Asheville is very much a dog town. It’s something it prides itself on. I am very much a dog person. It’s not necessarily something I pride myself on, but it’s something I’ve always considered myself…until recently when it was pointed out that I’m not.
I typically work outside my apartment on Friday afternoons. After lunch, I truck my ass to a coffee shop or brewery for a change of scenery and typically work on “Friday projects” (things that must get done but don’t require much brainpower). Last Friday, I camped out at a local coffee shop but was very much working on a non-Friday project, aka on a deadline, so I found a table as far away from the action as possible, put in earphones, and went to work.
However, I failed to give sufficient attention to a woman and her brand-new puppy, which is the catalyst for this tale.
I was always under the impression that the coffee shop in question only allowed dogs outdoors, so when a small dog was stretched out directly where one would wait in line, I assumed it was a service dog, so didn’t stop to pet it or make small talk, not that I need an excuse for not interacting with this dog. You see, I’ve always been under the assumption that there was an unwritten rule one doesn’t have to interact with every dog they see (even if they like dogs), just like I’ve always assumed there’s an unwritten rule about not letting your dog sleep, splayed out directly in front of a business’s ordering area.
I ordered my chai latte and was waiting to pay when the dog’s owner tapped me on the shoulder. “I’m sorry my dog is in your way,” she said. “He’s just a puppy and doesn’t know any better yet.”
I didn’t say, “but you’re not a puppy, and you know better now.” Instead, I said, “Oh, he’s not bothering me.”
“I just don’t think he should be responsible for the mess he made,” she said. “He’s only a puppy.”
“I didn’t notice any mess,” I said, and luckily it was my time to pay. I stepped back over the sleeping puppy—noticing now that there was a tipped-over plastic glass and puddle of water next to him (her? them?)—and settled down to work.
I wasn’t annoyed yet, but I noted that the woman kept her dog on a very long leash. I wasn’t necessarily bothered but did note that it was going under other patron’s tables, sniffing their legs, and at one point, had stretched its leash across an entranceway, obstructing three other patrons who were trying to sit (and had to ask the woman to pull her dog back). Then, however, I got swept up in my work…until I heard someone yelling “sir” repeatedly and realized it was the dog’s owner trying to get my attention. I took my headphones off.
“I’m sorry my puppy is bothering you,” she said. “I’m embarrassed, but he’s just a puppy.” Her dog hadn’t been bothering me. He was sitting a couple of feet from my table, straining to get to me, but I’d been concentrating.
“He hasn’t been bothering me,” I said, smiled, and put my headphones back in. I went to start typing again, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see her motioning for me to take them back off.
“Let me know if he bothers you,” she said. “He doesn’t mean to. He’s just a puppy.”
I didn’t say, “he probably wouldn’t be able to bother me if you pulled his leash in a bit.” Instead, I just said, “Ok, thanks.”
Five minutes later, this same exchange repeated itself.
Her third attempt was more brazen. I was, again, trying to work when she tapped me on the shoulder, motioning again that I should take my headphones off.
“Sir,” she said, “I’m so sorry my dog was barking at you. He’s just a puppy and doesn’t know any better.” The dog hadn’t been barking at me.
“No worries,” I said—honestly, impressed with my politeness. “I didn’t notice. I have my headphones in and was in the zone.” She smiled and went back to her seat…but only momentarily.
What had to have been just a minute later, I got another tap on the shoulder. This time, the dog’s owner was standing next to me, holding her dog. She once again motioned for me to take my headphones off.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, “I’m so sorry to bother you.”
I didn’t say, “no, you’re not.” Instead, I said, “What’s up?”
“I think,” she said, “if he came over to meet you, he’d stop barking. He’s just a puppy and doesn’t know any better. He’s excited for new friends.” Again, the dog hadn’t been barking.
I reached over and gave him a pet. He was a cute dog, but I was on a deadline…and annoyed now. “Well, now we’ve met,” I said, adding, “I’ve really got work I need to finish,” before she could get any further, and put my headphones back on (but just for show…the music was off now so I could be vigilant of another sneak attack). I started typing for an awkward few seconds as she hovered over me. Finally, she started walking slowly back to her seat.
“It’s ok,” she said to the dog, clearly understanding my rouse and telegraphing a message. “It’s fine. Some people just don’t like cute dogs.”