The unbearable whiteness of the liberal corgi owner

There is no dog that I hate. I love most dogs. There are no bad dogs, only bad owners. And there’s a dog owner I loathe. She’s a neighbor; a white woman whose outrageous behavior and rule-breaking comes easy to her.

Some backstory: I live in the suburbs and my backyard opens up to a scenic public path. Neighborhood rules restrict me from having a fence. A canopy of green, many people walk along this path, and as they do I often feel my presence is a reminder of the diverse dreams Reston was built upon. My family has been the only black mainstays in the neighborhood for 33 years.

As a part-time dog caretaker of Piper, my sister’s shih zhu, one of the first things I learned is that it doesn’t matter if you think the dog is cute and harmless if someone is ultimately afraid of your dog. Piper is a harmless dog, but I always put her leash on when she’s around others. Because I am Black, and I know it’s easy for my actions to be seen as something threatening to a white person, even if it’s just my dog jumping all over them. And, besides, it’s good manners.

Last summer, my Mother and I were in the backyard weeding and mulching when we “met” Harvey. I was covered in sweat with wild allergies and suddenly there’s a strange dog staring me in the eye. In my yard. I slowly stood up and looked around wondering if this was a prank. Harvey’s owner stood on the path and smiled in an overly saccharine manner. My mother – who is fearful of dogs – had stopped weeding and frowned.

“You want to get your dog?”  I said in a calm determined voice.

“Oh, he’s just saying hello,” she replied.

“But that doesn’t matter, I don’t want him in my yard.”

She stood there and pretended that she didn’t hear us.

For most of my life, my mother would tell us she didn’t “like” dogs, which was always said cloaked in fear. As a child of the rural South, she was chased by a dog on more than one occasion, and grew up watching the police on the news terrorize black protesters with dogs as the Civil Rights movement marched on. Her life with us meant she has had to steadily overcome her fear, even going so far to love our Piper as much as I do. One time she even went on a trip and left the dog a note. But just because she’s overcome her fear of “some” dogs doesn’t mean she enjoys strange dogs jumping up on her.

To have someone’s dog thrust upon you while you’re standing on your own property is disrespectful, and this particular rudeness is what white entitlement allows for. And let’s also remember that the US has aloooooooooong history of terrorizing black people with dogs, even to this day.

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