Friday, April 17, 2015

A word on sidewalk etiquette

When Sparkle the Seeing Eye pup is rolling along on the sidewalk, she needs a little personal space.

A word on sidewalk etiquette

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Sparkle loves the companionship of other animals. Here she is with Bennie, our other rescue kitty besides Ernie. But I give all animals, including cats, a wide berth when we are out walking. She's certainly relaxed here, but every time she sees an "unchaperoned" cat on the loose, she starts prancing and dancing on the leash.

The other morning, we were doing our usual brisk clip around the neighborhood, with Sparkle pulling ahead out in front, me in the middle, and Porter trotting along behind -- our customary on-leash formation.

As we headed along one stretch, I spotted an acquaintance walking her dog on the sidewalk toward us. I know her dog, and he is not at all vicious but he is a young guy and exuberant.

As I typically do in this situation, I crossed over to the other side of the street to give them plenty of room to pass. Instead of affording me a wide berth, the other dog-walker took way out into the street (about two-thirds of the way toward me), causing Sparkle to start lunging and straining against the leash. It was obvious then that the other person was hoping the dogs could "greet" each other  nose-to-nose.

While the other walker paused expectantly, I gave a friendly greeting, complimented her fine-looking dog, and kept my two charges walking at a normal pace. I sensed that she felt snubbed or at least disappointed by my apparent brusqueness.

I'd like to clarify that we by no means discourage people coming up to us and asking about the Seeing Eye pups, but there is a sense of personal space when we are out walking. These walks are serious business for Sparkle. She is not in formal harness training yet, but it's essential that I keep her on task and looking ahead, not getting distracted by other dogs.  Besides, going face-to-face with another dog can be dangerous. (I posted back in September about how Sparkle got bitten in the lip through the fence by a dog that was visiting next door at a party. It prompted a scary trip to the emergency vet clinic and some expensive surgery.)

So please don't feel insulted if you see  a Seeing Eye pup out in public and the handler holds back from a close encounter with your dog. Best to just say hi and let everyone keep on rolling...  

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About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at

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