“Would you please restrain your dog?” my husband asks.
“My dog just wants to play with your dog! Leave him alone, you geezer!” is her response.
Red-faced with seeming rage, she grabs her dog’s collar, takes two steps, then lets go. Her dog bounds back and starts circling and barking at our dog, who crouches and whines, clearly not equal to nor interested in its approach.
“Please leash your dog. Can’t you see my dog is afraid?” he repeats.
“Go on, you old fart! I’m yelling really loud so I know you hear me. It’s all your fault! You upset my dog by telling me to put him on a leash! Take your cane and get out of here! This isn’t a place for old people!”
Regularly, we take our dog, Bonny, to Upper Bidwell Park for a chance to go AWOL—on A Walk Off Leash. She is a Nervous Nelly who loves to run across a beach or wide-open fields, and is deadly afraid of strangers and other dogs. In the park, there is an unspoken etiquette for those with dogs going AWOL: If you see someone with their dog on a leash, control yours until they pass. In these cases on the trail, folks normally say, “Thank you,” and smile. This is why our recent morning encounter was so shocking. Such disrespect and bullying is simply not part of the Upper Bidwell experience.
We are a pair of white middle-class retirees who have become accustomed to not being harassed in public. We understand many people don’t enjoy such privilege. This morning’s collision of young vs. old was a minuscule taste of what others may face every day.
So, I have to ask: What is going on that makes a person believe it’s okay to yell at another person and see them as having less of a right to be in a place?
Hopefully, for Chico’s sake, this incident is the exception that proves the rule of friendliness, politeness and community that has marked 99.9 percent of our experience during our walks in Upper Park.