That seems to be my dog Mocha’s daily plea. Wish there was a spot of yard for her to roam unattended, like she does when visiting with our friends Sylvia and Jim and their dachschund, Gretchen. Living in a retirement community, they have a charming, enclosed backyard where the dogs can relax on the patio, luxuriating in the outdoors unchaperoned. When they’re indoors and want to “go potty,” all they need is a helping hand to open and close the door.
I must admit when I exited our yard a short while ago, heading out into the neighborhood, Mocha pulling ahead on her leash, it felt good to breathe in the great outdoors. Viewing the lush foliage everywhere as a result of our area’s penchant for rain, Mother Nature never fails to overwhelm me with wondrous awe. Towering evergreens, hence Washington’s other name, The Evergreen State, dwarf the homes that peak out from verdant landscapes, some neat and orderly, others wild and overgrown. Mine is somewhere in-between. I’ve been going for the English garden look, not always with success.
Mocha pays no heed to anything above ground level, maintaining her focus at what’s at the end of her nose or under her paw. None of which satsfies my aesthetics, except that whatever makes Mocha happy, makes me happy. Well…not everything.
I’m definitely against her desire to chase down dogs taller and heftier than her, or small ones with teeth as sharp as razors. I’ve had to pick Mocha up once or twice, transporting her, and me, away from the snarling grins of unleashed dogs who looked ready for their next meal. In such situations my heart is pounding looking to escape its confines, while my brain is willing me not to move a muscle for fear that I’ll become mincemeat in seconds. More often than not, a yell emanates from deep within, finally tumbling forth from my mouth with a venomous “Get away! Shoo! Get out of here!” As if our transgressor could care less, staring me down without so much as flinching a muscle.
Scared? Me, scared? You bet your life I’m petrified of untethered dogs wandering about. I can’t tell whether they’re friendly or not. Nor is it obvious whether or not they’ll start something with Mocha. Just as I don’t want her torn to shreds, I don’t want to get caught up in the milieu either. A year or so ago, when I was out running errands, a neighbor who regularly walks his dog, came under attack by 2 dogs living in the house above mine. His dog was badly injured, requiring surgery that cost $1,000. He had a commendable attitude, saying that “dogs will be dogs.” Of course the owner of the attacking dogs expressed great remorse and paid the vet bill.
There is a leash law in our city, but not everyone heeds it. The Center for The Preservation of Wildlife has also erected a sign in our neighborhood, and elsewhere, stating that dogs should be kept on leashes so that they don’t attack the wildlife. There are hiking trails at the end of our road. The warning sign stands at that juncture, and so do 3 houses whose owners allow their dogs to wander freely pretty regularly. One of them looks like those I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel, that live in the African wild. Its owners were present once when their dog confronted Mocha. I told them how I felt, which seemed to upset them. They didn’t smile back at me when I saw them later. I understand people don’t like criticism, but when it involves my safety, and my dog’s, well…so be it.
My next door neighbors have always allowed their labradors to run freely through the neighborhood, even when they use to walk them. I didn’t appreciate the dogs making my yard their personal “honey pot.” Still don’t. Fortunately, the fence we erected, and the hedge that grows between our side yards have kept their pets from trespassing. But recently when the owners were combing the neighborhood in their car in search of one of their dogs, I advised them that it had wandered through my yard and then scared Mocha and me as we went around a bend. Standing taller than my waistline, the labrador, growling, circled Mocha, nudged my backside with its nose, pushing me forward, before it wandered off. That was a first for me. That was one nervy dog, I thought, before I collected my wits, and Mocha her’s, and moved on.
I love pets, cats and dogs, of which I have 3 felines, Sunkist, Sitka and Juneau, and my Mocha. But there’s no telling what will set an animal off, domesticated or not. They’re not human, and no amount of wishing will make them one of us. So when they act out of character, I have to hold the owners accountable when an innocent bystander, or a restrained pet, is injured. I don’t really put a lot of stock in the words “But he’s such a sweet dog. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.” My thought is, there’s always a first time. So why take a chance…
I think my fear began when a Doberman Pinscher raced across its yard, as I walked by pushing my daughter’s stroller. Gnashing teeth within inches of us, it’s owner finally heard my yells and came to the front door to save my toddler and me from being mauled. That feeling of dread remains embedded in my subconscience. But I try my best to suppress it, when Mocha wants…
…a breath of fresh air…hugmamma.