Our dogs, Douglas Fur and Barkley, are generally affable fellows who want nothing more than to play Frisbee in the yard or cuddle up next to someone on the couch. But they are also savage, bloodthirsty hellbeasts.
The transition from the former to the latter is instant, and it happens nearly every time we encounter dogs off their leashes. Douglas, the older and larger of our boys, will start jumping, barking and pulling as hard as he can, while Barkley follows his cue (because Barkley does everything Douglas does). Then the other dogs, who generally are just friendly dopes in the way most dogs are generally just friendly dopes, amble up to our dogs as we try our best to pull our (130 pounds of) dogs away or at least get in between them and the off-leash dogs. This is always a harrowing experience, and it has on occasion led to dogs and us being bitten.
It wasn’t always like this, though. Douglas and Barkley used to get along well with every dog they met. The trouble started last fall at Randall Park, when some off-leash dog ran up to Douglas and attacked him. Douglas, who is always on a leash as mandated by city law, was all excited — “Oh, look, a new friend. Let’s lick each other’s faces and play together all afternoon!” — but things turned ugly fast — “Wait. Why are you biting me? Oh no! Forget running and playing. Let’s try to kill each other until we’re finally separated.” Since then, if he’s on a leash and the other dog isn’t, he goes berserk.
If both dogs are leashed, he’s cool. If he’s off leash up on a mountain trail hiking with us and he encounters other dogs, he’s cool. But if he’s leashed and the other guy isn’t — which happens with shocking frequency, either on walks in the neighborhood or at the park — Douglas will lose his tiny little dog mind. And Barkley will follow suit, because that’s what he does. Then it becomes a whole thing.
The people whose dogs are off-leash in those instances do not understand that at all. They think because their dogs are friendly and well-adjusted, our dogs are, too. They see us pull our dogs away and, still, they generally fail to understand the urgency of the situation. They say things like, “Oh, it’s OK. My dogs are friendly,” to which I usually reply, “Mine are, too. But if you don’t get your dogs away from my dogs, my dogs will kill and eat them.” It’s embarrassing, and I want to explain that they’re good boys at heart who just got traumatized at the park one day. But, amid all the snarling and baring of teeth and the strain of pulling back 130 pounds of dog, there’s never time for that.
So, I’m taking this opportunity now to implore all of you within Yakima’s city limits to please keep your dogs on their leashes. I know your dogs are well-behaved and can handle being off leash. And I know that when they amble up to my dogs, they probably just want to be friends. But my dogs don’t know that.
— The Indoorsman