Dear Prudence

Help! A Kid Messed With Our Dog Despite Being Warned. Now His Mother Is Threatening to Report Us.

Each week, Prudie discusses a tricky letter with a colleague or friend, just for Slate Plus members. This week Jenée Desmond-Harris discusses her response to “Dogsbody” with her husband and fellow Slatester, Joel Anderson.

Dear Prudence,

My girlfriend rescued a small, fluffy, abused dog. We have been working on the training, but one behavior will not go away: the dog hates kids. He will growl and try to hide if one approaches him. Taking him on walks is hazardous because there is apparently an uncountable number of idiot parents who think letting their screaming spawn run up to an unknown dog and stick their hands in its face is fine. Half the time I have to pick up my dog because they will not listen when I say not to approach and my dog isn’t friendly. I actually had a mother argue with me that her kid “knows” when a dog is friendly and implied my dog would be better off put down than out in public. I told her she was better off putting a leash on her own kid.

So, my sister knows all about the situation with our dog. She came over with her new girlfriend … and the girlfriend’s 8-year-old kid. We put the dog in the upstairs bedroom and closed the door. My girlfriend explained that he was a rescue and not good around kids, so no going upstairs. The adults went out on the porch for drinks and the kid was playing on their tablet. The next thing you know, the kid comes out bawling and says the dog attacked him. He went upstairs, into the bedroom, and tried to drag our dog from under the bed.

Once we made sure the kid hadn’t been bitten, the fur flew. My sister’s girlfriend started to rant and rave about our “dangerous” dog and threatened to report our dog to the authorities. My girlfriend lost her cool. She told my sister’s girlfriend that she was a “moron” and a “bad mom” considering her kid refuses to follow basic instructions and thinks going through a private area is okay. At that point, I told my sister it would be better if they leave. My sister is furious with my girlfriend and demands an apology or she is skipping Christmas. This has my parents very upset. The thing is, I think the girlfriend owes my girlfriend an apology. We explained the situation and put our dog in our bedroom. The fact her son thought it was alright to wander throughout home and stress out our dog—that is on his mom.

— Dogsbody

Read Prudie’s original response to this letter.

Jenée Desmond-Harris: I was thinking about this in combination with the heated twitter debate this week about whether parents should be able to play videos out loud for their kids on flights, and I have to say I’m just really, really surprised a civil war hasn’t broken out in this country between parents and non-parents. I mean, the contempt for children in this letter!

Joel Anderson: It’s true. And we can both admit this is part of the reason we’ve been dreading taking our sometimes “screaming spawn” onto a plane for any reason whatsoever. Maybe I was ignorant of it before, but I really didn’t understand the intensity of resentment that some people have for children. That said, to be at least a little self-aware, I also know that many parents sometimes can be so entitled and inconsiderate in a public space that it likely rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

But for just a second, I want to linger on the way this LW seemingly talks to people. “Screaming spawn.” Putting a leash on another person’s child. Being cool with your girlfriend running up on the sister’s girlfriend in an aggressive manner after their child did something very child-like. I’m not saying that the LW is out looking for fights every day.
I will say that, you know, maybe LW should think about the way they and their partner talk to other folks.

Jenée: Right, we are both a little extra self-conscious and dread causing a disturbance, so as a result our child will probably experience air travel for the first time at 15 and won’t spend much time at adult gatherings at other people’s homes until he can be fully engaged by a chapter book and reliably follow instructions. Oh well.

Anyway, they are chaotic people. And I’m not saying that’s WHY the dog is the way it is, but its behavior kinda matches their personalities.

Joel: Lol. So the dog is an asshole because they’re assholes, eh? But seriously: Obviously they care about their very surly pet very much.

I will say this: Did they ever consider not having guests over to their home? Perhaps guests don’t quite understand how hard it is to manage their dog. And given that, especially when children are part of the equation here, maybe they should discourage guests and meet their family and friends somewhere there’s absolutely no chance for interaction with the dog. The LW said the sister understood the situation but … obviously they didn’t. Because if someone told me, “Hey our dog is an asshole who hates children,” I probably would want to keep my kid or kids away.

Jenée: Right, it was clear from the first line that they were not taking a lot of responsibility for the dog. “Taking him on walks is hazardous because there is apparently an uncountable number of idiot parents …” Ummm, no, taking him on walks is hazardous because he is a dangerous wild animal!

Anyway, I still think the sister’s girlfriend was in the wrong when it came to putting her child in danger after being thoroughly warned and then blaming the dog owners for what happened. But LW and GF are no angels.

Joel: Absolutely. At this point, I think your original advice is the right one: There’s not much for them to do if they’re not willing to apologize. They’ll just have to find out if the LW’s sister is bluffing or not.

But maybe there’s a way to mend this: Apologize for being so aggressive and insulting in their approach to the sister’s girlfriend, and say that they understand that it must have been a frightening experience for the sister and her child. Be open to the idea that they need to visit a dog trainer. And remind the sister that if they were to come over again, maybe the girlfriend’s child shouldn’t be left unattended and they can volunteer to watch him in shifts while they socialize.

Seems like it’s all too far gone right now, especially since the sister’s girlfriend already has CPS on hold. But this situation doesn’t have to be this bitterly contested. That said: it doesn’t sound like they’d have a great holiday gathering anyway.

Jenée: Not at all.