Sunday, 22 February 2015

Why 'don't worry, it won't hurt you!' won't do.

We've just spent a lovely short break by the sea. It was cold. It rained. But that didn't stop us all going to the beach. 

What did - almost - were the dogs. Or rather, their owners. And the gay abandon with which the latter allow their pooches to run rings round my children and wee on their sand castles.

Both my two youngest have a fear of dogs. Both - as toddlers - were knocked down by a dog in our local park. And both now have a healthy disregard of the boisterous brutes that comes bounding after them with alarming regularity. 

'He won't hurt you!' the owners cheerful call when they're within ear shot. Well forgive me, but that's what they all say. And to be certain of the fact you - Mr or Mrs Owner - need to have a dog trained to the highest standards, one who will come at your call. Or on a leash. 

Because no dog is guaranteed not to attack. Some are more aggressive than others. But they all bite. And they have a particular tendency to do so to children, whose high-pitched cries seems somehow to provoke them. 

But as a nation of so-called dog-lovers we seem happy to casually disregard the potential danger, allowing hounds of all shapes and sizes the right to roam right up to and over our children. 

On the third day of our little sojourn by the sea, I had cause to shoo away a large dog that was bounding over the sand castles and barking at my four-year-old's ankles. The owners, standing some distance away, said nothing. Indeed, I wasn't even certain the dog was theirs, so little interest did they take, until they made to leave. At which point Mr Dog - clearly stung by my audacity in daring to shoo away his pooch - walked over to me and availed me of the fact dogs were allowed to roam free, I was rude an ignorant and clearly an awful father. 

I politely told him that my children are both scared of dogs and with good reason. I also said that I thought dogs should be under reasonable control and that, if his was, he ought to have made it clear and not merely stood on the sidelines watching. It made no difference. As he and his wife wandered off the dog was doing the same thing to other dogs, other kids and other people's sand castles. And they were doing nothing. 

And it's for this reason that I won't be telling my children the old lie 'they won't hurt you' anymore. Because there's a chance that they will. And if the owner won't take reasonable steps to prevent it, I will. 

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