Today, we're over Bradlaugh Fields and were less than 5 minutes out of the car when we meet two Setters and a scruffy poodle owned by a couple of guys, one about 15 years younger than me and the other about the same in the other direction - they are undoubtedly father and son. Their dogs are passive and quite elderly. Marley doesn't make a great first impression; hurtling down the hill and running into the middle of them all - looking like she's up for a fight or about to attack - it is something that I worry about, but in four years only one person has ever mentioned her bull-in-a-china-shop entrances and he wasn't complaining, he was just pointing out how intimidating it can look to people. Anyhow, Marley arrives at her destination, stops, just about and pootles about sniffing and saying hello.
The owners have their backs to me and are walking back to the park exit; the wife is picking up some dog shit (in a bag) and I'm watching the dog social. Suddenly, without any warning, the grey and white Setter growls and bares her teeth at Marley; Marley rears up and suddenly we have handbags in the park. Lots of gnashing of teeth and standing tall; but no real fighting and absolutely no damage. The wife springs into action; I bellows at Marley and the two guys turn around and head back to their dog. Marley by this time is just standing there looking bewildered - not an unusual occurrence, it has to be said. The conversation between the men and my wife is one of accusation and contrition; the elderly man is suggesting that Marley should be kept on a lead, while the younger man is checking the Setter for 'bite marks or puncture wounds' - his words and suddenly I felt my own hackles raise.
"Actually, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other," I offers. "Your dog started it."
"You've got that wrong, chap," says the younger man.
"With the greatest respect," says I rather level-headedly, "I was watching them, you had your backs to it."
"My dog is too old to start fights," says the older man.
"As I said, your dog growled at mine, mine reacted. it was a reaction rather than an act of aggression."
"No, your dog is vicious," says the younger man. I felt the red mist descend, but I could see the wife, now with Marley bridled up, looking at me with semi-pleading eyes.
"As I said, you weren't watching. I'm quite happy to accept when my dog is in the wrong, but she was just reacting to your dog."
"No she wasn't."
"So, you didn't see it and you're calling me a liar?" The younger man mumbled something I couldn't hear or maybe was expected not to hear. I could see the wife's eyes pleading with me by this time and I reined back, but not before I heard the younger canonising his own dog and utter a few more gems of wisdom about mine. I could see why they thought what they did, but even in the most cut and dried cases there are facets that aren't always seen. Marley is a pain and has started many a fight over the last 4 years, however, she doesn't really do it any more and especially not with elderly dogs. In fact, with puppies and pensioners she's a model of good behaviour and I felt so aggrieved by all the blame being humped on Marley that I've had a bug up my arse about it ever since!
The problem is, I spend the next few hours trying to think of how I can take my dogs out without having this kind of thing happen and the subsequent confrontation/discussion. She is a pain in the arse and she does get into scrapes, but I think she got a bum call today and the two owners of the Setters managed to make me feel like an arsehole for suggesting their dog, which is obviously the canine version of Jesus fucking Christ, could possibly have incited a handbags at dusk scenario.
Some people. dog owners included, can just be utter cunts...