Friday, April 06, 2007

DON'T CROSS THAT STREET

I enjoy walking my dogs, although they can be an unruly handful when they see another dog, a squirrel, a bicyclist, a skateboarder, a stray morsel of food, a stick … You get the idea. Anything and everything can excite them.

We set out recently on an evening walk. Before we reached the sidewalk, a neighbor’s dog appeared from behind the bushes across the street. Beside him ran his visiting friend, and this time the visitor kept running. I yelled for him to stop, but he raced in front of a passing pickup and stopped directly in front of my dogs. I watched the hair along his spine bristle.

My dogs were unnaturally quiet and well-behaved. No barking, growling, leaping or attacking each other to claim the latest find. That is normal behavior for them, behavior that generally scares off any potential new friend they come across on our walks. I would have told them how proud I was of them, but this new dog had all my attention.

I do not believe he intended my dogs any harm. His original objective seemed to be making new friends, until he suddenly realized the other dog had not followed him across the street, and if the new dogs were unfriendly, he was outnumbered. He retreated across the street, with me yelling over and over, “You stay over there. Don’t you dare cross that street!” Both dogs wanted to cross, even tried to cross, but my yelling confused them.

I think it also confused the poor man on the other side of the street at the end of the block.

I noticed him several times, just standing on the corner looking in my direction. Finally, he crossed the street, stood on that corner and again stared in my direction. At the time, I felt a sense of relief that there was someone nearby in case anything did go wrong. But later, as we were returning home from our walk, I realized that from where he was first standing, he could not have seen the dogs I was yelling at because of the curve in the road and the steep slope across the way. No wonder he stood on the corner longer than necessary.

Don’t cross that street. It sounds like good advice for someone about to unload anger on an unsuspecting passerby. An angry man tends to vent at whoever is handy – children, mate, subordinate, stranger or even friend – and often wanders afield of what is actually inciting him to verbally attack another person. The one on the receiving end can’t see the “dogs” that initiated the outburst.

We live in a fast-paced, stress-filled society. It is easy to become overwhelmed and yell at innocent bystanders, but it doesn’t solve the problem or dissipate the anger. Part of growing as a Christian is learning to stand against the temptations of the devil, and anger is certainly one of his ploys.

I can laugh as I wonder what the man on the corner must have thought when he first heard me yelling, although I wasn’t angry at the dogs, just trying to protect myself from the prospect of going down in a tangle of leashes and flailing paws.

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