Random Blog A Musing Farf

Sunday, March 18, 2007

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO LIVE AND LET LIVE?

Meg, a friend of one of my friends, was diagnosed with breast cancer while in college. She was adopted so she did not know her family medical history and breast cancer had always seemed like something about which other (read: older) people had to worry. It wasn’t until she had been ill for over a week that she finally went to the University health center. It was another three weeks after that before they figured out that was wrong and sent her to a specialist. By that time, the cancer had spread to both breasts and she underwent an emergency double mastectomy. Meg, ever the upbeat spirit did not let it get her down and used to joke that the new, artificial breasts that had been implanted were way better then the originals because she finally had the right size breast to wear a tank top and look hot.

Fast forward 10 years and Meg got married. In January, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy who is the spitting image of her. Like most Upper West New Yorkers on maternity leave, she loves to take the baby to Central Park on days like last week when the temperature reaches 70 degrees. So, she is sitting on the park bench giving the baby a bottle when another woman with a baby sits next to her and casually asks what is in Meg’s baby’s bottle.

“Baby formula,” replied Meg. “I use Similac Organic.”

The woman stared at her in horror before launching into a rant about mothers who are too lazy to breast feed and how their children lack not only essential vitamins but also the bond between mother and child that comes with breast feeding. When the woman was done with her rant, Meg looked at her and burst into tears. Seemingly satisfied that her message had been received, the woman promptly left.

When Meg told this story to a group of us over drinks, I asked her why she hadn’t taken the time to explain her situation.

“Because it’s not her business,” she explained. “I would never criticize her for her parenting choices and she has no right to judge me. She does not even know me.” Meg sighed, “Besides, I wonder if on some level she is right and I am doing something wrong so I don’t fight back.”

We quickly reassured Meg that she was an awesome mother and leaving her newborn son with a babysitter to enjoy cocktails with her friends was not a crime, nor was using a bottle. But it got me thinking how some people are so quick to judge others without bothering to actually learn the circumstances surrounding whatever ‘choice’ they are judging.

Tiki has developed aggression issues. Husband and I have taken him to the vet, called a trainer and pretty much done everything we can do to fix the problem. While he is still a sweetheart to humans (both adults and children), he will growl and snap at other dogs now. So, that means no more doggie day care and no more dog runs. But, it also leaves us with the problem of how to ensure that Tiki receives the proper amount of exercise while we try and work out the aggression issues. Thinking we stumbled upon a short term solution, we took him to the small dog run near our apartment – a dog run which is nearly always empty.

When we got to the run, it was empty and for about 15 minutes, Tiki romped after snowballs and ran around. As we were getting ready to leave, a person walked in with small dogs. We immediately leashed Tiki and told her we were leaving. She was really nice and told is how her dog used to be aggressive and gave us the name of a trainer she used to help remedy the problem. At this point we were standing outside the dog run when another woman with unleashed dogs walks by in order to have her dogs go into the large dog run. The dogs come close to Tiki and I politely tell her that my dog has developed agression issues and to please call her dog back. (Tiki was actually being very good and just standing next to me but I had a TIGHT grip on the leash).

The woman with the unleashed dogs begins to lecture Husband and me.

“I am so sick of people who buy Shibas. They are irresponsible people who know nothing of temperament and just buy a dog on looks.” Her dogs were ugly so I think she was jealous of how good looking Tiki is. She then went yelling at us that we were irresponsible for letting Tiki in the small dog run if we knew he had issues. Husband countered that we were not in the run but holding a leashed dog outside the run and her dogs were the ones acting inappropriately.

Husband pointed out that if we had not said anything about aggression, she would not have known (Tiki was still just sitting at my feet - a position he maintained the entire conversation). She then called me names as I was the one holding the leash and basically told me if I knew anything about dogs I would not have gotten a Shiba and that I clearly never properly socialized him. Both those statements were false. I wanted to cry because I am already on edge about this and being yelled at was the last thing I needed, especially because we were already leaving.

Here is the thing – Tiki was properly socialized. He has been exposed to other dogs on a regular basis since he was 12 weeks old. We are working with a trainer to fix the aggression issues. And, dogs often develop aggression after being mauled themselves. The woman at the dog run has no basis for assuming we were bad dog owners when she could have just as easily jumped to the conclusion that we were responsible owners attempting to re-socialize a dog who had fear aggression (and what we were doing – exposing the dog to a place with lots of doggie smells but no other dogs is exactly the first step in that process). Also, as a members of the NYC Shiba meet-up, I am well aware of the issues Shibas have and just how sweet and lovable they can be. And yet, not unlike Meg, I did not fight back because a tiny part of my thought this mean woman might be right. (Luckily, Husband did not have the same thought process and threatened to have Tiki bite her! hahaha).

While my encounter with a mean woman at a dog run is not quite as traumatic as Meg’s experience with the La Leche League Nazi, I can not figure out what would prompt a perfect stranger to just make snap judgments about another person and actually tell them! As JG commented when I emailed her out of frustration, Husband and I were being responsible by warning her that Tiki might snap and she took advantage of that to be mean. And Meg was simply responding to an innocent inquiry from another new mom.

So, in sum: If I want you to comment on how I am living my life, I will ask you your opinion. Just follow my lead and mock strangers in private with your friends and keep your mouth shut in public. Otherwise, you may find we stop trying to make Tiki less aggressive and just start having him channel that aggression to your leg…

5 comments:

super des said...

People are such assholes.

Your friend may not have been breastfeeding because she was in public. Yet the person still jumped down her throat.

I had the same problem with dog people when I volunteered at an animal shelter. Sometimes the dogs haven't had their shots yet, so contact with outside dogs is minimized. SO I would do what you did, hold the leash while the dog sits next to me and other people would let their dogs come right up. Hello? I'm holding the dog close for a reason!

Arg.

mara clarke said...

Ages ago over many drinks at my fav dive bar, a friend of mine and I had an epiphany: what does your opinion have to do with me?
I try and live by it – and have used it several times on people. Thought not lately, so thank you for writing this and reminding me I have a great come back to the total strangers who have been giving their unsolicited advice on how I raise my daughter!

kate said...

Bravo - - I too am sick and tired of people exerting their opinions and beliefs over people who obviously did not ask to hear them. I am really tired of women judging other women because of their parenting choices. And cheers to Mara, I'm going to save your quote to use the next time someone tries to exert their opinion!

Suzanne said...

Crap. This is so why I hate people. Especially the breastfeeding Nazis. They really are some of the most tyrannical bitches, aren't they? I just hear so many damn horror stories about it.

Alex Elliot said...

I feel so awful for Meg! I have had way too many of the "your giving your baby rat poison!" conversations. In my mind I'm giving that woman the finger and also the mean lady at the dog run.