Yesterday we nipped to the shops for a few bits and bobs. Since we were struggling to fit this unexpected, yet necessary trip in our busy schedule, we decided to take George with us. After all, a dog does need the occasional road walk to wear his nails down, so a visit to our local supermarket instead of the regular afternoon stroll through the marsh sounded like a good idea.
When we reached our destination, I sent my husband in to fight his way through the wave of early afternoon shoppers and sat on a wall to wait for him. Finally, a few minutes peace and quiet whilst George investigates the nearby bushes. Or so I thought.
During the 20 minutes wait, four people stopped to talk to me. One was an old man who had a little Jack Russel and wanted to make friends. Two were elderly couples who used to have dogs and knew a thing or two about whippets. The last one was a young woman with a little girl who wanted to make a fuss of George.
Maybe they couldn’t resist his sweet face?
I can’t deny that I’ve quite enjoyed talking to these people. They were all nice in their own way. But I can’t keep wondering…Would they have stopped to talk to me if I was alone? I don’t think so.
We grow up hearing that we should not talk to strangers in the street. People we don’t know can be dangerous. You never know what criminal thoughts lie hidden inside an innocent-looking 85-year-old lady. You can never tell. A young(ish) person – like myself – perched on a brick wall around the back of a supermarket is surely up to no good and to be avoided. But…Hold on!…She’s got a dog! Oh, she’s all right then, let’s stop for a chat!
So what is it about having a dog that draws people towards you? Wandering the streets with a dog by your side seems to somehow label you a model citizen, making it OK for you to hang around in the strangest of places. It kind of makes you safe to interact and talk to.
It’s the same with kids. As a decent person, you would never contemplate approaching a child other than your own in a park or in the street. This kind of misdirected friendliness would attract at least a few condemning looks from passers-by and could land you in a lot of trouble. But if you’ve got a child with you, then you’re suddenly a trustworthy person and everybody relaxes around you. If you’re the join-in-the-fun type, you could even end up with a bunch of little people clinging onto your trousers and jumping on your back. Oh, isn’t he/she good with children!, you’ll hear the sit-on-the-bench-and-watch-type (grand)parents whisper to each other approvingly.
I’ve heard of a number of men who have ‘borrowed’ their friends’ children to pick up women. Successfully. Films have been made about this. Films have also been made about men using dogs to pick up women. Successfully. (Think of 101 Dalmatians).
No wonder the strategy works. In today’s world, children and dogs seem to qualify you as being safe. It’s like having a safety certificate tattooed on your head. Or like an invite to an intimate, friendly chat. Or both. To me, sitting on that wall with George felt like I was wearing a big sign that said “I’ve got a dog, talk to me!”.
So here are my questions for you. Do you find yourselves the centre of attention when out and about with your dogs? Do you suddenly become Mr. or Mrs. Popularity when you’re attached to the end of a lead? Do strangers ever approach you to tell you how beautiful your dog is and half an hour later they’re still telling you their life story?