It’s not there; I checked.
I checked my kids’ baby books, and there’s no entry for the first time your child is falsely accused of terrorism. Maybe it’s not such a common occurrence in this hemisphere, but my son hit this landmark at the wizened age of 14. Maybe I should back up and explain.
This weekend, we treated ourselves to a delightful (and free) afternoon enjoying the spring sunshine at the Faith City Kennel Club dog show. It was our first live dog show, and we were enchanted long before we entered the front door of the J.S. Bridwell Ag Center. Throughout the parking lot, amongst the travel trailers and rows of dog pens, people were walking and caring for the most entertaining range of dogs, extremes from baby miniature Chihuahas that would fit in your back pocket to Bull Mastiffs you could hitch to a plow. My daughter couldn’t stop squealing and pointing, “Mom! Look! Oooh! Daddy, Daddy! Looook!” After that, her voice rose to a pitch that only the pedigree dogs could hear, but they didn’t seem to mind.
The Faith City Kennel Club must consist of some serious professionals, because for all the hundreds of dogs and people, the atmosphere was calm and orderly. We roamed down each aisle, falling in love with each breed we saw. The dog trainers, for the most part, seemed pleased by the enthusiastic admiration our obviously dog-loving children were lavishing in their directions. Not a single one refused our request to photograph their dogs. Many invited the kids closer to pet and stroke the dogs, invitations that all three kids (okay, and mom, dad, and Uncle Waggy) were happy to accept. They patiently answered our questions and told us about their breeds with the loving pride usually reserved for parents showing off baby pictures to adoring grandparents.
Which brings me up to the terrorism threat. My oldest son, bowled over by the friendliness of the crowd and thoroughly pleased with the afternoon’s activity, uttered his fateful words. He said it would be “awesome” if he could pet ALL the dogs. That’s it. That did it. You see, despite that dozens (possibly hundreds) of dogs were being walked, bathed, groomed and handled all around us, many more were inside cages and clearly off limits to him. We did not approach them too closely.
A woman (presumably a dog owner/handler) sitting next to a cage we were passing, wrinkled her face into a shocked mask of horror. “What a terrible thing to say!” she gasped. “Don’t even joke about that!”
We were all a bit puzzled by her intense reaction. You see, he wasn’t joking. He really did think it would be awesome if all the dogs were outside cages so he could pet them. After all, the ones who were outside cages that we’d been privileged to pet had been awesome. We didn’t think that was a terrible thing to say. But the stranger continue to berate him, and his dad assured her that he meant no harm to her safely caged animals, he just like petting dogs. Seems to me like a reasonable sentiment for a kid at a dog show. People who hate dogs don’t generally attend these events.
We walked on, eager to put some space between ourselves and the crazy dog lady. If that’d been the end of the incident, we’d have brushed it off with little more thought. Within seconds, we’d been invited to pet a fluffy English Sheep Dog who clearly appreciated the attention and a friendlier owner was chatting to the kids about the breed. Before we rounded the next corner, though, an official in a suit and badge caught up to us to deal with a complaint against my son.
You see, the crazy dog lady who’d been inattentive enough not to notice that my son was a kid who simply liked dogs (again, something you might expect at a dog show) had tracked down a judge and attempted to have my son thrown out of the dog show. We were flabbergasted. What makes a person so twisted inside that she launches a vendetta against a child she’s never met for expressing a fondness for dogs at a dog show? The judge was friendly and seemed to realize that our child, supervised as he was by 3 adults, posed no great harm. He was simply doing his job. Somehow the crazy lady had associated my son with PETA, an extemist activist group which has been involved with animal related terrorism.
We were informed that at some point in space and history, PETA representatives had sabotaged a dog show and set all the dogs free, causing mass chaos and aggression among the loose dogs which led to injuries. Obviously, that would be cause for alarm and security action. The question remains, how do you make the monumental leap of logical fallacy from, “It would be awesome if all the dogs were out of the cages and we could pet them!” to “I’m a PETA activist and I’m going to run around throwing all the cage doors and setting the dogs free!” Especially when she’d already been reassured by the child’s parent and uncle that affection, not harm, was meant by the remark.
After a moment’s talk, the judge left and we were free to enjoy the rest of the show. We admired some impressive Great Pyrenees, oohed and ahhhed at the Corgis led around the ring, and petted a truly remarkable 9-month old Bull Mastiff named Kevlar. Kevlar was my favorite, and I’m determined to own one someday, after I outgrow my Beagle attachment. We came to no permanent harm from the incident, just a confused son and some natural parental resentment over a stranger berating our son in public and baselessly accusing him of terrorism.
I’m afraid the reputation of the Faith City Kennel has been permanently harmed, though, in our eyes. We no longer think of them as the friendly, professional dog lovers running a magnificent dog show. They’re now the mostly friendly, professional dog lovers and one bitter, humorless mean woman. She should go home and pet a dog. Might do her good.