In the Christian tradition there are 7 virtues, which are ideals of moral excellence. I had to look up what these were but one common saying that regardless of creed, I think most people would be familiar with is “Patience is a virtue”.
What if patience were a strategy?
Massive crowd at the bus stop. The bus is just down the street, followed by another one. Everyone rushes to queue up. The bus is jam packed so getting on is long and slow. You want to get home and are anxious to get on. You put your head down and wait patiently, quickly shuffling along as not to let anyone sneak in.
Same as Scenario 1 but you take the time to see what is the next bus. The line is long so there’s plenty of time, especially since there’s a likelihood you won’t even get on, despite it being a double-long bus. You take a moment to look, and see it’s the same bus. It’s less crowded but still standing room only. You wait just a few minutes and easily get on the bus, not packed like a sardine.
But.. after another minute another bus comes. It’s stone-cold empty. This is the bus I get on and I get a comfortable seat, with no one breathing down on my head, or slamming into me. A few minutes can make a meaningful difference. For me, patience is one of my strategies.
Now you are probably asking – what has this got to do with dogs?!
HUGELY, actually. Too often, I end up on a narrow pathway with my two dogs, and someone headed my way with theirs. Sometimes it’s a stranger with a stranger dog and sometimes it’s someone with a dog I know. Depending on whether I know our dogs get along I will either stop in the grass or look for another way to go (a turn off, for example) or speed up for a greeting and a catch up chat. And that’s fine. With two dogs, I usually leave myself with lots of room to maneouvre, with more than one option.
Where it’s a problem is when I’m not able to handle the situation. For example, I’m picking up poop. Now if I have two leashes in one hand and an open poop bag in the other… it would be courteous and helpful to just wait and let me at least tie off the bag. No matter how well-behaved my dogs may be (and strangers wouldn’t know this), I may be an idiot and just can’t close off that poop. Who wants poop on their hand? They don’t know me and they don’t know my dogs. And I don’t know them.
What’s the most common scenario?
The walker will keep walking her dog toward me (sometimes still on the phone), down the narrow pathway, while I’ve got two increasingly excited/curious dogs (completely normal when dog meets dog) and a still-open poop bag (FULL of poop – a point I don’t think I can emphasize enough). I’m looking at her dog who obviously isn’t comfortable walking into such a confined space with two new dogs. Oddly, people with dogs we know don’t get along with each other do the exact same thing. It’s like they are asking for a confrontation.
Just the other day, it happened and I had to ask the lady to stop and let me finish picking up the poop. She looked confused. She was so distracted by her animated phone call and her task at hand, which is just to take the dog for a walk. (For many dogs, this translates into tagging along for a phone break). And yeah I had been observing her as soon as I could see her. That’s my job as a dogwalker. I look ahead. And I watch their dog, and my dogs.
Dogs are creatures of communication using the body. We need to observe them to see how they are doing. They’re not going to stop you and say, look I don’t like little dogs and there’s one coming…I’m not against talking on the phone while walking but I ask that when you have an approaching dog, just to pause your conversation to be fully aware and assess the situation. How dogs meet the first time can have a huge impact on their ongoing relationships and on how they greet dogs in general.
We all live in the same neighbourhood and we are likely to keep running into each other. Isn’t a little patience worth it to make sure dog walks are a pleasant experience for us all?