A few days ago, Spencer and I took our first solo walk in the woods — without Soca or Sherlock — in a long time. There weren’t many people around, and Spencer was supremely relaxed, so I had him on the long lead for most of the walk. At one point in time, we neared a major crossing, so I asked him to sit and wait for me while I caught up with him and put him on the short leash to have greater control over the situation while we crossed potentially near others.

Just as I reached him, I heard a man bellow, “Get back here!” I glanced up and saw a Jack Russell Terriers had just turned down the path towards us. Some of you may know or remember that Spencer doesn’t have a great history with JRTs. His social ineptitude and their high-strung nature is generally a bad mix.

I quickly clipped the short leash onto the harness and looked up to see that the JRT had already reached us, as the owner said, “Oh great. And it’s a big one.” I feared my nightmare scenario, where an angry owner comes charging up to us to fetch his dog and sets off Spencer’s defensive reactivity.

The dogs said a very polite and quick hello: a nose touch or two, circling the bodies and then the JRT went trotting off to catch up with his people, who, thankfully, had not come for him. It was a perfect encounter for Spencer — just enough contact to satisfy his curiosity without it being long enough for him to be socially awkward and jump on the other dog.

As the JRT reached his master, I heard him say to the dog, “You’re lucky he was nice.” I couldn’t help chuckling to myself and reflecting how we label people and animals as “being” one thing or another. Had he provoked a reaction from Spencer, I’m sure he would have a totally different opinion about how Spencer “is”!


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