Thursday, June 12, 2014

Overprotective or Stranger Danger?

Sometimes, I feel like Barley and I live in the Twilight Zone. There are definitely characters in our tiny town--like the time we saw a snowman walking down the street, or the really nice young men and their aides (nurses?) who live in the group home down the street who tell me what a nice dog I have every evening, or the little fellow that asked why I had a dog--but our "I Need Space" leash usually keeps me from having to spend too much time interacting with people.

Cody's Creations has leashes, collars, and harnesses with "I Need Space."
Usually, one look at the leash and strangers cross the street or keep walking without reaching out to pet Barley. Granted, we don't really need the leash for adults since Barley gets offended when someone passes us without commenting on her good looks, but the introvert in me loves that I don't have to make small talk with people I don't know.

The warmer weather has made it harder to avoid people, though. There are more people out and about and since we're still wary of walking on the street where Barley got attacked, we've got fewer options of roads to walk down to avoid crossing paths with someone else.

In April right before Easter, we were out walking and a family that we had seen around while walking before stopped us. The mother said, "I have a gift for that!" and pointed to Barley (English was not her first language, so it took me a minute to figure out that it was something for Barley. She jogged across the street, pointed at Barley again, and said "a gift" as she handed me an Easter goodie bag with a Zuke's Z-Bone and various other treats inside.

I was confused.

Even though I'd seen the family before, we'd never said more than "Hi. How are you?" to each other. The kids had never asked to pet Barley before. 

At first, I was worried it was poisoned. I mean, who just hands a stranger a bag of dog goodies? But Barley really likes Z-Bones, so I was torn. 

Ok, if we're being honest, Barley really likes anything edible--and some things that are inedible.
Then, I put on my sleuthing hat, channeled my inner Nancy Drew, and did a little digging. 

As I've said elsewhere, my town celebrates EVERYTHING and is very similar to Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow (minus the hunky diner owner). A quick internet search revealed that the pet store in town had a dog Easter Egg hunt with prizes (and our goodie bag had a number on it) downtown, which was the same direction the family had been walking from and we crossed paths a little after the event ended. 

I decided the treats were probably safe, especially since they were all individually wrapped within the goodie bag. I called my mom for a second opinion and she agreed.

Last night, we had another weird encounter. We walked down our street, which we do just about every evening, where there's a nice little park. A baseball game was going on, so we didn't walk around inside the park to avoid the kids, but we enjoyed watching part of the game while we walked by.

As we headed back in the direction of our house, I saw an older man, who looked a little bit rough, walking towards us. He said, "Ma'am, can I ask you a question?" Barley wasn't bother by him and my pepper spray (and my citronella Spray Shield) were easily accessible and there were a ton of people in the park for the ball game, so I stopped. 

He was interested in Barley's tail and wanted to know if she was part husky.

Soth understands the fascination with Barley's tail.
I also understand the fascination with it since I've taken lots of pictures of its shadow.
This tail attracts lots of attention.
We chatted for a few minutes and Barley sat very nicely beside me. We've had this conversation many times with many people. (Once, a man on the trails at the arboretum said, "Well, that's a voluptuous tail" as we walked by--with my flat butt, I knew he wasn't talking about me.) 

It became clear that this gentleman probably suffered from some sort of mental illness. Most of our conversation, which in addition to Barley's tail covered Joe Montana, 400 acres of tomato fields, and his trucker friend from high school, made very little sense, but I could tell that he was enjoying having someone to talk to, so I tried not to be in a hurry to walk away.

When we did part ways, Barley and I had only made it a little ways down the road when I noticed a truck coming up behind us and slowing down. I looked over and a man was holding a huge Milkbone out the window for us. I said, "Oh! Thank you!" and took it from him. He drove off without saying a word.


Why would someone hand me a Milkbone without saying a word. Even a "you're welcome" or "that's a nice dog" would have been less strange than a treat-and-run. I thought maybe he knew the old man and wanted to thank me for taking the time to chat with him, but then why wouldn't have he have said so? He also didn't have a dog in his truck--and even though I usually have some treats in my glove compartment, they aren't easily accessible for me to just roll down the window and hand one to someone with a dog. So, this Milkbone gave me the willies.  

I stuck the bone in my pocket, but I figured that no amount of sleuthing I did would make me feel better about the Milkbone, so as soon as we got back to our parking lot, I tossed it in the dumpster.

Am I overreacting and being an overprotective owner? I felt guilty tossing the treat in the dumpster, but I paid careful attention to the Stranger Danger videos in school and I wouldn't eat an unwrapped snack a stranger handed to me, so I certainly am not letting my dog eat one.

Barley says, "Fine. Don't let me have the treat. I'll steal Soth's owl toy instead."

We're linking up with Heart Like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs for Thursday Barks and Bytes!

Heart Like a Dog


  1. Hi Y'all!

    I don't think you overreacted at all and neither does my Human. You were having one strange evening.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

    1. This was not the strangest evening I've had, but it's definitely near the top of the list. Sometimes I don't know when I'm being a worrywart and when I'm being realistic, so I'm glad other people agree!

  2. I don't think you were overreacting at all. These days you just can't be too careful. We used to have an elderly neighbor who would do that same thing with milk bones, but I knew who he was and where he lived, and he at least usually said something when he pulled over (he has moved away now). It got to the point where my beagle Kobi thought every car that drove by was going to stop and give him a treat!
    I love that leash....our other beagle is shy and leash reactive and I could use that for her.
    I totally relate to being an introvert and hoping to avoid having to talk to strangers!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets (#14 on the hop)

    1. Barley is like that with drive-thrus because we stop by Chick-fil-a after agility class every week and they always give her a milk bone! Now, any time we go on a road trip and go through a drive thru, she expects to get something from them!

      We love our leash, too! If Barley wasn't so fluffy, she'd have the collar, too, but anyone who gets close enough to read her collar under the fluff probably has already realized that she needs space.

  3. Sadly, you just can't be too careful. When I was child we had elderly neighbors who fretted if they went a day without seeing my parent's dog. It was a daily check in for them and they always had something for the dog. Today, we don't know all the people around us and some just want to be friendly, others may have bad intentions. We have to err on the side of keeping our animals safe.

    1. I would like to believe that my small town is full of people who are just plain friendly, especially since it's the kind of place where small children still ride their bikes around the neighborhood unsupervised (meanwhile I'm freaking out that I have left my phone at home because it was supposed to rain and I don't know how I'll call 911 when the kids, who are riding without helmets and are competing to see who can go the farthest without holding onto the handle bars, inevitably crash). But I couldn't bear the thought of Barley getting sick, or worse, when I could have easily prevented it.

  4. No you are not. I was given a tip by Storm's breeder at a dog show once. Your dog eats nothing that you don't take from your own pocket or treat bag. If people want to treat your dog, you provide the treat. You just can never be too careful. The Milkbone was probably fine, but why chance it? :) Thanks so much for joining the Barks and Bytes hop.

    1. I love that rule! I never let strangers give Barley treats directly because she sometimes gets a little too excited about food to take treats nicely from other people, so with the exception of friends, family, and a few of our long-time agility classmates, all treats are filtered through me anyway, but I am definitely keeping that in mind if I ever have a dog that won't accidentally take a finger with the snack! Everyone's made me feel so much better about not giving Barley the treat, so thank you all!

  5. I'd probably do the same. If I didn't know the person who gave me something for kids or dog, I would smile, take it, and toss it. (Unless someone else I trust could vouch for them.) There are too many loonies out there--and they aren't all recognizable as loonies.

    --Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

    1. I'm so glad I'm not alone! We don't really know any of our neighbors, so there's definitely nobody to vouch for this guy. My apartment manager has lived in town her whole life, so maybe one day she'll be out and about when it happens and I can see if she knows him, but until then, it looks like we might be tossing a lot of treats!

  6. I agree with everyone in saying you weren't over reacting. We once got a random "homemade" treat for Memphis driving through a toll booth that freaked me out. Can't be too careful :-/

    1. Some people are just so strange! Once, my brother and I were walking in my parents' neighborhood and some people were going to a birthday party for a neighbor's dog and they were like "Oh, can the puppies have some yummies?!" We watched them open the brand new package, so I didn't feel too worried about letting Bar have one even though the people were a little strange. (I just hope we didn't steal part of the birthday dog's present!)

  7. I don't let Maddux have treats from strangers either! You just never know about people.

    1. You better protect that sweet nephew pup of mine!