This is the story of how judgment of those who look different from you almost got my dog sentenced to death. I will start with a brief overview of the story so you have some context but mostly I’d like to talk about my feelings and how this has affected me both as a dog owner and as a genderqueer person (this connection will be more obvious once you read the thread).
I was at the dog park one day and my dog was running around with a bigger black dog. An older person, the owner of the black dog, and I were walking together on one of the many trails in the park. Our dogs were running through the high grass next to the trail when, all of a sudden, I hear a shriek and a person scream. I immediately picked up the pace and came around the other side of the high grass to see a person standing holding their small dog, looking panicked. They asked if Izzy was my dog and I confirmed, they said that Izzy had picked their dog up and ran away with it. The older person commented that perhaps Izzy thought that the little dog was a bird (I really don’t think so as dogs sense of smell is very strong and they can recognize other dogs from a distance). I asked if the little dog was ok or if it was bleeding, after standing there about a minute with them, the small dog owner started walking away with the dog still in their arms, together with the black dog’s owner (the one that was originally playing with Izzy). At this point, I did not give the incident a second thought because dogs play with each other at the dog park and it didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary. After that, I went to the dog park for a few weeks as normal until one day I ran into someone that said to me that there was someone looking for me on the dog park’s FaceBook group. They were very kind and showed me the name of the group as well as gave me the name of the person that was looking for me so I could contact them. I contacted the small dog owner as soon as I got home and gave them all relevant insurance information, even though I was still not convinced the story unfolded as claimed. Read the thread from the FaceBook group here, everyone has been anonymized.
MY FEE FEES
(as Dan Savage would say)
Did you read the thread? Great! Glad to have you back. So now you can see why I mention that it affected me not only as a dog owner but also as a genderqueer person. Some will make the argument that I have brought this on myself, presenting outside of the binary gives rise to extra attention as well as he/she references. Actually, this was the first thing that came to my mind and I’m a genderqueer person! But, of course, presenting outside of gender stereotypes should not be cause for extra attention or an excuse for asking strangers all too personal questions, however, as unfortunate as it is, I as well as many others have been overly influenced by society’s force feeding of the binary.
My emotional reaction to this thread was that of deep sadness, that people cannot understand me and are so quick to judge. I start second guessing my own identity, whether I should pick a side of the binary and stick to it. And as you might have guessed if you read my posts normally, this is not a light thing to say as I don’t second guess myself or my identity often but this incident has shaken me to my core. (Side note, don’t worry fellow genderqueers, I will not be defecting, just went through a moment of doubt. It has since passed.) Not to mention that in this instance gendering me is wholly unnecessary since grammatically speaking, using “they” as a pronoun for the subject “the owner” is perfectly acceptable. So what is going on here that people feel the need to label (the subject is not relevant to the event but the question keeps recurring)? Does it affect the situation? I would guess it just affects their perception, and labels are just so warm and fuzzy, comforting, like hot soup on a cold day. Any insights are very welcome here as I’m at a loss for words (I bet you couldn’t tell based on the length of the post).
NOTE: I did not gender anyone in my presentation of the story, did you make assumptions about the small dog owner’s gender (in the binary)? What about the older person?
What about Izzy you say? I mentioned she narrowly escaped with her life, well, that’s the continuation of this story. The small dog owner reported the incident to the police and in Denmark if a dog bites another dog in anger, it is punishable by death. The police believed this person’s story and even though there was no proof it was even my dog, Izzy was convicted. The police called my vet and my vet explained that Izzy would never bite a dog in anger so I “only” have to pay a fine and, to my huge relief, Izzy escapes with her life. But, I can say, worrying for the fate of my dog’s life was more emotionally distressing than I could have imagined. I only left her side the past few days to go to school. Now I am afraid to take my dog to the dog park for fear that someone will claim that she has played too rough and she will be put down (no three strikes here, second “offense” and it is dead dog walking). A wrongful conviction sure makes you paranoid.
At this moment, I feel raw and exposed. I feel as though I’ve failed as a dog owner even though I know in my rational mind that I have done nothing wrong. I feel as though Izzy was judged for being of a race that people assume is aggressive, even though this does not have any basis in reality (yes, please draw parallels to racism among humans). I feel as though I was judged for being outside the gender binary even though I’m just as human as them. I feel as though our appearance (Izzy and I) make people jump to untrue conclusions about our character. I’m not sure what the point of my story is, I guess it is that everyone should take a moment to think before publicly proclaiming things that hurt others, just try to put yourself in their shoes and take a moment to reflect before pushing “post”. Actions have consequences and words can create lasting damage, words almost got my dog killed because there was a specific agenda behind those words. The people responding to the threads (link to second thread in below note) don’t take any pause before assuming the small dog owner’s story is the truth. The dynamic of groups and group mentality can be a scary and dangerous situation. So back to the original statement, think before you write, consider before you share and research before you blame because it can have significant consequences.
NOTE: There was another FaceBook thread started in a different group which gives a more in depth account of what the small dog owner claims happened. You can read it here.