Question. Are South African dogs in Cape Town’s forests not used to black people?
This of course is a rather loaded and unusual question, one I have concluded is worth asking. For the longest time now, I have been making assumptions, statements (sometimes misguided by my anger and fear) and declarations about the behaviour of some of the dogs and dog owners I have had the (dis) pleasure of encountering on my walks at the forest.
Generally I visit the forest with my family (husband and son) and whenever an incident occurs where one of the ‘friendly’ dogs pounces on our two year old, I have found that its not so much the petrified, hysterical child that the dog owner’s seem concerned about, as much as it is the dog.
The standard response to this affront is usually a long explanation of how the dog means no harm, and how it just wants to play and will definitely not harm the child. Now this may be true to a greater or lesser extent, however, I have found that it fails to pacify my unsuspecting little boy who is often daunted by these ‘friendly gestures’.
Being the two year old that he is, it is hardly expected of him to understand why that ‘haaw haaw’ is barking at him and about to attack him. Granted I am not a two year old and can therefore not speak on his behalf, nevertheless I am still present during these moments and am familiar with being on the receiving end of such barks.
It irks me to have to feel threatened in a space that is supposed to accommodate all sorts of people whether young or old, man or woman, black or white.
Having lived in this country for the last eight and twenty years, I am pretty familiar with the mentality of the people of this country, I am deeply aware of the historical background that is the back drop of our daily living. I, as the educated, and I dare say open minded individual, try not to make everything about race. Try, being the operative word. Yet experience has led me to questions that I would rather not ask, and you would rather not hear.
IS IT COZ I’M BLACK?
Yes, that’s right, I have finally plucked up the courage, thrown caution to the winds and asked the much avoided question relating to the racial aspect of my problem.
Why would I ask such a question and imply such accusations? Well, I wonder, perhaps its because on two occasions while breaking bread with my husband (incidentally white hubby) amidst the beautiful flowers, streams and trees, I have had the pleasure of having a dog come up from behind us and proceed to bark at me like I stole something. What is up with that?
Are these dogs trained to sniff out the black, or is it just me having my own private fears playing out in public spaces? If indeed it is not the dog owner’s fault, and I am reacting to my own issues, then the question would be, why would I be afraid of ‘friendly’ dogs?
Not just myself, but why would my brother, my friends and most probably a number of other people I may not know but are of the darker hue, be afraid of harmless dogs?
Are we mad?
If a dog comes charging at you at lightening speed, barking incessantly, and promising to get physical, would any one be faulted for thinking that they are at risk of being attacked?
Answer. No, threatened I do feel and so does my son, mainly because, I have experienced this to happen to us and not so much to other visitors at this particular forest. Not that I am spending my time noting who gets barked at and who doesn’t?
It is not my place or style to call people or dogs racist or any other such label, however it is my right and responsibility to protect myself and my son. I should be as uninterrupted in my conversations with nature as the next person, regardless of the colour of my skin.
Assuming that these dogs are indeed harmless, is it then perhaps a matter of them not being accustomed to seeing people like us at the forest? Is it that they do not know how to relate to black people?
I don’t know, all I KNOW is, no one should have to stress about taking a lovely walk at a beautiful forest with one’s family, or indeed by their lonesome just because the dogs may not like it.
I appeal to all those people who own and love dogs, to please understand that some of us are a bit weary of dogs friendly or otherwise.
Take a walk down the halls of history and you might see and perhaps understand where such reservations come from.
I don’t particularly dislike dogs, some of my friends own dogs, however I draw the line, when I am told that it is my fault that the dogs bark at me and my son. It is my responsibility to deal with my fears, I agree, however, dog owner it is your responsibility to keep your dog on a leash as the rules say you should.
We are all trying to get along, and South Africa is at its toddler stage of transformation, we should at the very least ask ourselves from time to time, how transformed are we as individuals, and how much do we respect each other’s rights and freedoms?
Is this transformation limited to schools, where as a matter of a rule, people need to be tolerant of one another, and is it also applying only to the human beings and not so much to the ‘best friends’ of the same humans.
I have a dream South Africa, that some day, people of the darker hue will be able to roam freely in public spaces whether indoors or outdoors without feeling like ‘The struggle continues’
I think it’s time we re- think our attitudes and mentality. This way we may consider that friendly is as friendly does. This I say in my humble opinion…