Ever at a loss for words after someone insults your dog, whether it’s intentional or not? As members of a civilized culture we’re supposed to bite our tongues, walk away, turn the other cheek — call it what you will. Well, sometimes for me words flow as freely as water out of the hose from which my dog drinks. And you can use this to your own advantage. We’ve put together some snappy replies to the sometimes unthinking — and sometimes downright mean — comments and questions often hurled our way as dog owners. So the next time you get tossed a curveball, here are a few snappy comebacks designed to educate people who will, in turn, think twice and pay it forward.
The Breed Profiler
What they say: “Is that a [whatever breed]? That’s a mean breed that will bite.”
What you say: “Like people, my dog is an individual and he cannot speak for himself. As his representative, we ask you nicely retract and refrain from stereotyping us or our fuzzy friends as something or someone we are not,” so says Missy Johnson, dog lover and founder of Dogs for the Paws.
This also works: “Google the name Lennox when you get home. Stereotyping based on looks is wrong.”
When we know better, we do better. Educate people. The onslaught of social media and Internet outrage could not save Lennox. In his name, do your best to educate people. Or at least try. It’s been my experience that some folks can’t (or won’t) open their minds to change. But it’s worth trying.
What they say: “You’re planning a birthday party for your dog? Seriously?”
What you say: “Indeed. I might even dress up like a cat so Rover and all his furry friends can chase me around as a form of entertainment.”
What they say: “How old’s your dog?”
What you say: “Ten [or anything deemed ‘old’ in this society].”
They return: “Wow, that old.” Or, my personal favorite: “He’s a senior citizen.”
You shoot back: “He still thinks he’s a puppy and in my heart, he’ll always be one.” (I stopped saying, “She won’t tell me even though I card her every time she wants a shot of whiskey in her water bowl.”)
What they say: “Sorry to hear your dog passed away last week. Think you’ll get another one?”
What you say: Actually, what you say depends on who is saying it. Some people have good intentions when they say this. When I experienced this after my dog Brandy Noel died, I was floored, often nodding a silent “no” and wondering what a good response is to such a statement. We don’t ask if someone will get another mother, father, or sibling, because we know they are not instantly replaceable. For some people, a dog is just that. Those of us in the know, well, we know better.
If you feel inclined to reply with dignity, something like, “Max isn’t replaceable, but my heart will let me know if and when it wants to open itself again” tends to work, and is respectful.
What they say: “They let dogs stay here? Wow, that’s surprising!” (when staying at pet-friendly accommodations)
What you say: Three choices.
Educational version: “They do, and in fact, thousands of hotels and bed and breakfasts are doing the same all across the United States, Canada, and beyond.”
Funny version: “And sometimes he lets me up on the bed.”
Fed-up version: “My dog doesn’t smoke, steal towels, or play the television loudly. I stopped bringing my husband/wife and started bringing the dog!”
What you see: You witness someone “spanking” a dog in public.
What you say: “When you hit a dog, you teach him to fear you, you break his trust, and you weaken his confidence. Insecure dogs are the ones who are more likely to lash out in an aggressive display.”
I can’t take credit for that. I read it in trainer Victoria Stilwell’s book, It’s Me or the Dog. I used to be afraid to confront someone hitting a dog. I realize my lack of action is an action, and I’ve become more adept at speaking out, calmly and rationally. I know this one opens really strong emotions for some, but for me anger and physicality begets the same.
The Irresponsible Cad
Action: Someone who doesn’t clean up after their dog.
What you say: “There’s no handle to flush. Would you kindly pick that up, Sir?” I try to show respect with the “Sir” or “Madam” and give them the benefit of the doubt.
I’m not angry, I’m a dog parent, and I know I’m not alone. The words to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” ruminate in my mind as I close this article. What negative questions, remarks, or actions do you encounter? Do you have any comebacks worth sharing?