DEAR JOAN: I am the owner of an 11-pound female Boston terrier who is just over a year old. I've had two incidents recently that have me wondering whether I am inadvertently committing an animal owner's faux pas.
The incidents were remarkably similar. In the first I was walking Pepper -- on a leash with an attachment of poop baggies -- in a residential neighborhood. We were walking past a house with a small strip of bushes and flowering plants growing from dirt, not grass.
Pepper was on the sidewalk and maybe put a paw onto the dirt before we walked on. A woman came running out of the house saying in a loud voice that she didn't appreciate dogs messing up her garden. I assured her Pepper had not done anything, but she replied, "I know you were there. I was watching from my window."
I mumbled an apology -- I'm not sure about what -- and walked on.
A month or so later, I was walking Pepper in a condo complex where we were visiting my cousin. Pepper had already peed in the tanbark around my cousin's unit, so we were just walking for exercise when a man came out of his unit and told me he didn't want dogs in his garden.
I picked Pepper up and replied I didn't think she had done anything. The man continued to talk about not liking dogs, but I didn't respond until he demanded to know which unit I was "associated with."
I told him my cousin's unit number and returned there.
I questioned my relatives, who are neighbors of these two people, and they confirmed both were "persnickety." I thought I had taken all precautions: a leash, poop bags, having Pepper "go" in as inconspicuous place as possible, picking up all solids right away. Am I missing anything, or do some non-dog owners need to learn manners?
DEAR SALLY: You certainly were doing all you could to be a responsible dog owner, but you received the outrage these people have been saving up for the non-responsible ones. That wasn't fair, but put yourself in their place.
I used to walk my dog, Bailey, around the neighborhood. He can't seem to do his business unless he's on his leash, and I always clean up after him, but I, too, have encountered folks who have yelled at me, often for things Bailey did not do.
I always clean up the solid waste, but they have a point about the urine -- it can burn the grass. And after all, it is their yard.
So now I walk Bailey along the street where there are no yards. It's not as pleasant for me, but Bailey is just happy to exploring and sniffing, and he doesn't really mind the traffic noise.
I still clean up after him, but we encounter a lot of messes from much larger dogs that are just left there.
Being a responsible owner, it drives me a little bit mad when I find lots of piles left in my own yard, so I certainly can understand the frustration.
They shouldn't have yelled at you, especially as you're one of the good dog owners. You can continue to walk Pepper where you want and hold tight to your smile when confronted, or find a route that will limit the number of yards you and Pepper walk by.
Readers, more than 100 of you have weighed in on the indoor vs. outdoor cats debate (look for a column soon). What do you think about this subject?