The Saturday before last was a beautiful day. The sun was out. The weather was warm, and spring fever was in the air. I decided it would be a perfect afternoon for my beloved dog and me to pay a visit to our neighborhood dog park, which is something we do pretty much daily anyway. Little did we know that there would be twenty gazillion other people and dogs with the exact same idea at the exact same time. Well, I’m exaggerating, but not much. There were easily 100 people there with easily 100 dogs. I’d never seen it so busy. I even had trouble finding parking, which is unheard of. Granted, it’s a large park, but it was crowded. And it had a bad vibe. An angry and anxious vibe. Something about the dogs and people felt all amped up. I hadn’t seem most of them before, and since most of the dogs were not regulars, there was most definitely a socialization issue for many of them. Lots of snarling and snapping and growling that I don’t usually see. I figured the vibe was coming from the dogs. The people were mostly strangers that didn’t give me a super reassuring feeling either, but I certainly didn’t expect circumstances to turn all Bad Day At Black Rock on us while on a basic outing.
Now, a word about the park. Like I said, it’s pretty enormous as dog parks go. It’s in a neighborhood that used to be our city’s airport, and the park itself is a piece of property used to be a runway. In fact, there’s a small chunk of concrete in the center of it that tends to be the hub of activity as far as dog play and people socializing goes. Given the size of the place, I can lose sight of my dog pretty easily, even though he’s 130 pounds and covered in lots and lots of long white hair. It’s got bends in places and a small hill in the corner and some tucked away corners, so I tend to stay sort of close to him and keep track of what he’s doing, but I don’t hover. Nobody likes a helicopter parent. It’s also a big sandbox, which is perfect for running and rough play. The ground is soft, and nobody gets hurt. It’s also a great workout for a dog to run in sand. Everybody wins…normally.
So, because of the parking situation, I had to park on the east side of the park, rather than our usual spot to the south, so we entered by a different gate than usual. My dog was immediately disoriented by this. He has a routine where he starts marking the perimeter from a certain point, makes his rounds, and then gets a sip of water from the bowl and heads to the middle chuck of runway for some wrestling and running around with the other dogs — mostly regulars he’s come to regard as friends. He’s kind of stuck in a rut that way, but it seems to work for both of us. He has a checklist of things to do, and I can predict his behavior and know when we’re done and ready to go home. The fact that we came in a different way and got off on the wrong foot just sort of blew the whole routine out of the water. It was all downhill from there. He went into the far corner, did his business, did some marking and sniffing, and then suddenly made a bee line for the runway chunk in the center. I got hung up chatting with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and I let my dog put some distance between us. I never lost sight of him, though.
My friend collected her dog, and we parted ways. I started for the center of the park to hang out and supervise my dog, who I could see was playing with another very large dog — a Tibetan mastiff — that I estimated to have 20-30 pounds on my dog and a massive Great Dane that clocked in at around 200 pounds. The Dane was also a park regular and one of my dog’s favorite playmates. I often stand around and chat with the man who brings him — an older, Latino gentleman who seemed friendly enough — while our boys wrestle. My dog always lights up when he sees the Dane, and that day was no exception. I was glad to see a familiar dog there for him to play with in the midst of that crazy crowd.
As I approached the gaggle in the middle, I saw the Dane’s “owner” (I hate that term — we don’t own our friends) chatting with the man who had brought the Tibetan while the three dogs played. As usual, my dog was in alpha mode and was really enjoying the big dog style of physicality with the other two giant breeds — lots of standing up and butting chests and pushing into each others’ sides and really going at it all Greco-Roman. It was all above board. No one was being aggressive. Problem is, the Dane, despite his size, was getting rolled by my large, but much smaller, dog. This is nothing new. As with most Danes, he’s sweet mutt, and really kind of a big pussy cat at heart. It’s not unusual for him to roll over and show his belly. He’s a submissive dog. However, there was another dog in the mix, too, and the smallest dog of the three was winning. The smallest dog was also the only dog there with a woman. I’m not sure what pushed the Dane’s man over the edge, but all of a sudden, I saw him reach down, grab my dog by the collar, and haul him up onto his hind legs by his throat — and then he started YELLING at him.
Oh. HELL. No.
I was completely floored. At first, I was so shocked that I couldn’t even move. I froze in my tracks to take in the scene, my mouth agape. It was at that moment that I saw the look in my dog’s eye. His eye was twice its normal size — so open I could see the white all around the brown iris that usually fills the socket. He was choking. He was terrified. And he was frantically searching the landscape for me — wondering where the hell I was and why I wasn’t over there putting a stop to his attacker.
The whole world turned white with rage. Not red. Not even black. White hot white.
Now, I am not a fast runner. You can’t even really call it running. Doing it on sand? Well, that would a fucking joke — normally. I have no idea what my feet were doing, but I closed the ground between me and my dog in record time. I mean, I fucking transported over there. One minute I was 100 yards off. The next minute I was in the face of a man with a good eight inches on me screaming at him from the top of my lungs — one hand white-knuckling the collar on my dog who was, thankfully, all four feet back on the ground, and the other balled into a fist I was employing every ounce of self-restraint to not use.
Letting this guy have it, it quickly became apparent that his issue was one of bruised ego and fragile masculinity caused by the fact that a smaller dog (and by extension, his woman) got the best of his giant metaphorical penis extension laying there in the sand like a little bitch. And I said as much. Loudly. Repeatedly. That’s right, I was standing in the middle of a crowd of 100 people yelling about this man’s bullshit machismo and inadequate genitalia as his mortified wife tried to pull him toward the car. I can’t even remember everything I said, I was so enraged, but I do know this: I may be small. I may be a woman. I may not be physically formidable, but dear sweet and fluffy Lord, do not give me a chance to use my words, because I will verbally castrate you and put your balls in my purse to take home and stomp on before I feed them to the rats in the alley in front of God and everyone and you will never forget it. Time and again I’m told by people I love that they will avoid a match of wits and words with me at all costs (translation: I’m a huge bitch), so imagine what I’m like when dealing with a stranger. I did not hold back. I told him that I wish my dog had turned his head and bitten his fucking face right off in one chomp. It would have served him right. I told him that I’d do unimaginable violence to him if I ever saw him lay his hand on my dog again — or even come within reach of him again. I called him every name in the book and told him to stay the hell away from me and mine. I also told him to get out of the dog park.
And he did.
I stood there heaving and panting and catching my breath. My head and face were on fire. I was ten shades of deep red as I checked my dog over and hugged and kissed on him in the aftermath. I had enough adrenaline pumping through my veins to launch me to Mars. And then, I looked around me to find that everyone in the park had backed off and left a 50-foot blast radius around me. And, they were standing there — staring. You could have heard a pin drop. It was like the scene in the old Spaghetti Westerns when the gunslingers face off on opposite ends of the street in the crappy little Gold Rush town, their fingers itching to draw their weapons under the hot, noonday sun as a lonely hawk shrieks overhead. There was no hawk, but there should have been. I looked around at everyone, announced that they, too, could all go fuck themselves, and informed them all that I was “out.” With that, I tightened my grip on my dog’s collar and marched us off to the car without so much as a glance back.
I got to my car, put us both inside, closed the door and just did everything I could to calm down. Then, I burst into tears of rage. I had truly lost it. Now, I know I have a temper. I can get my Irish up on a regular basis, if I let myself. This was off the charts, though. We’re talking homicidal. The slit-your-throat-and-watch-you-bleed variety of angry. I was just thankful I didn’t have anything in my hand that I could have used as a weapon. I got a real glimpse of what I might very well be capable of, and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. I think I now understand how people commit murder as a crime of passion, and man, my dog wasn’t even injured. Granted, he was being hurt, and he might have been hurt if I hadn’t have acted, but man, can I act. Thank God my words were all I had with me. I was just so furious that a man — a NEIGHBOR and fellow dog person — with whom I rub elbows several times a week could treat my companion that way. My sweet-natured, highly-sensitive, well-behaved companion I have taken great pains to not only train but to heal from severe anxiety issues. A creature who has made so much incredible progress in the past two and a half years with me. I take being a dog’s companion very seriously, and we work hard to be a couple of good citizens. And we are a fantastic pair. He’s my best friend and my co-pilot. He goes everywhere with me like a shadow. He’s the best dog ever. He wouldn’t harm a fly, and I’m very proud of that. I trust him with small dogs, cats, and infants, despite the fact that he was bred to take on and kill bears that threaten his flock. Yelling at his breed is just not done — doing so has severe emotional repercussions. He’s a good and trusting and friendly boy, and here was this man hurting him and shouting at him out of the blue. All I could think about was the damage being done in his head when I saw that look in his eye and how I wasn’t there to prevent it as I crossed that park to put a stop to the attack on my friend. Man, do not mess with me and mine. I will not have it. You hear? I will not be having that shit. Clearly. And clearly, I should never, ever own a firearm. Because I just might use it.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Man, if you get that worked up about a dog at a dog park, don’t ever have kids and take them to the playground.” Yeah, I had the same thought. I called a friend and expressed as much. I was scared of myself. I’ve been scared of myself for days. Even my dog was scared of me. He wouldn’t get out of the car for hours after the incident, and I’m pretty sure my reaction was as much a part of that as the stranger danger attack. But, Jesus, his safety and security is my responsibility. He is a rescue. He’s had a hard life, and it is my job to make sure that it’s never, ever hard again — not for a minute — even if that means doing everything in my power to come between him and disaster. That’s what loyalty is about, right?
For the most part, I’m well adjusted and somewhat easy going — more so lately than ever — which is why I was so blown away that I went from zero to OMG I AM GOING TO RIP YOUR FUCKING THROAT OUT AND FEED IT TO YOUR ASS in no time flat. And I might have just been angry enough to do it. Sometimes I am so scary, I scare myself. And I really did scare the hell out of me. I didn’t show up at the park on a sunny day looking to go all Dark Phoenix on anyone, but hit the right trigger, and man, I’m gone. Total ballistic, take-no-prisoners Slavic fury, and I’m not in control when it happens. It’s primal and primitive and dark and explosive and dangerous and at the same time reassuring. Maybe I don’t want to control it . Maybe it can be useful. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve used it in the past to take care of more business than I care to admit to myself and others. Call it a case for anger management, but when it comes to my kin, man or beast, I will shoot first and ask no questions later. I have been processing that fact for days now. I am going to have to add it to the “One More Thing I Know About Me” list.
Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.