When I started hiking with a pit bull — when I adopted her in the first place — I thought I knew what to expect from people.
I’ve always had a thing for, I guess, controversial breeds. My first dog crush was a Doberman and I still desperately want one of those, one day. Some of my best friends are Rottweilers. I adore the bully breeds without exception. I like a particular physicality and function and economy of effort, in a dog. I like a lot of handler interest balanced with a certain amount of reserve and/or independent thought (and/or straight-up terrier naughtiness) and plenty of confident common sense. And I like — I know this is a loaded word when I’m talking about a pit bull, so let me be utterly clear that I’m using it 1) in the general, non-technical sense and 2) only because I don’t know another single word that so precisely captures the quality that I mean, although granted I’ve now used a whole lot of words to describe this one, so I guess I can’t claim efficiency of meaning among its virtues — gameness. I like want-to and can-do and try.
So the dogs that I’m drawn to happen to be dogs that people tend to have lots of strong feelings about. I thought I was prepared. And I was, more or less, for the reactions that I saw coming.
Some people just don’t like my dog, and that’s okay.
What I didn’t expect was the people who’d want to tell me all about those lots of strong feelings, positive and negative both.
Which is to say that on way more hikes than not, I run into somebody who wants to have a long conversation with me — or rather, at me — about pit bulls. Not about Lilo, mind. I’m almost always up for talking about Lilo; I’ve had absolutely lovely trail-side chats about my dog and theirs. Instead, about pit bulls in general. Sometimes about how horrible they are and sometimes about how we need to saaave them, but it’s the same thing either way.
It happens way more often while hiking solo than in a group. And writing this post has actually helped me figure out what exactly it is that bugs me. I’ve gone back and edited out a lot of language describing these interactions as “discussions” and “conversations.” Because you know, discussions and conversations I like! But what I’m talking about — the drive-by nonreciprocal feelings dump — isn’t that.
On the one hand, I know this is a thing that I signed up for, even if I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time. It’s part of the price for being out in the world with anything that’s a little different and eye-catching. That price is also an opportunity. Most days I’m okay with that.
On the other hand, some days I just want to go for a hike with my dog.