I’m a small fit fifty-five year-old white woman with a head of white curly hair. I walk my dog, in a small park near my house that overlooks Elliott Bay on Queen Anne in Seattle. My dog is a small golden retriever. Yes, size and color matter. Last week, I showed up at the park, and there were two men with their dogs off leash–one with an Aussie Jack-Russell mix that weighed less than 30 pounds. The other man had a huge Malamute that must have weighed more than 160 pounds. The man with the Malamute was working to hold his dog by his side. After assessing me and my dog, he released the dog back to play.
I tossed the ball to my dog Juneau with a launcher sending the ball and dog flying in the opposite direction. Several throws later, the other two dogs came to take a sniff. Juneau and the Malamute exchanged a few growls. Before I knew it, they were brawling. I kicked and batted the dogs apart with my ball launcher as the Malamute’s owner pulled his dog back. The next second, I was face down on the grass with the Malamute lying on the backs of my legs. The dog’s owner wrestled the dog off of me. I’m still not clear on what the dog was doing, or how he ended up on me, but he wasn’t attacking me.
I jumped to my feet and felt a sharp pain in my left ankle.
I hobbled to a bench. The man with the Malamute said something to me, and asked how I was. I have no idea of what I said. He reproached his dog, put him on a leash, and within a few minutes he was gone. I think I indicated that I was okay, not registering that the pain in my ankle meant something was wrong. I was definitely in shock. The owner of the Aussie Jack-Russell mix came over to see how I was doing. Did I need help getting home? He noted how quickly the other man had taken off. A storm of thoughts rushed through my head. I guess this is what can happen when you play off leash, I said.
The man with the Malamute was a Black man.
He wore a name tag around his neck that reminded me of the kind tech workers sport all over my tech-city town. Maybe he was on his way into work. Maybe to one of the tech firms that allows dogs in the office. The other man was White, small to medium build, a little hyper, and nervous.
I told him that it was a relief the Malamute was gone. I could not have fended off another dog fight. Even though the Malamute’s owner was bigger than his dog, the dog’s muscular frame and lower center of gravity gave it clear advantage.
I was aware of the color, sex, and size differences the three of us presented.
I have no idea of what the man with the Malamute was thinking when he left. It occurred to me that he may also have felt that the smartest thing to do would be to get his dog out of there.
“It’s okay,” I said to Mr.Aussie Jack-Russell. I guessed that he too was trying to figure out what to do. Maybe he didn’t want to be just a bystander. He clearly felt bad. I noted that all things were not equal in our society. The wrong cop on the scene could have been trouble for the man with the Malamute. Actually, the wrong people in the park could have been trouble for the man and his dog. It pains me to think this way, but it’s the truth.
My privilege was visible.
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