Yeah, so this happened. I can make up a lot of things, but this one is too good to be fiction.
I took the kids downtown to the Farmer’s Market the other morning. We parked and walked the last few blocks to get the wiggles out.
About halfway there we caught up with this couple walking their dog. We were following them the entire time, but my kids have a 25-foot “zone”. Anything outside of that zone might as well not exist. Anything in that zone is either a) terrifying, b) awesome or c) potentially food.
Right on cue, as we were about twelve steps behind the couple, the kids saw the dog.
The lunacy began immediately.
Their normal walking became a barely controlled run, hop, wait-for-Dad. Their voices jumped three octaves and 50 decibels. Any and all sense instantly evaporated.
“Aaaaawwwwww, look at the puppeeeeeeeee.”
“Dad, it’s so cuuuuuuute.”
A parent’s worst fear in this case is not that your kid will want a dog/puppy/best-friend-forever. That’s a relatively easy one to deal with.
A parent’s worst fear in this case is the next question. It’s always too soon and it’s always too loud.
“Yeah, Dad, can weeeeeee pet it?”
We like dogs. We are dog people. Someday, we will have dogs, if only to remind ourselves that there is, in fact, intelligent life on earth and it likes to be scratched between the ears.
But until then, dog etiquette is… who knows. It just is.
Falling for the fallacy that I was still in control, I urged them to quiet down so they wouldn’t scare the dog (or its owners). I tried to reel them in, but then the dog looked at them. The tail wagged. Not in any sort of a build-up either, but from 0-60 in yes.
This of course sent the kids to the moon and back. The pleas to pet the dog redoubled in volume and pitch (to the point where I’m sure the dog was the only one who actually heard what the kids were saying.)
Finally, I make eye contact with the owners in one of the most unnecessarily awkward conversations ever.
“Sorry, they don’t have to.”
“No, it’s quite alright. He loves kids. Sit, Zeus.” (A dachshund named Zeus… pure gold.) He didn’t sit. Apparently, intoxicating excitement is contagious.
“Well, only if you’re sure.”
“Absolutely. It’s no problem at all. Come on, Zeus, sit.”
All of this was an entirely pointless conversation because they were already trying to pet the dog.
Except he couldn’t decide which one should pet him and they stood about four feet apart. So he got all excited and went to one but before a tentative hand could get a good pat in, the poor dog would give up and go to the other one. This naturally frightened the other kid, who would back up which is universal sign language to dogs to go back to the first kid. Ultimately the poor thing walked itself in five or six circles, exhausted itself completely and fell against the owners leg, distraught and unpetted.
Petting the dog then became a distant thing of a hazy past. My kids were so enthralled by the tail, the circles, and the rest of the dog’s antics that they are now repeating them.
These two kids are running around in tight circles, shaking their rear ends, hands up like paws, tongues hanging out of their mouths and barking. Right there, on the sidewalk, across the street from the Farmer’s Market.
I look up at the dog owners again. They are laughing hysterically.
“You want to pet my kids? They love people.” I really want to say.
Out of the blue, Emma sees the State Farm building across the street, points it out to Andrew with one paw/hand and they both immediately return to “normal person” status and sing the song, “Like a good neighbor…” in full operatic mode. Andrew even has one hand on his chest and the other is stretched out, palm up.
The dog owners are beside themselves with a new round of laughter. The guy sings along with the kids.
Zeus the dachshund looks up at me and I’m pretty sure he was confused. But as our eyes meet, the tail starts to wag.
So just before I gather up the kids and head over to buy some produce, I reach down and somebody finally pets the poor dog.