Most dog people, myself included, are by definition a little nuts. So at dog runs you run into cliques of nuts. Go to any dog run at prime time and you'll soon recognize the regulars. The ones there more for themselves than their dogs, socializing with and covering for each other while their own dogs run amok, sometimes even taking on the unappointed roles of "Guardians of the Run" where with skewed perception they collectively act as judge and jury. My dogs, like me, are the type of alphas that mind our own business yet still manage to invite challenge by our very presence.
Whether you're talking people or dogs, at the run it's all about dominance. I know that sounds paranoid but trust me, the reason a lot of people avoid runs is because many owners there are either in denial or flat out lie. I only figured that out when, exiting the run after an attack regulars outside the clique looked at my white dog in horror and asked me what happened because he had a nose gash that sprayed so much red blood down his chin and chest that it looked more technicolor than "Suspiria" and bloodier than a Brian DePalma film. They guessed exactly which dog attacked mine even though the clique had just blamed mine and claimed "theirs" was never aggressive - despite my having to walk it back uphill to them by its collar FIVE TIMES after it kept approaching and challenging my dog
and each time the owner could barely be bothered to stop conversing with his clique, rise from his seat and collect it. The gash required several stitches. Luckily he's never been scarred physically or emotionally.
Here's a picture of my boy fresh after a different dog attack at the run:
Last month I made a rare late weekday trip to the run, leaving minutes before prime time (about 5pm) and even my girl was attacked. Everyone saw her chasing a whining, squealing small dog and pinning it and out came the villagers with the torches, who failed to see, because of her black fur and stoic disposition (she never whines, whelps or caterwauls) that she took pursuit because she'd been bitten - for the very first time yet. Even if they had
seen - and they very well might have - people take righteous umbrage in these cases, siding with the smaller animal because they project human mores onto dogs, expecting them not to retaliate against smaller, older and/or female opponents.
I still frequent the run during clique- and issue-free, off-peak weekday hours (preferably in inclement weather) only because it's a couple of minutes from my house on over 30 acres of waterfront and they're never happier than when they're there. Here's why I still go:
I go not because of any entitlement issues or to prove any points but because they love it. My next dogs won't learn to love it because they'll never know what they're missing because I'll never take them to a run - I've learned. I'll be sticking to the beach off-season:
Last word on the dog run cliques...I once went to a Manhattan community board meeting about whether a third of a new dog run in the final design stage scheduled to replace an existing nearby mixed one should be apportioned for small dogs (like many in the city) or whether it should also mix small and large dogs. Though I had large dogs I was for the non-mixed run because when a small dog goes for a large one's jugular and a fight ensues who gets the sympathy even though the large dog is hurt? Anyway, my motives aside, what went on in that meeting was disgusting - the "clique" was for a non-mixed run and, gathered on one side of the table like it was a high school lunchroom, they argued that they policed "their" run to be free of dogfights, lied that none occurred on their watch, and that statistics proved that dogs aren't aggressive, all the while minimizing and dismissing the feelings and concerns of the small dog owners. I argued that you could find empirical evidence to support any conclusion and it wasn't a question about small dogs being hurt due to aggression but to accidents given size differentials during play, and as a large dog owner I was all for a mixed run. That's the only argument I ever won with those cliques - who knew that logic would better prevail at a community board meeting than at a dog run?
From that I learned to avoid cliques because I can get a lot more done behind the scenes working with local papers and politicos instead of dealing with public cray cray, and I'm not just talking about dog-related stuff. Though the irony is, I'm far more influential in terms of keeping the run open despite opposition from the adjoining multimillion dollar homes for those same cliques I can't stand who think they run the place.