I had a moment this week. There we were, walking on a trail that we have walked down many times. I know what time of the day to go to avoid the crowds…actually…the kids.
I have senior dogs who are a little slower, a little more cautious. And in fact, I may be getting a little slower, and a lot more cautious about who approaches my boys. Yes, my boys. I call my dogs my boys. Because. They. Are. My. Boys.
As we were on the boardwalk, a mom with a baby was walking in the opposite direction. On a boardwalk, there is no way to get off of it like a trail. And Digby is afraid of boardwalks a bit and hugs the side. So yeah. I was trapped. I knew my dogs and that they would simply rush past them, but I wanted the mom to have some space. As I held their harnesses so that she could go by, she simply stopped and said, “are your dogs aggressive?” And yes, it hurt. It hurt very much. I knew she had every right to ask me that with a baby. But I also took offense to the tone and the fact that my dogs may have looked aggressive to her. And I thought to myself. Ugh. Kids. Why were they here? Didn’t they know this was our trail this time of night? Yeah. I thought that.
Having traveled literally across the United States five times now, I understand that some people don’t like dogs, or that maybe they are afraid of dogs from a past experience. And I respect that. I don’t like it. But I respect it.
I also respect the other side, that there are those who may love dogs but not love kids…so much. We all have a right to fulfillment, whether that be of parenting dogs or children. However, that right does not give us an excuse to be rude to each other. Yet, that is what I see happening. And I have to wonder, when did this new way of treating others become acceptable? When did a true division start between those with dogs and those with kids and disrespecting each other?
I have to think that perhaps each side believes that how they are choosing to fulfill themselves is not respected, or that it is devalued. And when we think that others look down on us, we get a bit defensive. I have. Just like on that boardwalk.
I have heard it all. “You aren’t a real parent.” “Dog parents aren’t parents”. “People that call themselves pet parents are mentally unstable”. Yep. I have also heard the other side. “Kids are useless.” “Kids take all of your money and leave you when they are older.” And I am sure that you have heard similar sentiments. Maybe you have even said them. I know I have thought of some myself. Shocker.
But this week, as I got off of that boardwalk, I decided to truly look at myself a little more. Why was I so irritated at kids lately? Was it that little boy that decided to purposefully ride his bike into our path? Was it the little girl that threw a stick at us from a bridge when we walked under it? Or maybe it was that toddler that ran screaming at us under our picnic table. Yes, yes. That was really irritating. But what did the other side look like?
Were the parents of those kids irritated with us because they wanted their kids to have those same trails to themselves too? Were they irritated that dogs were sitting by where their kids were eating? What were they thinking? Was I being disrespected or disrespectful? What was I so mad about? Did loving dogs give me an excuse to be rude to kids? The looks I was giving them were pretty rude.
And I thought a little more. At one time in my life, I wanted kids. I thought that I would have a big family. My life took other turns. Was I maybe a little jealous? Was I putting myself down for things that did not come to be? I was happy with my life and happier with my boys. But I felt a little devalued. Yes. I admit it. And my anger and hurt were apparent. Maybe not to anyone else, but I know my dogs felt it every time I pulled on their leash a little harder when kids walked by.
And then. Came. Jonah. As we were walking along back to our car, hot and tired and a little mentally exhausted on my part, a kind boy came up to us. With a gentle nature and an appreciation for dogs, his mom told us proudly how he fostered dogs and wanted his picture with Brickle and Digby. And I have to say…I had a few tears. How was it at this moment we would meet Jonah?
Not only was Jonah kind, but his mom was too. We showed mutual respect and admiration for each other, and in that five minutes, Jonah and his mom proved it. We have to be…we must be…kind! Kind to each other, respect others and in turn we will get that back.
Life is hard for everyone, whether you have kids or dogs. We all rush around, trying to protect our own families that we love. We all seem to be a little grouchy and not even have the time to be kind. Actually, being rude seems to come easier, doesn’t it? And this is not good for us, our dogs, or kids. We have no right to judge others for how they love. We have no right to judge others for who makes up their family. For me, when I see people who love kids and dogs…well…I applaud you too! Your love knows no bounds.
But we can’t expect others to be kind until we ourselves are kind. Will some days it be super hard? You know it. But we have to just let it go!
The next time you find an excuse to get irritated with a parent who is not the same kind of parent that you are…think of Jonah. Think of Brickle and Digby. And realize that they have no problems with each other. It’s us.
-Rachael Johnson, Owner and Girl Person of 2 Traveling Dogs