By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend

(Not So) Common Sense
Petiquette matters
By Carole Townsend

Are you a pet owner? We are. We just love our dogs, Cassie, Chester, Cosette and Raleigh. They are all rescues, from the 5 lb. long-hair Chihuahua to the 75 lb. Goldendoodle, and they all love people, other dogs, birds, butterflies and just life in general. They are very much a part of our family. But they are dogs, a fact of which I am ever mindful. They need to be contained, sometimes corrected and always safe, both for themselves and for others.

Years ago, we had a neighbor who had a Doberman Pinscher named Robocop. I know, I know. Robocop was actually a pretty cool dog, but then again, I am a dog lover. The dog’s owner did not contain his animal at all – no fence, no leash when he was outdoors. As a result, Robocop terrified joggers, moms walking their babies in strollers, and anyone else who found the sight of a Doberman racing toward them to be frightening. I knew and was familiar with the dog, so he didn’t particularly scare me. I did not let my children play outside while he was free, though. Children can look like appetizers to some dogs, and their screaming and running only enhances the illusion.

Robocop did have one annoying habit. He decided early on in our neighborly relationship that it was his duty to relieve himself on my flowers and shrubs. Apparently he thought they were pesky weeds, and he was doing me a favor.  Each time I would speak to my neighbor about his dog’s shenanigans, the guy would laugh as if to say, “dogs will be dogs.” He never offered to pay for the deceased foliage, either. I never really liked that guy. The dog’s antics weren’t his fault; they were his irresponsible owner’s fault.

Not too long ago, I took our dog Chester for a walk. Now Chester is a funny, sweet, very strong dog who would never, ever hurt a soul. But again, he is a dog, and dogs can be unpredictable. You never know what might set one off.  He never leaves our yard without being leashed. Chester and I were walking one of the beautiful park trails we as Gwinnett county residents enjoy, one with signage that marked clearly that all pets are to be leashed. 

On the trail, we came across a group of men, early walkers like me, and they had a beautiful Springer Spaniel with them. The dog was not on a leash, and he bounded joyfully ahead of the men for a while. Then he’d fall behind, sniff and chase a trail, then catch up to his people. Then he caught sight of Chester. Chester strained and pulled at the leash, rolling to free himself (an irritating trick he’s learned), and the springer zipped laps around him, yelping and inviting him to play.

The men just continued walking, while my arm was getting jerked out of its socket. By the time they realized their canine companion was not with them and they whistled for him, I was banged up and covered with dog slobber, twisted up in my dog’s leash and sweating way more than I had intended to. Not the relaxing stroll I had envisioned, spending quality time with my buddy.

It’s my opinion that a lot of the bad PR dogs sometimes get is the direct responsibility of their owners’ irresponsibility. Just because we love dogs doesn’t mean that everyone does. Just because a dog has a good temperament and “wouldn’t hurt a fly” doesn’t mean that he never will. Dogs can have bad days, too. If we really love our dogs, it’s our duty to contain them, to keep them safe as well as others. What can seem like “play” to a dog can be overwhelming to a small child or elderly person. 

Case in point:  some dear friends of ours were out for a leisurely stroll last summer, in the Lilburn area. They were walking near the community pool when out of nowhere, a German Shepherd raced up to the man and sunk his teeth into his calf. The dog had a collar but no tags, and no owner was in sight. Animal Control was called, but they couldn’t help my friends. No one in the pool area knew where the dog lived. So of course, our friends not only ended up paying for the medical care themselves (and it continues nearly a year later), but the wound was a deep, painful one that has been difficult to treat and slow to heal. All of that could have been prevented by an ounce of owner responsibility. 

Do you leash your pet, or do you let your dog run free in a neighborhood or park? Either way, what’s your reasoning?

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth and newest book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, is slated for April 12 publication. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her most recent book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a sidesplitting look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. Her first two books, RED LIPSTICK AND CLEAN UNDERWEAR (a book about our Mothers’ advice) and SOUTHERN FRIED WHITE TRASH (a hilarious look at the unique, charming and sometimes outrageous ways we Southerners conduct ourselves) earned Carole almost instant national fame, with her “unmistakable humor and hysterical honesty,” (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2012). Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the southeast region, teaching writers’ workshops, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well being of the family. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.