By Dr. Parker T. Barker and Prof. Percy Pussycat
So there I am. Strolling down the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park with Peanut and Mom, or maybe the three of us are cruising around the Historic District thinking about what gorgeous house we are going to buy when we win the lottery. Probably about the same time as pigs fly…and I see a really cute Border collie walking with her owner. Typically, I start bouncing around, barking and generally showing off my great male physique and I want to go right over there and say hello nose to tail. Think this is a good idea?
But then I notice something a little different about this dog. She has a yellow ribbon prominently tied to her leash. I’ve heard about that. The Yellow Ribbon Project is a global non-profit to alert children in particular that they should approach that dog with extreme caution, and like always, ask the owner for permission first before actually getting near the dog.
The yellow ribbon is to indicate that this dog has issues. It doesn’t mean she is mean or aggressive. She might just be skittish, or nervous, or prone to getting super excited. Or maybe she just had an operation or has hurt herself and playing with a gang might make that worse. A yellow ribbon means “Proceed with Caution!”
So how do I recommend you and your family approach a dog you don’t know who is on a leash? After Mom has determined it is ok, you can walk up slowly and quietly. Slow and quiet aren’t in my vocabulary so we usually just walk in a different direction and avoid the situation all together. But if there were children with us, please no screaming and jumping around so as not to make the dog anxious or excited. Next, if you want to pet her (and again it is ok with the owner), scratch her under her chin. Don’t pet her on top of her head or on her hind quarters.
Many of us come from shelters or had a tough upbringing. A hand over my head reminds me of when my old owner used to hit me. It took me six years before I didn’t flinch when my Mom petted me on the head. I was sure I was going to get hit. But she never did hit me. And yes, I’m a slow learner but sometimes things just stick in your brain. If I think I am about to be hit, I usually react by either running away or biting. Being hit is NO fun. And you certainly don’t want to get bitten. So tickle me under my chin, please.
So when you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on her leash, I would recommend you give her space, lots of space, and let her enjoy her walk just like you are doing. This makes less stress for everyone.
Dr. Parker T. Barker received his doctorate in Squirrel Chasing and Hoovering from the University of Hartford, CT Rescue Center. He lives on Lady’s Island with his sister, Peanut and their great Mom. Prof. Percy Pussycat is a trained animal behaviourist and received his degree from the Canine and Cat Institute in London. He lives in Shell Point with his brother, Harley and devoted human family.