I’m still rather shaken up although on reflection I probably wasn’t in any real danger. Walking my lovely flat coated retriever, Oscar, in Beckenham Place Park as usual, I cam across three youths with stereotypical “Staffie-cross” looking dogs. One was just a tiny puppy, but the other two were young and fit. The white dog was on a chain lead and the younger tan dog ran about enjoying itself freely as any dog on its walk.
An alarm bell rang in my head that something wasn’t quite right – we have encountered unfriendly dogs and owners before in this part of the park – and I called Oscar to me and put him on his lead to keep him safe. Luckily, he came straightaway. He is friendly to a fault and usually wants to say hello to anyone, human or canine.

The owner of the tan dog called him and the dog went off in the opposite direction. The youth then started shouting and marched up to his young dog, who then cowered on the floor with that unmistakable look of sheer terror in its eyes. I called to the youth that he should not hit his dogs as he began raining blows down on the terrified dog,  whereupon he and his friend with the white dog both turned on me. Of course they didn’t want to listen to my explanation as they shouted that their dog was a crossbreed and not a pedigree dog like mine and therefore responded only to being hit as his training. I stood my ground for a while. Of course a dog wouldn’t come back to him if he shouted and hit it.

Both youths swore at me, called me a slag, and then threatened to kill me and my “gay dog” if I didn’t just walk on. This spectacle continued for a few minutes until they walked away across the Ravensbourne bridge in the direction of Downham.

I tried to call Bromley police, who didn’t answer for five minutes, and eventually called the central Met Police switchboard. Apparently officers were sent, although I had to wait in the cold, squally rain until I called the police again and asked if I could go home. Later, an officer told me that they had spoken to the youths, who were well known but not from this area, about training their dogs but that the dogs were on the lead so there was nothing further they could do. Several other people had complained about the group and verified my report.

I reiterated my concerns to the police which are that:

  1. Mistreating, and being violent towards a dog is only going to make it anxious and scared and prime it to distrust humans, thus setting the scene for an attack in the future. This is, to use a cliché, an accident waiting to happen and when it does it will be the dogs who are destroyed. In this case, as with so many others, there was nothing wrong with the dogs. The violence came from the humans.
  2. Youths like this shouldn’t be in charge of powerful dogs like this. They themselves had admitted that they were training them for fighting. They are status symbol dogs, in contrast to my beautiful “gay,” flattie, chosen specifically because of his extreme gentleness.
  3. Two youths wandering around with trainee fighting dogs in our park threatened to murder me and my dog. How can they get away with that? 

Although now warned to stay away from the park and to get some proper training for their dogs, those youths are still at large terrorising their dogs and other humans. When the inevitable happens, the dogs will be destroyed and there will be yet another outcry against dogs and their owners.

The vast majority of us dog owners just want to spend time with our beloved companions. We put a lot of time, effort and money into training and feeding and caring for them as we would care for our children. In return our companions reward us with their unconditional love and put their faith in our leadership. People like these lowlives ruin things for us and for all dogs. Actually, the more dogs I see, the more I prefer most dogs to most people.

In addition, these sorts of people ruin things for all youth. Teenage boys have been demonised largely, yet again, for the actions of those few who have been failed by their parents and society at large. I would be mortified if the Boywonder or Darling Daughter behaved in that way towards anyone, human or animal.
I can’t bear the way that our society is now so frightened of these violent criminal types that we merely shrug our shoulders and wrap ourself up even more tightly in our collective down jacket. It is for this reason that I refuse to let Darling Daughter walk Oscar alone, even though she is legally allowed to do so. Someone needs to be able to measure violent, threatening anti-social behaviour like this, which is why I always take time to report such incidents, risking being thought of by the police as a crank and a troublemaker. Luckily, this sort of thing hasn’t happened to me more than a couple of times but it shouldn’t happen at all, surely? Why should we be forced to tolerate such threats to our civilised society?