This is a post I've thought about writing before now, since it's something that really bugs me, but then over the weekend something happened that convinced me I had to write about it, even if just to get it off my chest.
So here it is: as the title of the post says, "A dog in a stroller is still a dog!"
But before I offend anyone, let me clarify. The dogs in strollers thing doesn't bother me as a general rule. I can readily see at least two very valid reasons for dogs to ride in strollers. Such as:
- Being elderly/infirm/having a disability. For example I have read more than once that three legged senior rescue pup Lucky Diamond often used to ride in a stroller before passing away of cancer earlier this year. Bravo!, I say. There's no reason why not having full mobility or a great deal of stamina should prevent a dog from being out and about in the world getting the stimulation and socialization that most of them so crave.
- Being a small dog in a big city/large crowd. It makes perfect sense to me that in large crowds of people and/or big, crowded cities, it isn't safe or particularly enjoyable for a small dog to be walking under their own power where they can easily be trodden on, nor is it always particularly convenient or comfortable for them to be carried around. I would much rather see a dog in a stroller in this situation than, for example, a dog in one of those "Snugli"-type carriers where they are strapped to a person's body. At least that way, as opposed to when they are in the Snugli-type, they are able to have all four feet on the "ground", can sit, stand, or lie down as they choose, and can be separated from the public at large, whether for their own protection or that of the public, by a mesh barrier. Most of the dogs I've seen out and about in strollers seem relaxed and content while the dogs in the Snugli-things always appear unnerved at being toted about with all four feet waving in the air, or at least this is so of the ones I personally have seen.
I also happened to find this article (granted, it's published on a site that sells dog strollers): 16 Reasons To Use A Dog Stroller. In case you were wondering what the 16 reasons were, and don't want to read the entire article, some of the reasons that were mentioned were using the stroller as a "no strain pet carrier," or using it for multiple small dogs instead of having the dogs go every which way while on leash. For urbanites the former might be a valid argument, I really don't know since I have never lived in a large city, but the latter seems like a "problem" that could easily be solved with some basic leash training.
Understand, my beef here is not with dogs in strollers per se, but dogs in strollers where dogs aren't welcome in the first place. Case in point - a local shopping mall this past weekend when I witnessed a woman with a popular "purse dog" breed pushing said dog in a doggie stroller. For the record, my issue was not that the dog was in the mall in a stroller, but rather that it was in the mall at all, since signs prohibiting dogs from entering the premises are present on every exterior door. But for some reason, there is a certain type of person who sees no issue with flouting rules prohibiting dogs from a given premises just because their dog is small, and is in a purse, stroller, etc. Even though I have two small dogs, one of whom I am sure, would ride quite happily in a stroller if it meant she could accompany me to shopping malls rather than being left at home, this "the rules don't apply to me!" attitude really rankles.
Why? Well, for one thing because I have made it a point, since starting to live with smaller dogs nine years ago, to do everything possible to fight the "small dogs as ill-behaved, yapping ankle-biters" stereotype that exists out there. I know it exists, because as a former card carrying member of the big dog lovers club, I have been guilty of this same narrow-mindedness in the past. So it ticks me off that a person with a small dog in a stroller feels justified in thumbing her nose at rules prohibiting dogs inside a place like an indoor shopping mall, and even worse that mall security just looks the other way instead of enforcing the same rule that they would undoubtedly enforce without question or hesitation if someone walked in with, let's say, a German Shepherd (or bully breed or Rottweiler, or even a Greyhound or Golden Retriever) on a leash, or even, I feel sure, if said dog was being pushed through the premises in a stroller, and no matter how well-behaved/socialized said dog happened to be. Which, to me, is ridiculous, not to mention unfair. A five pound dog is no less a dog than a fifty pound dog. So if there are no dogs allowed, then there are NO dogs allowed. Otherwise, the signs on the door should specify that only dogs not in excess of a certain weight are allowed. Or if the stroller is the thing that guarantees a free pass, then it should say so right on the door. But that, then, means that if I have a Great Dane and want to push it around the mall in a stroller, no one is allowed to give me any crap about it.
Now, back to the woman I saw in the mall over the weekend. As I was strolling along, no pun intended, I saw the woman advancing towards me pushing the aforementioned dog in the aforementioned stroller. Right as we drew almost abreast of one another, a young girl about four or five years old who was walking along a few feet to my right with her mother, abruptly darted away from her parent and ran up to the stroller. Whereupon the stroller's occupant emitted two sharp barks, one unmistakable growl, and then lunged and snapped at the outstretched hand of the little girl. (The mesh cover was partially unzipped.) The little girl, startled, scared, and crying, backed away rapidly, clutching her mother's hand. It was one of those things that seems to happen in slow motion but in actuality the whole thing took maybe a second and a half to go down.
I suppose it could be argued (by someone other than me) that the little girl was at fault here. After all, she rushed at the dog, who was understandably startled. As we all know, any dog will growl or even bite under the right (wrong) circumstances. Or perhaps we should blame the mother, who was failing to control her child and keep her from rushing the dog. But this was a four or five year old child, capable of walking along next to her parent without having to be kept firmly by the hand as a toddler might need to be. And it all happened so quickly that I don't see anything the mother could have done to prevent it. Once she had her shaken and crying daughter by the hand again, she murmured a quick apology to the woman with the DIS (dog in the stroller), and they walked quickly away.
The craziest thing about all of this, to me, was the way the woman with the DIS reacted. As she and I stood there watching the woman and her daughter walk away, she said to me, in a voice full of righteous indignation, "Do you believe that?!!!" In response to which I wasn't, honestly, sure what to say. Nothing that came readily to mind seemed advisable or appropriate, especially since the woman clearly was expecting sympathy, which was not going to be forthcoming from my corner. The dog in question was probably about five or six pounds soaking wet, but she (I assumed, as she was sporting a bejeweled collar and being conveyed in a pink stroller) still had forty-two teeth and ensconced in the stroller, she was right about at face level with the child. Had she been a little quicker to lunge and snap or the child been a little slower to jerk away, things might have ended with a trip to the ER for stitches.
Now, had the same thing happened on a crowded sidewalk, I may have felt differently. After all, if the dog was doing nothing more than riding along in its stroller and a child rushed over and startled her, then really, it's hard to blame the dog. Then again, I didn't blame the dog in this scenario, either. I blamed the woman. Who shouldn't have had the dog, stroller or not, in the mall to begin with. Let alone been angry at the little girl or her mother for what happened.
I did say to the dog's owner, who by now had unzipped the mesh and was lifting her out to cradle her and murmur sympathetic endearments, something to the effect of "She seems a little nervous, maybe she'd be better off staying at home next time." I felt it was a valid point, as the dog was also visibly quaking, though to be fair it could have been as a result of the incident that had just occurred rather than a general state of unease at being strolled through a crowded mall. The woman, though, didn't think much of this. Rather, she became hotly indignant and made a nasty comment about how her "baby" was probably cleaner than most of the children in the mall, that this dog was her child, and how just because she wasn't human didn't make her any less the woman's baby. I could see this was going nowhere fast, so I just smiled nervously, nodded and walked away.
Inside, though, I was seething. Because it is people like this who ruin things for the rest of us. After all, dogs are welcome on airplanes, on restaurant patios, and all sorts of other public places. Which is great, and I'll freely admit that I'm more likely to patronize a restaurant that has patio seating that allows dogs than one that doesn't. I love having my dogs with me, and they love to be there. I even get to bring them to work, which is awesome. But I wouldn't be doing them, myself, or any other dog lovers any favors by bringing my dogs places where they are clearly prohibited, whether I can get away with it or not. And with Phoebe, who is just small enough to be carried comfortably in a shoulder carrier, or even shoved inside a purse if I really wanted to, I probably COULD get away with it. But that doesn't mean that I SHOULD. Something which was all too obviously lost on this woman, who had learned nothing at all from the experience, because she was too busy blaming a four year old child rather than herself. Make no mistake ... I, too, consider my dogs to be my surrogate children. I love them dearly. I spoil them rotten. But I hope that I never lose sight of the fact that they are dogs, not people, and that even if I choose to wheel them down the street in a stroller rather than walking them on leashes, that is what they will always be.
Because, say it with me, people: A dog in a stroller is STILL a dog!
|Tucker & Phoebe ... much-loved, greatly spoiled, but still dogs. And very much ok with that.|