Bewilderment in the Rain
The wide-open grey sky drenched us as we walked together through the puddled morning streets. One hand gripped the leash attached to my matted animal-- the other held a ratty five dollar umbrella over my head. I take extra precaution with this particular rain shield as one metal stem has broken free from the vinyl material and seems in desperate search of a fresh eyeball). The rain spatters at our feet as my furred friend sniffs at the smells released by the wet. He judges each waft with squint-eyed determination-- awaiting irrational brainial approval that the particular area is indeed suitable or worthy to poop on. I wait patiently for his ancient ritual as thunder rumbles.
Finally, he finds the 'perfect' place for his humiliating squat. I follow by preparing the plastic bag for my humiliating squat. He finishes and I crouch to pick up his physical manifestation of stench. I was struggling to shut down all five senses for this act when I felt a familiar tug on the leash. The alert tug that another dog is approaching us. But I ignore it. I don't even look behind me as I focus on the task at plastic-protected hand. Most dog owners are well-aware that the owner crouch is an unproud moment-- and they should steer their animal clear. I assume this and continue with my social and legal obligation but soon sense someone has stopped with their animal and is allowing our dogs to exchange canine hellos.
I turn slightly annoyed at this breach of dog owner etiquette and find myself stunned to see this is no ordinary dog saying hello. This is a highly trained animal! Wearing a harness! Schooled in the art and focused skill of guiding a sightless human! And one that I know well. We met months ago when the blind master was crashed full-speed into me as his dog was too eager to say hello to mine. Also I have watched this animal lead this guy into greenlit traffic, straight into parking meters, and rudely through the line of people standing outside the bagel place. It is a seeing-eye dog who deserves at best an Incomplete or more realistically, an F.
I immediately apologized for my dogs hello distraction and begin to reel the leash back toward me. Shockingly this caused hostile alarm in the mind of the other animal-- who immediately launched an attack. Full growl and snap and snarl. A lightning crash functioned as a ringbell as I watched my animal rise to the challenge. My reflexes were slightly slowed by the bag of refuse that at all costs I wanted to handle with care (during one knee jerk reaction a while back I thudded the bag into my own face resulting in emotional scarring). My dog is immediately fully engaged in the fight. I always take secret pride in his ability to match aggression with heightened aggression. A positive trait that I have no access to personally-- so appreciate vicariously. In a blur, the two dogs rose like gladiators on their hind legs legs--- gnashing teeth, swiping claws and snarling at one another. Daring each other to further escalate. Both seem willing to comply. Within two seconds they are in the red zone.
I yank my dog back from the fight and he shoots me a look of disappointment and betrayal. The blind man pulls at the harness of his trained animal and yells, 'No! No!!' at him. I offer my apologies and he doesn't reply. I mumble that I didn't see him coming up behind me. He doesn't reply again. He just stands there pancho-ed in the rain. So I hustle away from the scene. My head swirled with thoughts of amazement that this 'professional' dog is so poorly trained that it not only will stop in the street to socialize with other canines-- but actually start an unwarranted street fight while on duty.
I give one glance back in the rain at the wet blind man who follows us in the same direction. And I notice his dog is in low-level pursuit of us. Pulling his owner rather than walking at his pace. And I can see in the labrador's 20/20 eyes that he wants nothing more than continue what he started... which, of course, should be furthest thing from his mind.
PS. (Other stories regarding this blind man and his dog are here and here.)----------------------------------------------