car was theirs so I would not actually do anything. I realized that I had ruined my walk because of the way I had reacted, although part of me was still screaming that THEY had ruined my walk. I hoped their walk was ruined, too. (By the way, I never felt any antipathy toward the dogs. Dogs are just dogs. They do dog things. Human beings are supposed to protect their dogs and the people who might encounter their dogs.)

As we kept walking to the end of the trail, I started to feel icky: Why wasn't I a better calmer person? (I'm human, not perfect.) Why did I get so scared when I saw dogs off leash? (Been attacked and bitten by dogs too many times.) Why didn't I just ignore the people and dogs and hope for the best? (Because my adrenaline was so high and hoping never got anyone anything.)

And then the final question for myself: Why didn't other people behave the way they should, like have their dogs on leashes?

This time the voice in my head said, "You can change lightbulbs; you can't change people."

I said this aloud to Mario. He laughed. "That's great. Did you just make that up?"

"No," I said. "The voice in my head did."

"And it's so true," he said.

"Yep," I said. "I can change lightbulbs but not people, so I might as well stop trying. It's a waste of time."

OK. Lesson learned.

I think.

It's all a process, isn't it? I have such a strong sense of justice. I feel like I can't let anything go, anything pass. Edmund Burke's "evil prevails where good people do nothing" is a constant refrain in my conscience. I don't always know what is evil and what is just bad manners. To me, letting dogs run loose where they can hurt and frighten people is brutish antisocial behavior. It is one of the many ways people separate themselves from the community of people—in other words, they act as bad neighbors. They do not recognize we are kin. Their behavior is decidedly uncivil, unkind, callous, and insensitive. But nothing I do is going to get them to change their minds or their behavior.

They're the only ones who can change their own dim bulbs.

And me, too. I've got to change my own dim bulb. I've got to figure out a better way to respond to problems on any of the paths I'm on.

When I figure it out, I'm sure it'll be a lightbulb moment.


MoniMc said...

I really wish I knew the answer. I feel such dismay when people don't honor the bond of civilization between us. If I don't get angry, I feel hopeless. Neither is helpful. Accepting what is, is key, I suppose. Meanwhile, it keeps getting worse.

Maureen said...

It's sad because they probably won't change until the lawsuit after their dog finally bites someone...even the nicest dogs's sad when behavior is dictated by consequences instead of concern for others.

nettiesstory said...

We have a dog rescue, and i realize this is a problem people have when they want to exercise their dog and give them a little freedom to run. There are not many places for this. In the number of dogs we have rescued, i will tell you that we have not had one people agressive dog - only other animal agressive.
Some cities have dog parks which are great. Next time you might ask if they know of a local dog park, and if so they should make an effort to take their dogs there for their exercise. Most people will not allow their people agressive animal off leash, but i KNOW - there are the ones who probably would. From the rescue world - sorry this happened to ruin your walk.

Kim Antieau said...

Thanks, everyone for the comments! Nettiesstory, great work! This trail is out in the forest. It's a popular trail. If someone wants to run their dog, they can hike out into the woods and do it there. Dogs running on trails where there are cliffs, chasms, etc., is reckless. We have NEVER had a dog owner respond politely to our reminder that dogs are required to be leashed on the trail. It might be a PNW thing. Lots of people move out here to get away from people, and they think they can do whatever they want. They don't have to obey laws or follow rules. My experience with dog owners out here is that generally they are clueless and selfish. Yes, this is a generalization--that's why I said generally. My sister has encountered this since moving from Michigan to California, too. Maybe it's a West Coast thing. I've lived away from the Midwest for so long that I don't know what it's like there. I do know that in Arizona where we've been, the dog owners seem very respectful of others and they seem to understand that their dogs are dogs.

This reminds me of something the Dog Whisperer said. He said dog owners fail to be good dog owners--protectors of their animals--because they deal with their dogs as dog lovers instead acting as the head of the pack. I notice this all the time on the trail. Dog owners let their dogs run ahead of them and sometimes act aggressively. Instead of disciplining the dog (via voice commands), the owners instead show their aggression towards the others on the trail which then teaches the dog aggression.

But this is a discussion for another time!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you run into this thing all over. We're dog owners, and luckily we have a big dog park near by for our dog to run around and socialize with other people and dogs. But, we have a neighbor who trains her dogs to be off-leash on our street. Her dogs are generally well behaved and stay on her property. But, one time last year they chased the man next door and had him backed up against the side of his house terrified. Even the best behaved dogs can sense fear in someone and may respond to it like a wild dog. Anyway, the dog owner told the terrified neighbor he was being a jerk and he should have realized her dogs were not agressive! I'm surprised her tires remained intact after that. Guess he was just more civilized than she.
Usually, when I run into loose dogs on the trails near our house, the owners call them and leash them as soon as they realize someone is uncomfortable. But, they should be on leash to start with.

Good luck with the computer!


Steve said...

Changing people that are light bulbs is difficult. Some just like to revel in their ignorance.

Maybe it is a Western mentality. Our culture moved west for new land. We wanted open space. In our neck of the woods, people move to their 2-5 acres in the country for space. Then they complain about the horses, the ATVs, the motorcycles, the dogs, everything they moved to avoid. What you can never move away from is the human race.

Maureen's SOH

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