Many people are more comfortable with their pets than they are with humans. I know this from personal observation.
On my daily hike around the neighborhood, I meet people out walking their dogs. Frequently, as we approach each other, the owners begin talking out loud to their pets in an obvious effort to avoid talking with me. And they almost always use a goofy, high-pitched voice like they’re sucking helium and speaking to an infant.
“Come on Nibbles! We’re almost home! Just a little further and you can have a treat! Would you like a treat! I know you like treats!”
I make a friendly effort to wait until I’ve passed them by before I roll my eyes.
It gets even more awkward when they talk to their dog about ME.
“It’s OK Doofus! He’s a stranger but he won’t hurt you! Do you think he’s going to bite you? He’s not going to bite you. Leave the man alone. Let’s go, Doofus!”
It so happens that they’ve judged me correctly — I won’t, in fact, bite their dog. In fact, I think the risk is so slight that anyone they meet is likely to bite their dog that it could probably safely remain unsaid.
But yesterday morning I experienced the apex of awkwardness. Ahead of me I saw a young man, perhaps in his mid-20s, standing in the grass along the path. He had a miniature, long-haired dachshund on a leash. A jogger came from the other direction and passed by. The dog owner and his dog immediately set out after him, about three feet behind his heels. After perhaps 20 yards, the jogger looked back over his shoulder. The dog owner explained, “He’s chasing you.”
Mind you, the dog was on a leash. It would have been doing no chasing if the owner hadn’t been chasing along with him.
About that time, the three of them passed by where I was walking. The dog owner and his dog immediately gave up their pursuit of the jogger and began following right behind me. I heard the guy say to his dog, “Do you want to smell his legs?”
I found this decidedly uncomfortable and determined to give him about six seconds to stop before I turned around and told him his behavior was odd and unacceptable. But I didn’t need to do that. After five seconds, they dropped back and stopped.
I guess the dog didn’t want to smell my legs after all.
(NOTE: The names have been changed to protect innocent animals that are not responsible for the behavior of their owners.)