Be Polite. It Could Save an Epileptic Dog’s Life.
DINOS touches on all kinds of issues, but mostly it’s all about this idea: Some dogs need space, so it would be awesome if everyone had control of their dogs, obeyed leash laws, and always asked permission before allowing themselves or their dogs to approach unfamiliar dogs.
That not-so-complicated idea can be boiled down even further to this really, really simple idea: Please be polite, respectful, and responsible.
Regardless of why a dog may need space (there are so many reasons: health, medical, occupational, and behavioral) the only thing most of us want is the opportunity – the right – to choose whether or not our dogs will interact with other dogs or people.
We’re reasonable about this. We’re upholding our end of the bargain by responsibly managing our dogs and getting out of the way. We know we can’t always control our surroundings and we don’t expect others to go out of their way to avoid us. But it stinks when our ability to choose what’s best for our dogs is taken from us. That happens when someone is breaking the leash law or can’t/won’t control their dogs (on leash or off).
For many of us there are serious consequences when our ability to choose who our dogs interact with is taken away from us.
I recently heard from a reader named Mary:
“I just wanted to thank you for making people aware of this. My dog has epilepsy and while people’s ‘dogs are friendly’ they can kill my dog.
Certain scents cause him to go into cluster seizures that take a dosage of Valium to wake him up. Just smelling the medication put on the back of a dog’s neck used for heart worm/fleas can cause a horrible reaction.
I’m sick of having to run away or protect my 100lb dog from these very hyperactive dogs. If we wanted to encounter off leash dogs, we would simply go to a park. It’s so very frustrating…If people would just ask before approaching and not unleash their dogs to meet us, I would be so happy. It seems so simple right? We all deserve respect.”
This blew me away. Taz is a DINOS because he has epilepsy and he needs space to stay healthy. You would never be able to tell, just by looking at him. But you can help keep him safe just by being polite.
The thing is, Mary purposely walks Taz in areas that have leash laws, but still encounters off leash dogs who run up to her dog and can compromise his health. She’s not going to off-leash areas or dog parks. Mary doesn’t want to ruin anyone’s good time with their dogs.
She just wants to be able to walk her teddy bear of a dog in public, without fear that someone else will break the law and let their uncontrolled dog (friendly though they may be) run up to her dog and possibly cause a reaction that could kill him.
She’s not asking for much, but she’d really appreciate it if we were all polite, respectful, and responsible.
We can do that right? We can obey leash laws, control our dogs, and remember to ask permission before we allow ourselves or our dogs to approach an unfamiliar dog, can’t we? We teach children to ask permission before approaching a strange dog. Why can’t adults do the same?
I think we owe it to each other to do so. In this wacky world, a leash and a few polite words go pretty far in keeping us all safe and comfortable in public places. Accidents happen, of course, but we can at least try to be respectful of one another.
And it’s not just those of us with DINOS that wish dog owners would be more courteous. Senior citizens, children, and people afraid of dogs – they all have a right to use public spaces without fear of being chased or jumped on by dogs that are out of their owner’s control (on leash or off).
But this blog is about dogs, so back to them.
Taz is a reminder that you may not be able to tell just by looking at a dog if they’re epileptic or recently became blind or if that puppy will be a Seeing Eye dog one day. Or maybe they’re just having a tough day and need space for a few minutes.
When we assume that another dog will be ok if we allow our loose dog to chase after them or we let our leashed dog pull us over to say “hi”, we’re making a judgment call without all the facts. And in doing so we are taking away that other person’s right to choose what’s best for their dogs.
It’s impossible to know what’s going on in someone else’s world just by looking at them and their dogs. That’s why we need to remind dog owners to take responsibility for themselves and their actions all the time, around ALL dogs.
Doing so allows all of us to be part of a community that treats everyone – two and four legged – with respect.
It starts with obeying the law, having control over our dogs, and asking, “Can we meet your dog?”, then listening to the response in case the answer is “Sorry, but no.”
Just good old-fashioned manners. A bit of politeness towards a stranger and you could save a dog’s life.
(2013 Note: Yes, yellow ribbons are now one way to signal that a dog needs space, but not everyone will understand what it means or be able to see it or stop disregarding leash laws. For long lasting changes, we can focus on educating the public about being respectful and responsible for their actions all the time, around all dogs.)