people behaving badly

this morning, while walking my dog (as i do every morning) i got yelled at by a man who was angry that my dog was not on a leash.

this is how it happened:

my dog and i were walking along-- me on the path, and my dog, ruby,  meandering back and forth across the path and into the woods on either side.  many, many people walk their dogs in this particular park, and it is the norm to have dogs off-leash.  in my one hour walk each morning i generally run in to 8-10 other dog walkers and their dogs-- none of whom are leashed.  and yet i am conscious that my dog is particularly big-- and therefore more likely to cause people anxiety or fear-- so i generally try to keep him close to me and under my control.

this morning, however, ruby was 10 yards or so ahead of me when a man came jogging around the corner and stopped, standing still.  ruby slowly walked over to him and then stood next to him (waiting to be petted-- which of course the man didn't know) as i continued walking towards both of them.   the man told me i should have my dog on a leash, i apologized, he yelled at me that it was not enough-- my dog should be on a leash, i said i was really sorry, then he started running away.  since he so obviously seemed to be having a rough day, i called after him, "i hope you have a good day" (which is something i am so in the habit of saying-- since i say it all day at the shop).  to which he replied, "i hope you DON'T".

here's the thing:  people run up against each other in all kinds of ways out there in the world-- total strangers suddenly find themselves in situations in which they have to deal with each other, perhaps in conflict.  we know nothing about one another-- for all i know that man was bitten by a dog in that same park last week, and for all he knows i was preoccupied by something equally understandable from my own life.  so can we give each other the benefit of the doubt and proceed nicely and with respect?

it would certainly make those moments easier.

-mary moore.    

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