Voice: Dog Tired

See Spot. See Spot break the law. See if Spot

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See Spot. See Spot break the law. See if Spot’s owner actually gives a rip.

Dog Tired
My wife and I like long walks on the beach. Without dogs.

This shouldn’t be a problem in Seattle, where dogs aren’t permitted on city beaches. But  many dog owners apparently think the law applies to someone else’s dog.

Normally I don’t engage these lawbreakers in conversation because there’s no telling how they’ll react. The silence was shattered recently when Anne and I were walking the beach at Golden Gardens Park, where a fair number of signs remind beachgoers that dogs—leashed or unleashed—are banned from the beach. Period.

At a popular picnic spot near Meadow Point, a smallish dog of indeterminate parentage lunged at us, barking and baring its fangs, as if to say, “My owner thinks I’m being playful, but you and I know better, don’t we?” We hadn’t seen the dog before the lunging and the barking and the display of healthy dentition, so it pretty much scared yesterday’s breakfast out of us. The animal’s leash had been looped around a piece of driftwood, which was no match for a dog interested in my not-so-fatted calf. As Anne and I retreated toward the water, the mini-Cujo advanced, dragging the lumber behind it.

The owner caught up and subdued his snarling creature before it reached us, at which point my wife said: “This is totally unacceptable! We have every right to walk on this beach and not be chased by your dog!” The owner apologized. But then he said something that made me appreciate why I don’t engage entitlement junkies in discourse. He said, “Now keep walking before I get pissed.”

The arrogance stunned me. I said, “Excuse me?” He repeated: “Keep walking before I get pissed.”

Then it dawned on me: The laws of man, of common courtesy, did not apply to him. Or to his dog.

Foolish of me to think otherwise. Somewhere in the city code, no doubt, there is clear language exempting this person, this beast, from laws that the rest of us disregard at our peril. Such arrogance is common among the spoiled, the privileged and the undisciplined. I don’t know which category this guy fit into—maybe all three. I realize this is Seattle, where dogs will one day have a seat on the City Council and will succeed in repealing that silly dogs-on-the-beach ban. Still, I was tempted to get up in the guy’s face. But he was bigger than I, and he owned an angry dog jonesing for a pound of my flesh. So I gave the owner my best look of sardonic pity and walked away.

An isolated incident?

The condescending retort was unusual. But we walk the same beach several times a week. Dogs—usually unleashed—are a constant presence. The uncomfortable or downright scary encounters occur about once a month, more frequently in winter when the beach is deserted and dog owners think there are no roaming charges if Rex runs free. (The city says its animal-control officers are stretched so thin that scofflaws know they’re not likely to get caught.) I once reminded a dog owner there was an off-leash area just up the hill. He thanked me and went back to playing fetch, as if to say, “Buzz off, pal. My dog prefers the beach.”
As it happens, so do I, and I don’t like sharing it with free-range dogs eager to sniff my crotch. When I was a kid, long before sensible cities passed leash laws and kept dogs off beaches in the interest of public health, I had a paper route. Spiteful dogs came with the turf, and I was bitten three times. Whenever I got chomped, the owners would say, “This has never happened before. He’s such a sweet dog.”

Well, thr