They say it comes in threes, and it duly has, but I fully anticipate there being many, many more examples.
There have now been, on three consecutive days, three people who felt compelled without the merest prompting to try and impart knowledge and/or advice. And I’m mad.
These were not, I feel, innocent, warm and chatty people, just making conversation, or our mothers who always know best about everything regardless… They were people who simply wanted to sound, or feel, better than us.
The first was on Wednesday evening, on our walk around the streets before bed. An elderly man came from a garden as we passed, followed us a while and overtook while Jasper did his emergency stop trick to just look at him. Andrew did as he should and kept the lead short, but that did not stop the man declaring as he passed, “Yup, he needs to learn to heel. Or she. Keep a nice short lead…” and trailed off as he departed earshot. Frankly, I thought to myself, “Shut up you daft old man, he’s fine” and dismissed it as odd.
Thursday, though, brought an entirely new experience. We were off walking again, with my Mum in tow again, and happened across a woman with her huge, fluffy bear of a dog. Jasper, naturally, leapt at it and implored it play with him and it seemed keen to do so. The woman, though she allowed it, talked us through every stage of it, and through her own dog ownership – how she’d had Newfoundlands and Bernese Mountain Dogs, and then settled on this, a Leonberger who was now 19 months old, and that she’d purchased an excellent book by Gail Someone-or-other, that we’d really benefit from reading – only £12 and it comes in paperback….
Give me strength!
I am socially-awkward at the best of times, but I quickly ran out of things to say to this woman and could not find a way to politely move on since Jasper had now taken to humping the side of the massive hairy beast – who turned out to be called Betty. Naturally.
Undeterred by the humping, the woman assured us it wasn’t sexual behaviour, he was simply trying to assert dominance over the other animal, and we shouldn’t be too concerned, and that neutering usually clears it right up. Not content with this attempt to assert her dominance over we three dazed and nodding morons, she then proceeded to show us just how she “handles a puppy” by helping herself to a grip on Jasper’s collar, providing a commentary as she did so. So we learned all about how she holds a puppy’s collar and lets him sit before giving attention, and how she stamps on her own dogs’ leads, so they are physically unable to jump up at people, and that what we must do, is get down on the dogs level… Much of which was recounted in a sickeningly sweet voice toward the dog as she did it all, but was obviously passive-aggressively aimed at the three of us.
This annoyed me mostly because it felt so condescending and patronising. She had no knowledge of us and our dog history, and it felt like she had assumed, at first glance, that not one of us had the first clue about how to raise our dog. Yes, Andrew and I might just be two young lads, but it’s still inconsiderate to tell us what we ought to be doing. Thank you for the advice about a book you found helpful; we’ll take it under advisement. Now carry on with your day and take your monstrous poof-ball with you.
What was almost worse than the condescension, though, was her stooping to get hold of Jasper’s collar to talk us through what we ought to be doing. I thought this quite rude. I’m not fully up to speed on the etiquette of dog-walking, I freely admit, but to go about laying your hands on someone else’s dog apropos of absolutely nothing… Seems weird to me. The next time I see a parent breast-feeding in public, I shall go along and take the baby from them and show them how I would do it. See how that goes down.
Anyway… I digress… The third! Today! On our walk by the river earlier (not the river he fell into), we met a strange old man who looked like he’d smoked all his life and laid roads for fifty years of it too. He had a funny Greyhound/lurcher thing, all ribs and pointyness and speed. Jasper, again, loved it, and raced back and forth with it. The man, like many do, remarked on his enthusiasm and energy then launched into an interrogation on what we’re feeding him. Apparently giving him anything too high-protein at this early stage means he’ll be a wildcat all day long. Better to keep him on something low-protein, let him grow a bit, and give him the good stuff maybe two or three times a month. Then when he gets to 12-14 months, switch it over full-time… I nodded, and tried to “mmhmm” and “ahhh” in all the right places, just thankful he hadn’t suggested a book that would tell me all about it.
It’s a bizarre thing, this. I am, generally, enjoying meeting people and their dogs as we get about the place, and most are simply pleasant and interested in Jasper. At their worst, they might say, “Oh we’ve done…” or “Ah yes, well we tried…” but nobody likes to be told what they should be doing. I will take it from a vet, but not from a modern-day Barbara Woodhouse on a muddy trail at the back of a housing estate.
So far; so good. We are quite content with the way Jasper is progressing, and we feel we have the angles covered to be as sure as we can that we’re doing the best we can for him. This is, to me, where I see another funny overlap between having a dog and having an actual human baby – there is as much advice in the world about how to do it “properly” as there are people to offer it, but not everything works for everybody so in the end, you find what works for you and as long as the thing grows up civilised and alive, then you’ve done a good bloody job.