Dog Days

Columns | Konstantin Borolev | April 2007

Charlie was running in circles through the living room – nothing unusual, considering that he’s a two-year-old Jack Russell terrier. However I did get the hint that he was desperate to go outside, mark his territory and get into the occasional barking match over a pinecone or stick. I took the leash, grabbed a bottle of water and off we went towards the vineyards of Grinzing. I let my dog run free out of principle;  only using a leash in heavy traffic or when little kids are running around yelling. Its cruel to let a dog walk through the vineyards, seeing the juicy green fields and bushes that need a good inspection, while having him on a five meter leash.

Charlie dashed off to his favorite spots, while I followed at my own pace. Towards the end of the route, I sat down on my favorite bench, the one that gives me a beautiful view of the new Vienna, meaning the UN, and the skyscrapers that emerge around it. I was daydreaming in the sun, completely at peace.... When I heard a high-pitched screech, somewhere behind me. I turned and saw a young woman, meticulously styled, yelling as if the hounds of hell had been unleashed onto the Grinzing streets.

But it was only Charlie, standing in front of her wagging his tail, looking curious.

As I walked up, the woman began lecturing me about how to take care of my dog, and that I should certainly not let it run around freely.

Stupidly I was drawn into the discussion - until gradually, it dawned on me that the woman has never had a dog.  She didn’t understand the first thing about how they think. She didn’t know that dogs who are locked up and restrained are the aggressive ones, and that free dogs are less likely to be antagonistic towards other dogs, let alone people. For this I have empirical evidence: There is a grumpy old man with two gigantic Collies living near me. Collies are bred for herding sheep and they need exercise.

The old man however walks them only once a day, and holds them on a short leash the entire time. These dogs are quiet and obedient, but the second another dog appears, they go ballistic. Once when the Collies saw my dog, the old guy let go of the leash, and I ended up with bite marks, a ripped jacket, and a scared and bleeding puppy in my arms. For whatever reason, the police did not intervene that time or any of the other times he lost control of his beasts.

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