Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Dog Could Never Be So Rude

A couple of Sunday's ago, I stopped by to visit my Joe and water the flowers surrounding his grave. I was dismayed to find the flowers were gone along with the shepherds' crook upon which they hung.

As always, Belle was with me and so were Molly and Cody. Molly and I took the dogs and walked along the cemetery streets to see if the flowers had simply been relocated. Unsuccessful in our search, we returned to the car and began to secure Belle and Cody in their harnesses. A man in a red pick-up truck pulled up along side me and began berating me with very rude language for bringing my dogs to a cemetery to "desecrate the graves of people's loved ones". When I told him that I too, was visiting a loved one, he shouted at me "yeah, well then you're really an idiot!"

The following day, I went to the cemetery office to report the incident and to clarify with the office staff that Belle was a service dog in training. I also reported the missing hanging baskets that had been stolen sometime during the past week. The woman I spoke with was very gracious and kind and told me to bring my dogs whenever I wanted to, service dog or not. Then, just wanting to put the nasty incidents behind me I forgot about it until yesterday, when lo and behold, I discovered that I'm not the only one lately to have experienced this drive-by rudeness at a local cemetery.

"Sainted and Tainted", a Saturday morning column in the Pioneer Press, recognizes ordinary every day kindnesses with a "Saint" and the opposite with a "Taint". This week there was a "Tainted" to a previous week's contributor for complaining about a dog at the Roselawn Cemetery Chapel.

It's the first time I've experienced the truly dark side of being in public with Belle. Normally, we are greeted with nothing but smiles and questions and often, heartfelt gratitude for the work that we're doing together. Sometimes, when I just want to get things done, or if Belle and I are struggling, these greetings can be awkward. Yet I've always found that if I remain courteous and say, "not now", most people are understanding. But this man never even gave me a chance to explain my purpose for bringing Belle to a cemetery.

Today I got the chance. When I saw him in his vehicle, I approached. With the calm and courtesy I wish he had extended to me in our previous encounter, I took the time to explain to him why Belle was with me. I extended my condolences to him on the death of his mother. Angry with the world, he couldn't hear what I was saying. He lashed out and accused me of allowing my dogs to pee on the graves of others loved ones. I told him that as a service dog in training, Belle is not allowed to "go" where ever she pleases and that we train our dogs to go on cue for that reason. Still angry, he asked "where are the disabled people here?" Realizing the conversation could go no further, I told him I hoped his sorrow would pass quickly before his anger in his grief lashed out at any one else.

I'll never know if anything I said today will ever sink in for this man. But I do know that I hope a gazillion different dogs will pee on my grave if it prevents any one else from ever having to experience such an encounter with another "human" being.


carrot said...

Wow, grief sure affects people in different ways, doesn't it? It breaks my heart that you had to be confronted by somebody like that. But how amazing and wonderful that you were able to talk to him again and explain yourself, even if he is not now able to understand.

I keep thinking, what would Joe have said to this man? And the only possible answer is one of his favorite movie quotes:

"Lighten up, Francis!"

Sara Latta, said...

What a sad, angry man. You were truly a Saint yourself for trying to reason with this guy, despite his terrible rudeness.

I would have thought that leashed dogs, service or not, would be welcome in the cemetery as well. Companion dogs can be such a comfort to those who are bereaved.

That said, there's a part of me that understands his frustration. Just like the general population, there are a few dog owners who are rude and inconsiderate. Even here in clean, law-abiding Geneva, I occasionally have to step around big piles of dog s**t on the sidewalk. Maybe the guy found a pile on his mother's grave, who knows. (Or more likely, given his general attitude, he is one of the guys who lets his dogs run off-leash doing their thing at will) At any rate, the inconsiderate few ruin it for the polite majority.

Speak(er) said...

Cara: You nailed it! He would have then followed up with, "go away, or I shall taunt you a second time".

Sara: I agree with you. Yesterday, as I walked along the River Road and picked up not one, but two big dumps near where Cody did his business, I was thinking the same thing. It just takes one knucklehead to get all dog owners tarred and furred with the same brush.