Gym Day again!
Since Turbo is so busy (the girl’s schedule is crazy), we don’t usually get our gym on every night. I mean, there’s school, there’s tutoring, there’s homework, there’s competitive swim practice, there’s piano practice, there’s yoga, there’s her after school internship, there’s ski race practice…and every single day there’s more than one of these activities. Not to mention her chores, of course. We do try to be diligent and hit the gym at least every other night.
So, we were there tonight. We did our mile, and while we were on our final lap this very strange man with two very strange dogs came up on the track. First off, I admit that I don’t like dogs. I just don’t. I also really, really don’t like owners who let their dogs wander around with little or no control over them when other people are nearby, especially children. So, this situation already put me on edge, and I was very uptight as they approached us on the track. One of the dogs was barking incessantly and when they got very near us he growled and snapped at Turbo. I pulled her out of the way and gave the man an angry glare. He didn’t seem to notice.
Turbo and I decided to head down after our encounter. She went in to change into her pants (she had been swimming for an hour and a half before our run and had hastily changed into some shorts and a t-shirt) and I told her I would wait for her in the lobby.
As I entered the lobby I see the man with the dogs at the front counter having a discussion with the lady at the service desk. She was telling him that he was not allowed to have dogs in the gym unless they were service animals. He claimed they were. As I’m listening to this discussion (I believe the man was drunk, or under the influence of some substance or another), I pause at the water fountain and get a drink next to a very little girl (3 or 4 at most). The next thing I know, one of the dogs lunges and snaps for this little girl, unbeknownst to the dog’s owner or the girl’s parent, who was nowhere to be seen. I grabbed her and pulled her behind me and backed her away from the dogs (the guy had them on like a 20 foot lead) and yelled at the man, “This is the second time I’ve pulled a child away from your dogs! Get them out of here!”
He keeps telling us they are service dogs and aren’t harmful. One of the staff walks off to discreetly call the police. Meanwhile, two other children wander up to pet the dogs and get growled at and lunged at so I pull them behind me as well. Turbo comes out of the locker room and gets the same treatment from the dogs. By this point, the cleaning staff have also formed a barricade with me between the children and the dogs. The parents are still nowhere to be seen. The man, who remained seemingly oblivious to the situation, and made no efforts to reign in his animals on their 20-foot leads, leaves. The police arrive. We give our statements and we go, on their assurance that the man was no longer near the facility.
1) Why were the dogs allowed inside the facility proper anyway? Shouldn’t the staff have required proof that they were in fact service dogs before allowing them free roam in the facility? I’ve never encountered service dogs like this and I have my doubts as to the accuracy of that tale.
2) What parents let their very small children roam free at a gym? I mean, come on, it’s not the front desk’s job to babysit your toddler while you go play basketball or whatever. What if something had happened, and I hadn’t been there in time to grab that little girl out of the dog’s way? Or the two other kids I ultimately snatched away from them? During the entire encounter which lasted for at least 15 minutes, I did not see a single parent. What is that about?
3) Parents need to teach their children more caution around animals. When Turbo was small, we talked about dogs and cats and any other animal just like we did strangers. You don’t approach a stranger dog. You don’t pet a stranger dog. You don’t pick up a stranger cat. These little kids saw dogs and made an immediate beeline for them because they did not sense the danger that the adults did almost immediately. No. That is not okay. Again, what if I had not been right there at that moment? The little girl would have been bitten, I am sure of it, and probably the other two kids as well.
All in all, it was a very strange night at the gym. Hopefully our next run will be a lot less exciting.