You something I really hate as an adult? Being told off by another adult. In front of children. In the school yard. Before I've had my first coffee for the day. Grrrrrrrrr!
The trouble is I can only ever think of biting put-downs later on, like say an hour after I've been for a run, had a shower, drunk some coffee, sloshed the bathwater out onto the lawn and eaten my first block of chocolate for breakfast: the usual stuff one needs to get one's head, house and daily routines in order. It is only then that a comeback might sluggishly emerge from my grey matter: "Oh yeah, I should have said that she barely has the intelligence of a forgetful goldfish and would be better served by keeping her mouth shut to enable her brain to use that one synapse to remain operational." Or, told her to "Eff Off", whichever one was most appropriate.
But I can't, and don't. Not only am I rarely able to muster a quick and witty retort, but I blush profusely. Having skin whiter than rice paper and legs like fluoro tubes means that when I go red, it's not just a slight flush of the cheeks or a blotch on the neck, I literally resemble a luridly coated toffee apple on a stick. "Oooooh look at that lady Mum, she's gone like sooooo red." Thanks kid; now my cheeks have a heartbeat of shame all of their own, nice one, really and the beads of anguished sweat add a lovely sheen to the mix.
And so it was this morning.
Sapphire and I take Milly along for our daily walk to school together. Neither one of us would ever dare leave her behind because it is something that 'ol furry face lives for (the day it was pouring with rain and we left her behind we could hear her howls of disbelief and heartache all the way across Mt Alexander Road).
The arthritis has now got a firm grip on her hips and knees and so a short, undemanding walk to and from school a couple of times a day is about the limit for her physical capabilities these days. It is very sad to see a five year old dog with such an affliction, so we make sure that she doesn't miss out on her special walkies time with us. By 8:30am, she is excitedly nudging me, limpid eyes gazing at the laundry cupboard, tail wagging, ensuring that I won't forget to fetch the lead.
Every day we walk up through the 100 year old gate, up the school footpath and past the sign that clearly states, "No Dogs Allowed On School Grounds." We ignore it because:
a) we've checked with the school principal who said it was okay for us to bring Milly in as long as she was on a lead;
b) we can't walk on the road by the school because it is a car's-width wide and would therefore stop the parents driving in to drop off their kids and/or smoosh us into the corrugated iron fencing;
c) our dog is friendly, silent and eager for her small-but-essential daily walks; and
d) it breaks my heart to see her sitting at my side, with a tennis ball between her paws, every time I run on the treadmill, knowing that I'm not allowed to throw it to her because it jars her legs and causes her too much pain and suffering afterwards.
On the way back from farewelling Sapphire at the side gate, Milly and I walk back along the path and inevitably encounter a miniature Schnauzer puppy tied to the fence who looks something like this:
Adorable yes, but annoying YES times seven. Said creature - which goes by the name of something that rhymes with Spazzy, barks at Milly and continues to dive at her and bark and bark and bark until we walk past as fast as we can.
Naturally, Milly's not too impressed either and tries her hardest to reach over and have a quick snap at Spazzy's snout, but I tug at her lead and prevent her from doing so. It is a tiresome little act that occurs four times a day - to/from school in the mornings and to/from school in the late afternoons.
Spazzy normally has a gaggle of admiring girls around her, patting her, encouraging her to shove her nose under the fence and stick her butt up in the air, and as we go by, they always say, "Your dog is lovely too, I wish they could be friends." I tend to smile and say something inane like, "Yeah, Milly's a bit jealous of other dogs, so I'd better keep on going", and, true to my word, keep on going.
This morning however, I didn't. Spazzy was barking as per usual, but wagging her tail. Milly was also wagging her tail. I allowed Milly to touch Spazzy's nose for about a second before they both tried to snap at each other. I pulled Milly back, loudly saying "NO, Milly, NO."
I was just about to move on, when the grown-up owner of the dog - whom I'd never seen before in all the days of being barked at - rushed over with her lips grimly pursed in disapproval.
"Look please don't try and socialise my dog when I'm not around. There are children here and I'm not comfortable with you or your methods."
What the---? I was so gobsmacked I merely muttered, "OK, fine," and walked away.
It was only an hour later I wanted to reverse time and snap right back at her: "Oh right, so you're happy with leaving the dog tied to the fence surrounded by poking, laughing, noisy children twice a day and it barking continuously at every dog who walks past, but heaven help if I let its poncy, over-priced pure-bred nose touch my Lost Dog's Home Special mutt.....? Haven't you got more important things to get in a snoot about? Get stuffed!"
But, *sigh*, I didn't. And won't. And this afternoon, I'll walk by, tugging Milly on her lead, blocking my ears to Spazzy's barking and the surrounding childrens' happy hellos. Anything to ensure that my beautiful girl gets to go for her walk, get patted by a few of Sapphire's mates and has a nice sniff of the base of every tree she sees on our way back home. She deserves that.