'I'm really over dog owners'


A few weeks ago, my mother was mauled by a dog. She has only just been released from hospital after having a four-hour operation including skin grafts. The dog that attacked her was a dog she had met many times before. This time, she reached out to pat it and, for some unknown reason, the dog didn’t like the cut of her jib. It got a hold of her left hand and didn’t let go. For minutes that surely felt like hours.

The daughter of the owner of the dog came to see my mum in hospital. To assure her they would ‘keep the dog out back’ from now on.

To be frank, I am so over so many dog owners.

Currently living in the English countryside, we are in dog central. Everyone here seems to have a dog (or two, or three) – mostly very healthy-looking black Labs who get a good amount of exercise. They’re beautiful animals and my kids have had great fun with them. My daughter spent a good hour in the park after a snowfall one day throwing snowballs for one of them to catch and both parties had the time of their lives. I have no issue with this. The owner was there, I was there, the owner asked if it was okay if she took her dog off its lead, assured me it had been around children all its life, and I’d said yes. Over the years, I’ve met many dog owners like this – respectful of my, and my children’s, personal space and welfare and of the law.

My problem is with the other dog owners. Over the past eight years (since my first child was born), I have had dog owners, strangers to us, coerce my children over towards them to pat their dog when I have already told my kids not to (‘But he loves children!’). I have had family members let large dogs, unaccustomed to small children, into the same room as my kids when I’ve specifically asked they be kept apart (‘It’s not fair that he has to stay outside!’). I have had a barking dog chase my kids across a children’s park (‘He loves to run!’). I have had a dog nip my son on the ankle (‘He didn’t pat him right!’). And then, just yesterday, again at the park, I had a German Shepherd who weighed more than me jump up on my chest and steal my daughter’s gloves from my hands (‘He’s only playing!’). Knowing what had just happened to their grandmother, my kids were so freaked out they wouldn’t come down from the top of the climbing frame until the dog had retreated from sight.


What truly amazes me is that if I had turned around yesterday and told this dog owner that her 70kg dog should be on a lead in a children’s playground, I would have been the psycho.

So, look, it’s nice that you have a dog. Yes, I’m sure he, or she, is adorable, obedient, great with kids, would never bite anyone and loves your family very, very much.

But that’s what the owners of the dog that mauled my mother would have said too.

It’s your choice to have a dog. Love it. Enjoy it. But keep it responsibly. Just don’t expect me to love it too.

Allison Rushby is the Australian author of 11 novels in the genres of women’s fiction and young adult fiction.  She is writing a travel memoir and blogging here.  You can often find her procrastinating on Twitter here.

Are you a dog owner? How do you feel about other people’s dogs?