You know, I'm glad I go out to the dog park often. It makes for good material. And it makes for pretty good life experiences. I go out there because I believe that socialization for an animal which will eventually become not only a pet to myself and my lovely wife, but family pet is important. And, yes, I own beagles because I want an animal I can trust. It comes with the breed. There's very little unpredictable about a beagle. Even their bad behaviors (like dumping over garbage cans and cornering possums in the backyard) are predictable. You know what you're getting.
On Saturday, we take Jackson and Tucker out to the dog park. As always, Jackson goes into patrol mode (like a pimp in a prison yard just col' walking the perimeter) and Tucker dives right into sniffing every unit and brown-eye in the mark. Two distinctively different behaviors, but neither definitively aggressive or troublesome.
The dog park is as much a mix of different dog owners as it is different dogs. You have the type who have very little control over their dogs, those who might have too much. Those who don't want their dog to experience any enjoyment at all and then those who think the dog park is just some lawless, unregulated plane where anything goes and "dogs will just sort it out themselves." My feeling is dogs need to enjoy themselves and I won't be overprotective of my dogs out there. I give them plenty of room to roam and don't crowd them like anxious parents. But make no mistake, Jackson and Tucker are never far out of view and control. They respond extremely well to my vocal commands and it takes minimal instruction for them to respond. Good for any dog, but especially good for beagles.
I do quite a bit of people watching out at the dog park. I do it anywhere, really, but it's especially interesting out at the dog park. On Saturday, I keep my eye on this cat and his labrador. The lab looks young because of his awkward movements and overly playful behavior. The owner looks like Chris Parnell, has his socks pulled all the way up to his knees and talks in some weird combination of a whisper and a whine. He walks around like his undies are bunched up uncomfortably in his backside as he kinda shuffles his way around the vast dog park. Tucker, as we've seen many times, takes a keen interest in the most playful dogs in the park. He and the labrador begin dashing around the park, playfully jumping and leaping. This goes on for probably five minutes and then my lovely wife is alarmed when the labrador has essentially pinned Tucker on the ground and has put his mouth around Tucker's neck. Tucker begins to panic and vocalizes his distress. Jackson, who always has a watchful eye, stands nearby and begins barking at the labrador to defend Tucker. Jackson gets closer and is now barking directly into the ear of the labrador and appears ready to put a beatdown on the labrador. My lovely wife hurredly approaches the scene while Chris Parnell and his bunched panties waddles nearby. He only begins approaching the dogs when he sees my lovely wife doing so indicating that either he didn't know anything was happening or he did and didn't care. Either way, dude had no control of this dog. When they separate the labrador's jaws from Tucker's head, my lovely wife turns around and snaps at the cat, "Your dog is exhibiting very bad behavior!"
He kinda sits there swaying from side to side sucking on his thumb and my lovely wife turns to me and is obviously pissed. We leave. She explains to me the obvious and that is this: if a dog has his teeth on another dog, it's probably not desired behavior and is an exhibition of aggression that was not corrected at a young age. End Scene 1.
Fast forward to Sunday. We arrive again with Jackson and Tucker in tow. A new day. The dogs are ready to play. As we approach the scene, I notice a pit bull scurrying around. You remember the pit bull right? Mean as hell, preferred in dog fighting, banned or restricted in over eleven countries, involved in close to half of all dog-related fatalities and not a registered breed with the AKC.
I examine the behavior of the other dogs in the park and it appears that the pit is not disturbing the harmony at the park so I see no harm in at least giving it a run. Man, you can almost see where this going. I spot the owner fairly quickly. He's a scrawny, toothless man who had the dropout slouch. We enter the park and, as always, I keep a close eye, but I'm not suffocating my dogs' space. Just let them enjoy themselves.
I see my neighbor and his girlfriend/fiancee across the way. My lovely wife and I walk over and introduce ourselves. They're nice folk. They had a boxer puppy and a Boston terrier which, I was unaware, could reach land speeds of upwards of 30 MPH. Insane. We're talking for probably 15-20 minutes and I notice the pit taking a liking to, of all dogs, Tucker. At the time I take notice, it seems relatively playful. Some humping. Some jumping. Some chasing. Not really anything alarming. About five minutes or so pass and I've now recognized two things: 1) the pit ain't giving Tucker any room and, 2) the pit's owner has no control over him at all as exhibited by zero response to his name "Spike" which the dumbass owner has now been calling repeatedly for the last five minutes. I, myself, employ the command "leave it" to Tucker which essentially means to "leave the distraction and come directly to me." Sometimes it's a piece of food on the ground. Other times, it's leave the dog alone. Everytime I call him and tell him to leave it, he spins around towards me and begins coming my way...followed of course by a pit with both testicles still in tact.
I quickly take to walking around the perimeter of the park which usually will be followed by both Tucker and Jackson. Pack behavior...I'm the pack leader. Wouldn't you know it, Spike the moronic pit follows and is now snapping at Tucker and beginning to bark aggressively in Tucker's face. Jackson returns the bark, again, trying to divert the pit away from Tucker, but Tucker's bouncy behavior is communicating something else. At this point, it escalates quickly. I look over my shoulder to see my lovely wife about thirty yards back and, about twenty feet away from her, the pit owner all walking in the direction of the action, but really with no urgency.
"Spike! Spike! C'mere, Spike! Spike!"
Now irritated and in a evidently eruptive state, I spin around to the pit owner and walk directly towards him and yell, "Dude, do you not have any vocal control over your dog?!"
(pause the tape and rewind that)
Here's where, my lovely wife, who has worked in the prison system and now works with juvenile offenders would say I made my first mistake. She would later describe this behavior as too confrontative and probably the very reason it escalated so quickly. Regardless, the man snaps back at me whistling through his two teeth.
"You act like it's all my dog!"
I return, "Is that a pit, bro? Because those dogs are just beagles. They're not aggressive dogs."
He says, "Nah, it ain't a __ckin' pit, bro! I got papers out in the truck to prove it, asshole!"
Aight, now as a result of my idiotic comments, this dude's quick temper is immediately ignited and he's ready to fight. Probably because his mommy drank too much leaving him without the ability to control his impulses. His admittance that he has papers in the truck is pretty interesting. I know that I, personally, don't keep papers on my dogs in my automobile. Probably because I know I'd never need them. It's not like insurance papers. I don't expect to have to provide papers on my animal to, say, an animal control officer or police officer. I suppose he doesn't want to ever be far from papers prove that his dog is not the dog that everyone thinks it is (a pit) even though it is. Get that?
He snarls at me. "You think that just because it's a pit, it's a bad dog." Okay, yeah, you got me. I mean, I know I'm completely alone here. Everyone else thinks pits are great family dogs. I hate pit owners like this. Where it seems they own a pit just so they can fight the power and have some sort of protest in their otherwise meaningless life. C'mon, dude, go vote. Go save a whale. Start recycling. Work on a mission in Mexico. Buy a hybrid. Owning a pit so you can have that, "You think just because it's a pit, it's a bad dog" argument is so played and so thirteen years old.
And, dude, you said it wasn't a pit anyway. I wonder what those papers in his truck say. I mean, being that the AKC doesn't recognize the pit bull as a breed because there's really no standard for the breed. The papers probably are a handwritten note that says, "My dog ain't no pit, asshole."
We exchange pleasantries and I use probably the most publicly flagrant language I've used in probably the last ten to fifteen years. I come close enough to this dingleberry that he says, "You better get out of my __cking face, man!" Toothless Wonder actually thought I was gonna take a swing at him. I hate to tell you, homie, but I actually have income and a lovely wife. I'm not about to take a swing at some nincompoop at the dog park. Too much to lose.
As we approach the dogs, he says, "We're out here all the time! I never see you out here." That's probably because I actually have a job that makes it impossible to come right after the "Judge Judy." F'real, do I really need to tell this dude that I come out there weekly? I turn to him and say, "I just wanna leave, really. So can you pry your dog off of mine so I can go."
"Spike. Spike. Spike. Spike."
Eventually he grabs Spike by the collar and wrestles him to the ground so that my lovely wife can leash up Tucker and we can get out of there. I actually thanked the guy. Politely, even. I wave to our neighbors, quite embarrassed of my tirade. We head for the car and I can feel "the talk" coming on. My lovely wife, as good as she is to me, was not without comment. I knew I screwed up. She coached me on how to see myself through those circumstances.
I was such a dumbass. Why on earth did I do that? I never act like that. I usually have such control. I apologized to her. It was just stupid. We even laughed a little about it, but she thought that I was actually going to take a swing at this dude. Anyhow, when we get home, I know I'll have to apologize to my neighbor. As embarrassing as the whole thing was, I didn't want his girlfriend/fiancee thinking I was a wifebeater or, even worse, a beer-swilling Nascar fan. As they return from the park, I dash up to them and say, "I'm really sorry about what happened out there at the park. Normally, I don't act like that in public. Actually, I don't act like that in private either." Matt said, "I don't even know what happened. I just saw ya'll leaving." Yeah, right. I told them I'd make it up to them by cooking them dinner sometime. We scheduled something for middle of June.
No more dog park for us for a while. Especially since Jackson just went under the knife yesterday to have a small tumor/growth removed from his ear. The vet said it had "tentacles." Better than it having testicles, I guess.
Today, I'm listening to Roland Kirk and am a better person for it.