Another day, another walk to school with my daughter, and yet
another near miss with a dog that sees my child as a fabulous new
I love dogs. I truly do. When my grandma passed away years
ago, it was the family dog more than any other breathing creature
who provided the solace, love and companionship I needed. An
eight-pound Shih Tzu did more during that dark period than any
friend, therapist, or family member.
So, all you dog lovers, please don't take this the wrong way
when I say: You're completely out of control!
Let's do an experiment. I'll walk down the street with my
beloved pet, a big warty bullfrog (because let's be honest: one
person's schnauzer is another person's big warty bullfrog).
As we pass you, my big warty bullfrog, whom I've named Lovey, will
come barreling towards your 4-year-old, warts all a-jiggling.
When you pull your child away, which you undoubtedly will when
an animal, any animal you don't know, comes charging at your child,
I'll laugh, sneer a bit, and say, "Oh, don't worry, my big warty
bullfrog wouldn't hurt a fly" or "If you're afraid of Lovey, you've
got big troubles." (Both of which I've heard recently.)
That's what I encounter on at least a weekly basis: dog owners
who not only refuse to reign in their pets (um, leash, it's the
law?), but then shame parents for wanting to protect their
children. You wouldn't believe the number of times I've been
insulted. Just this morning, the owner of the dog whose
incisors I saw up close (yellow, and very sharp looking) would not
make eye contact or apologize to us after her dog almost bit my
daughter. Instead, she made a sarcastic comment to the
security guard across the street about how we snuck up on her and
Well I've decided that today is the day I throw off the yoke of
dog oppression. The day I proudly declare that I get to
protect my daughter and me and not feel like a stupid,
animal-hating, fur-wearing, anti-PETA activist and all-around bad
person. Today begins my Take-Back-the-(Side)Walk-and-Park
Maybe I'll pass out pamphlets showing the gashes of those bitten
by dogs whose owners said they wouldn't hurt a fly. Maybe
I'll let share the stark statistics: 4.5 million Americans are
bitten by dogs each year, about 885,000 of those bitten (one in
five) require medical attention for their injuries and, in 2006,
31,000 people needed reconstructive surgery because of dog
bites. Or maybe I'll stop feeling cowed by otherwise (I'm
assuming) polite and kind neighbors who somehow have gotten it into
their heads that protecting my child or not wanting their dogs'
slobber on my leg is something I should be ashamed of.
Here's what I'll practice saying, with a cue card, in front of
the mirror (smiling gently yet firmly, speaking humbly in a
non-defensive, warm, "I love dogs, too", kind of way): "I am
sure your dog is amazing. But, as we all know, not every dog is
comfortable around kids! And even dogs who are wonderful with
kids might not be so good around a new child he/she doesn't
know. So again, even though your dog is perfect, how about
setting an example for all of those animal owners whose pets may
not be as perfect around kids as your cutie sweetie pie? In doing
so, we'll make this city a better place."
And don't worry. Next time you see me with Lovey, my
adorable warty bullfrog, I'll make sure he's on his leash.
And I'll make sure that the leash is at a responsible length.
Because I know that not everyone wants Lovey in their children's
faces, and not all children like big warty bullfrogs (or dogs, for
that matter). And that's OK with me.
(In case you still think I'm just a stupid, animal-hating,
fur-wearing, anti-PETA activist and all-around bad person, take a
look at the dog bite statistics released by the
Wendy Widom is CEO of Familes in the Loop (FITL), Chicago's hippest hub for parents and kids.
See more of Wendy 's stories here.
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