Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Problem With Billy

I’m in the park throwing the ball over and over for Charlie. She barrels after it with wild abandon because the snow and ice are gone. She goes so fast her feet kick out at angles, spraying clumps of weak grass and soft mud. Despite the melt, the wind is cold and I regret not bringing my gloves.

I catch sight of that guy who owns Billy and Samson. He’s a shorter guy, meek in stature and he owns two massive beasts. Billy is a female Great Pyrenees, a breed described as independent, somewhat stubborn nature, and may try to dominate a less secure owner. A serious worker, but very independent. “Independent” is mentioned twice for a reason.

Samson must be a Mastiff cross. He’s huge and dumb. A scar descends from his head to his muzzle. He wasn’t hit by a car, the car got hit by him. He ran into the back of a moving vehicle and cracked his skull. The vets were shocked he survived.

The owner releases them to run free around the soccer pitch. They run and jump at each other, Billy with a long lead trailing behind her. Charlie drops the mangled tennis ball at my feet. I scoop it up with the chuck-it and fling it as hard as I can and it whips around in the air, spraying drool and chunks of ball. It lands with a thud in the mud. Charlie, however, remains glued to my side. The energy in the park has suddenly changed.

Billy starts by taking off. “BILLY!” screams the owner. This is so common it's almost the official cry of the park. I wander over to the side of the pitch. Billy has run down the hill to the street. A dog walker is standing on the other side of the street, frozen in place, yelling his head off. An oncoming vehicle slows because Billy looks about to leap across the street. But instead she turns and heads back up the hill. “ASSHOLE!” screams the dog walker.

Billy is having a gay-old time, bounding around the park and drinking out of puddles. “BILLY!” screams her owner again. I feel bad for him; he told me he’s spent tons of money trying to train these dogs and everything was going so well. He really tried. But it looks like Billy’s up to her old tricks.
“Let’s get out of here. Too many idiots,” says an older man with a grey beard. He has a Border Collie who hasn’t looked away from the ball once despite the commotion.
“You mean me?” I ask. I know he doesn’t mean me but I hate that way of SAYING SOMETHING LOUDLY to one’s dog as a way of taking issue. Is that a Canadian thing?
“No, no I don’t mean you,” he replies, “if you can’t control your dogs, they shouldn’t be off the leash.” He is still not addressing Billy's owner directly.

Billy’s owner, meanwhile, has leashed Samson and is walking after Billy. No doubt if he runs for her, she’ll take off. She’s independent that way.
“Let’s just go, Charlie. Time for breakfast,” I snap the leash onto her collar and start to leave the park. I turn up the volume of my radio. But suddenly I hear more screaming so I pull out my earphones and turn in time to witness the dog walker passing by, screaming obscenities and threats at Billy’s owner, who stands in the middle of the soccer pitch, both dogs finally leashed. He doesn’t even reply to the person screaming “I know where you live!” He just stands there.
“She’s one to talk,” says someone at my elbow. It’s a woman who’s come out of her house to see what’s going on.
“You mean the dog walker is a woman?” I ask.
“She walks dogs for a couple who live in the neighbourhood. That dog she has? It’s nasty. That couple always has nasty, mean dogs.” Is Billy protecting the park?
“Poor Billy,” I say. But I mean poor Billy’s owner. He has a tough decision to make.

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