I live on Albion, near 16th and Mission, and so I find it odd, cute, and ridiculous when people act as if they live in some comfy suburb, expecting their neighbors to behave accordingly. Even when those “neighbors” are homeless crackheads who use our street as a shooting gallery and then bathroom.
Those same people tend to get especially touchy when it comes to dogs. These are the people who find dogs unleashed to be a menace to public safety. Who, when sitting at Dolores Park, feel that their personal space has been violated when a dog wanders onto their blanket. And then there is the cardinal sin of dog ownership: leaving the poop. It could be that you forgot to bring a baggie. It could be that your dog has the runs and his excrement is impossible to pick up. It could also be that you’re a selfish asshole, and this seems to be what most people assume first when it comes to dog owners. Hell, let’s be honest. That seems to be what most people assume first, period.
I’ve stopped trying to predict what kind of doggie behavior will offend Missionites, but there is one steadfast rule that I’ve found always applies: on every street, there is one guy who rabidly defends the bush in front of his house from being peed on.
He lies in wait for you. When he sees you pass by with your dog, he either runs out of his house or leans out of his window to reprimand you for allowing your dog to urinate on a living thing. His living thing. Invariably, his junkyard dog approach to communication makes you feel defensive. It puts you on edge. You respond, rightfully if unhelpfully, that his bush or whatever is on a public sidewalk.
It could go lots of ways from there, but most likely the interaction will slide into the realm of threats. He’ll call the police, he’ll kick your ass. In one such situation, a guy even threatened to poison my dog if I didn’t leave his bush alone. No doubt he felt that was fair. An eye for an eye. After all, my dog’s urine was poisoning his bush, or so he thought.
Until now, I have been highly disinclined to yield to such ruffians, such cads. Anyone who would treat another person so hatefully, especially without even trying to ask nicely in the first place, did not deserve to get what they wanted.
But now I’m tired. I just want to walk down the street in the morning without worrying if this dude is going to jump out from behind his gate and hassle me. So I dealt with the most recent incarnation of this situation differently, especially since I now have two dogs to shepherd. I muttered my usual, “It’s a public sidewalk,” retort, then went home and drafted a letter in true passive-aggressive style and stuck it on his gate.
Since then, I have walked down the street in peace. Some might say it’s because my letter was so carefully worded. Others might say it’s because I’ve elected to walk down the opposite side of the street from now on.
Who really knows?
And, for your pleasure, dear readers, I give you The Letter:
I’m the girl who walks her dogs past your house in the morning. You have come out yelling at me twice but have not tried the kinder approach so far. If you had come out and asked me nicely, and kindly, to just bypass your bush, I would have agreed. Not because I agree with you but because I believe in neighborliness.
Secondly, please take a moment to imagine how it would feel if you were a young woman walking alone in a dodgy neighborhood and all of a sudden there are two confrontational guys yelling at you and following you across the street. Do you think this would make you feel amenable to a neighborly compromise? Or would it make you feel physically threatened?
Next time you want to talk to me, how about you try the nicer way? And please be more considerate of my position. I promise it will get better results.
P.S. Imagine how you would want someone to talk to your sister or daughter.
And one last thing. Let it be known that the dogs inspiring such venomous reproach were these: