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Hey, you out there: Try to be smarter than your dog

(Warning: Contains cranky, get-off-my-lawn material.)

Last Sunday morning my husband and I were out for a lazier-than-a-weekday dog walk. Lazy for us, anyway. The dog was doing her usual brisk business of going anywhere any dog had gone before and computing critical dog data from every shrub.

Suddenly something streaked across the street toward us, a Jack Russell terrier that was being walked without the burden of anything so cumbersome as a leash. Now, I have always thought of Jack Russells as tidy, cute little dogs, never noticing until that moment that they also possess many small, sharp and dangerous-looking teeth.

This dog clearly wanted a piece of mine, and badly, for the felony offense of walking on the same street. He snapped and attacked until his owner ambled over, grabbed him and walked off. I'm thinking: That dog was lucky that no car had come when he bolted across the street, lucky that my bigger dog did not choose to engage and a bloody melee result.

But where was his leash? Can someone please explain what makes a dog out in public, not at a free-for-all-dog-park but in the daily mix of people and sidewalks and other dogs, Too Cool For A Leash?

I see dogs TCFAL at busy parks in my neighborhood daily. This makes me itch to ask the owners if they are indeed Doctor Doolittle and the Dog Whisperer all rolled into one, if animals great and small prick up their ears at their every suggestion, if their dogs truly are above acting, well, like dogs.

One day we saw a big, happy pooch loose in a yard, owner nearby. The dog saw mine and began a friendly lope over, presumably to engage in the ritual checking-of-dog-IDs. Unfortunately, a street was between us and him, and a car coming. My husband drove both dog and distraught owner to the vet. The dog was okay, but it wasn't pretty, for anyone.

Pinellas and Hillsborough animal control officers write more than 1,600 citations yearly (with fines of $93 and $120, respectively) for loose, unleashed pets. Given the abused and abandoned animals they deal with daily, they have better things to do.

I asked Marti Ryan of Hillsborough Animal Services her thoughts on owners with dogs TCFAL.

"Politely?" she says. "I would say they're in denial. Their dog is wonderful, but their dog needs direction, just like children."

One last story: In the bustling little downtown district of Davis Islands, with its outdoor dining and dog-friendly bowls of water, I saw a loose dog romping hither and yon, which was causing much consternation and chaos amongst his leashed counterparts, not to mention some of the people he approached for a ritual sniff. (No wonder we're so resistant to dogs in restaurants around here.)

Anyway, TCFAL. His owner was in tow, seemingly oblivious. When I politely asked about the possibility of a leash — oh, wait, there it was, useless in his hand — he told me how, in his experience, dogs "work things out amongst themselves." Hmm. I wonder what emergency veterinarians who stitch up the results of "working it out" might think of that theory.

Final thought, and no, it's not "get off my lawn." Isn't someone at one end of the leash supposed to be smarter than the one at the other?

Hey, you out there: Try to be smarter than your dog 08/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 7, 2009 8:25pm]
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