Jack just recently turned three, so I still vividly remember all the hours we put into socializing him. We would take him to as many busy places as we could on his walks and weekend outings, and I would take a deep breath and overcome my normal shyness, and ask every single person who looked at him and smiled (and who doesn't smile at a Corgi puppy?) "Would you like to pet the puppy?" If they looked a little hesitant, I would quickly blurt out "We're trying to socialize him!" Most people like to be helpful, and so most people would respond positively to that.
It's safe to say that his first summer, he met a few hundred people, old and young, loud and quiet, dog-savvy and dog-clueless.
And tonight, on our walk, I remembered why that was so important.
It's been 90 here for days and the heat is finally breaking. This evening at about 8pm it finally dropped to 79 and I leashed up the dogs and headed out. We were walking back through the park when an elderly couple sitting on a bench started talking to the dogs. The dogs ran over for some greetings. They both got patted on the head (which submissive Maddie adores, and bossy Jack positively despises but cheerfully tolerates from strangers), and the nice couple cooed and commented on how pretty they are and said silly things that strangers will like we should breed them (except they are both neutered... and Maddie is Jack's aunt).
The woman was looking at Jack's "I am a therapy dog" tag and I was explaining how we go to nursing homes to visit when Jack picked up a tiny little bit of something; I think it was a stick. And the woman (I'm still a bit stunned) started thwacking him about the mouth (gently, but still most definitely thwacking) and saying "You drop that! Give it to me. Come on, give it to me!"
I must admit I stood there, blinking sort of stupidly, torn between respecting my elders (I'm nearly 40 but I still can't bring myself to correct anyone older than myself) and protecting my dog. I don't mean protecting him from being hurt, because she was not using nearly enough force to hurt him, but protecting him from being labeled a mean dog if he very rightly hauled off and growled or snapped at her.
Seconds passed that seemed like minutes while this total stranger handled my dog's mouth while he was trying to eat something, and finally I stuttered out with "He's ok. I think he swallowed it. Let's go, Jack" and smiled my polite good-byes and left. Bless him, Jack never so much as raised a lip. Early lessons well-learned.
In her defense, the woman clearly loved dogs and seemed as if she'd owned them, and this was probably how she would have reacted if one of hers had something unwanted in its mouth. I just can't even imagine. This tops the woman in PetSmart who kept squeaking a toy at Jack, then offering it to him, and pulling it away whenever he'd go for it. What on earth are people thinking?
God bless our dogs; they put up with such rudeness from humans. I think it helps that Jack assumes most people are a bit slow and tolerates from them what he would from puppies.