Freedom Dog

As I drove around the corner today, our nice neighbor lady was walking her little dog.  As she saw my car approach, she waived her hands furiously to warn me about another little dog wandering in the street. I’m well familiar with this little guy, who I will herein refer to as “Foxy” – because he resembles a little red fox. That is not his real name, but Foxy is entitled to his privacy.  I stopped the car and we commiserated with each other over the fate of this sweet dog. He is frequently seen roaming our streets, often without his collar or tags. “I know” I say, “we’ve brought him back home several times already, we’ve talked to the owner, he doesn’t seem to care.”  

She is only one of many neighbors who have complained about the negligence of Foxy’s owner, who I will herein refer to as “Burning Man” or “BM” for short. I chose this moniker because his disposition reflects the type I imagine frequents the Burning Man festival: middle-aged surfer/techie dude taking pride in his laissez-faire attitude towards life, smugly above the societal expectations plaguing mankind. If you google Burning Man, among the values its participants promote are “radical self-reliance” and “communal effort”. So, Foxy’s free-riding lifestyle makes sense in this regard.  

Aside from the safety issues, Foxy will naturally relieve himself wherever he sees fit while on his daily strolls. He is especially keen on leaving his excrement in his immediate neighbor’s driveway. When said neighbor brought this to BM’s attention, he usefully suggested that she leave a receptacle of some sort in her driveway, so Foxy would know better where to focus. Evidently, BM is big on the “communal effort” value.  

Nice neighbor lady was surprised that BM was so careless about Foxy, because apparently this breed of dog is rather expensive. She went on to tell me that Foxy is a Pharaoh Hound. I don’t know my dog breeds that well, and besides, where I live, I’m mainly surrounded by designer doodle mixes (including my own), so this information intrigued me. The Pharaoh hound is a Maltese hunting dog, traditionally adept at hunting rabbits in the rocky terrain of Malta. It had been thought that the breed descended from the dogs shown in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. This would have been a cool heritage for little Foxy, but the theory was debunked by some pesky DNA studies. The first litter to be born outside of Malta was in the United Kingdom in 1963. It all makes little Foxy even more interesting.

As my husband and I take our daily walks around the ‘hood with our dog Charlie, Foxy will frequently pop out and join us. The first few times, I dutifully brought him back, ensuring he was safely behind closed doors (BM helpfully leaves his doors unlocked). Lately, we just let him follow us until we reach our house, after which Foxy makes his way back home. We made the effort to bring him back to his house a few times because it felt wrong to let him wander. However, after watching him trot back home one day, we realized that like any 1980s latch-key kid worth his salt, Foxy could manage. 

This past weekend, Foxy departed from our usual route. He was beckoned by the sound of dogs barking in another house on our street. There is a fine line between being a good neighbor and enabling a neighbor’s bad behavior by letting them shirk their responsibilities. I wrestle with this because I don’t want Foxy to be in harm’s way. However, I resent that I’m left to be indirectly responsible for his welfare because his owner can’t be bothered. As we watch Foxy depart from us, and I’m saying a silent prayer that he makes it home safely, BM comes speeding by in his minivan. He is driving erratically, apparently searching for Foxy. This is a new development. We flag him down and direct him to the neighbor’s house. 

So far, our interactions with BM have been pleasant. When we have returned Foxy to him, he is jocular, “oh, he joined you on your walk again!” As if this is a fortunate and rare happenstance, versus the reality that BM never seems to notice or even care that Foxy has escaped.  I’m so exasperated by this man-child that I lose my temper and tell him that we’ve prevented Foxy from being hit by cars, that he might want to take better care of Foxy, that I’m worried Foxy will get hurt. BM smiles and shrugs. It baffles me. I also realized that my words had zero effect on him, and the only outcome of this encounter was that I walked away angry. 

Foxy is a beautiful and good-natured dog and deserves a better owner. Not a perfect owner, but one that cares enough to keep him safe. I say this as an admittedly non-perfect dog owner. My dog sleeps in our bed, has grilled burgers added to her kibble, and is a frequent table surfer. Some might be as critical of my dog care skills as I am about BM. It’s all about context I suppose. BM possibly grew up in one of those neighborhoods where a wandering dog was part of the scenery and communal caretaking was the norm. Or he’s just irresponsible and expects the rest of the world to bear the brunt of his inactions. It does seem a bit like a metaphor for a few other current affairs going on in the world. But that’s a topic for a separate essay.

Back to today’s episode. I tell nice neighbor lady to place Foxy in my car and I’ll deliver him home. Instead of dropping Foxy in the unlocked side door, I decide to ring BM’s front doorbell.  When he answers he is his usual cheery self, greeting me with a hearty “hi!”. I simply say, “delivery for you, he was wandering the streets again” (I add an eyeroll just for effect, which was probably lost on BM). He smiles widely and says “thanks!”. 

There is a part of me that, particularly when I see Foxy without his collar, wants to rush him to the humane society or call animal welfare. A little vigilante justice I can enact on BM. It pains me to think that there is someone out there who would cherish this little guy when clearly his owner does not. Or he does and I’m just an uptight rule follower with a different approach. Years ago, when I used to do traffic duty at my kids’ school, some dad had the audacity to park where he shouldn’t have. I lambasted him for not following the rules. He told me to chill. He was in the wrong, but I also did need to chill. So, I will continue to be on the lookout for Foxy. But only if it doesn’t interfere with my own dog’s spa appointment.

This is not the real Foxy.

3 thoughts on “Freedom Dog

  1. alex rodriguez

    Will you deliver tango back home? He always finds a way to escape. He’s broken fences , opened windows and doors due To his anxiety.
    I always wonder if I am abad dog owner? I always fear I may be.. I fear my neighbors feel the same way about us when they redirect tango home on occasion.
    I feed him raw chicken and stewing beef and string cheese , he gets every couch and bed . Maybe it’s that he’s a spoiled child who feels entitled like many of the Marin kids.

    I know part of his acting out is because he wants more walks and more off leash, but he acts out and is un predictable so I have to keep him on leash. But that means also I’m not able to take him on the mountain or oak wood or up on Miwok even on leash because all other owners like to let their dogs run free and it appears that coming up to tango is their god given right and because he doesn’t want to have his space invaded. I have learned to ask out politely yell or raise up my leash too signal to others that to avoid any unpleasantness it works be helpful if they works Leash there dog. Some try others, when I ask politely if the owner can please leash their dogs I’m met with that look of, no go somewhere else this is off leash area . Not wanting to burden others , I resigned myself and him left to walking him on the sidewalks and making sure to give others always priority when passing . I’m acutely aware of others walking their dogs and I’m looking a block forward or backwards. The runners who come up on us from no where with their “well behaved” off leash dogs are a challenge because they come without notice and their dog usually wants to “sniff” without permission. And that usually occurs on the little bridge where there is no place for me to give elbow room. So I’m putting up my hands flagging them to give space or just please let us pass . My anxiety runs high I guess as well only because I’ve seen him turn from such a great boy to lashing out when he’s given no notice of boundaries invaded. turning around and going the other way when someone comes towards us and there isn’t room in the path ( yes 2’ – 5’ is crowding him) . He seems ok and relaxed when I do an about Face and move to a location that gives him space and the walkers ability to pass. As long as I show him I’m in control of him and will protect him, he relaxes and is the perfect dog. As soon as I let my guard down and he takes charge, he reacts if another little anyone comes towards him and invade his space. Unless of course it’s one of his tribe then he’s fine. He will bay at familiar faces and friends so happy to see them. To let them know they are loved and missed. He wants what any one wants – to Feel included and welcomed. With boundaries understood without feeling like a burden to others. It’s true that there are no bad dogs but bad owners. I always feel this as we go out and tango is acutely aware he’s not going. Leaving him alone even when planned for only a short while with someone else coming to watch him is always met with anxiety by him. His nose peeking out the windows . Watching to see who comes out goes. The lengths I go to to try and out fox the foxy remains a constant . I wonder what I more i can do? I would love input on how to be a better dog parent so he feels that constant state of love and safety. He was that dog as a baby found roaming the streets of Fresno. He was put into the humane society and was not thriving . They were worried he would die in the cage. He was obviously traumatized by men and water hoses loud noises . He was brought to a rescue and lived in a small apartment with several other dogs. He got along with our Suzy immediately and to watch him run is a beautiful site. He’s so fast. Every now and then we bring him up to Fernwood to run free in the hills. Which he gets so excited to do. I thought I had found a safe place for him, until the dog walkers decided it was a good place for them to take their 12 dogs. So I can’t let him be off leash if other dogs even if on leash are present. So that was a short lived idea. Do you know of an area which is isolated ? I know I’m not doing right by him. He deserves what others deserve. I kind of think of him as one with a disability. They are tolerated but not welcomed. They are different and have to adjust to life of the non disabled so the non disabled dogs and owners aren’t felt like their freedoms are squashed. If they fit in then great. I know this isn’t true. I know we want all kids and people to feel included and seen and welcomed. We cheer for them. We pride ourselves on inclusion. It just doesn’t happen for tango. It’s my fault I’m sure. I see the other dog owners walk together and enjoy a hike and because my dog who can be unpredictable I can’t participate. I have to keep him alone with space. He enjoys seeing familiar dogs. Even though he’s never touched noses with scout or zoomba and the little dog on the corner he knows they are part of his pact. His favorite is Bailey who he loves but only gets to interact with seldom. Maybe because he’s a rambunctious boy and she’s the only one who actively plays with him- so he explodes all that energy at her and maybe that’s too much of invading her space and boundaries. Mazy passed but Cara came to visit and he welcomed her with open arms and was happy to walk with her on leash. He felt safe and accepted.
    For the others who he knows , He bays happily from the other side of the street . My standing 20 feet away talking to neighbors must seem odd and stand-offish to others passing by , but it’s what gives him a feeling of safety and security .. keeping the rules is great. Watching out for others is fantastic you are a caring neighbor, and you are a very caring friend. The aggravation you mention I can only imagine is acutely felt by the recipient. I know I am always feeling shamed. By the fact tango may be an inconvenience. One neighbor who I don’t know their name said out loud while michael was walking him, “ I hate that dog” . He’s got the bad wrap. Michael hasn’t interacted with them they didn’t say to him what he had done but likely it’s because he’s An escape artist.

    Knowing someone’s story I think helps – it helps us from drawing judgements. We never truly know someone else’s challenges until we take the time to listen.
    I hope foxy remains safe . Thanks for the blog I enjoy reading them .. you tell you stories so well. tango’s mom (miss seeing your face. )

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  2. Your experience with Foxy is one a lot of us have shared. Such a sweet dog. And I wish his owner would seem to care more. We have wild animals in the neighborhood. Perhaps Foxy will fair well with a random coyote, bobcat or Mountain Lion, but I worry that will not be the case. And yes BM seems quite jovial when you return Foxy, which reads as not caring. I do have a hard time with that….
    Here’s hoping Foxy stays safe and doesn’t give Sadie any ideas….

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