An Open Letter To White People: Please Control Your Dogs

April 21, 2014  |  

Dear White People,

We need to talk about your dogs, specifically how nobody gives a solid sh*t about them.

Yeah, I know, that was pretty mean and harsh to say. And the last time I tried to have a conversation with you all about your dogs it was in reference to Michael Vick and a bunch of your brethren sent me angry emails and Facebook messages, including a death threat from some animal rights activist, aimed most ironically at my dog. But in the interest of moving us along truly into a post-racial society, I feel most compelled to try my hand at reasoning with you all again. And straight up, good white folks, let me just say that I don’t want to be friends with your damn dogs.

Seriously, the lack of dog etiquette has really become a nuisance in this here civilized society. You know the kind of society I’m talking about. It’s the kind of society in which people don’t take up the entire sidewalk with a Cadillac Escalade-sized baby carriage and Ace the German Shepherd at the same time – all because they are scared to walk in neighborhoods they are still in the process of gentrifying. The kind of society where it’s best to leash a dog at all times, but more specifically in public places like parks or public pavements, where there might exist people who have a legitimate aversion to Ace? You know, like allergies or just a general fear of dogs? Yeah, those kind of civilities. My dear white folks, you have to admit that the inability of some of you to consider the needs and comforts of your fellow human being is a little self-centered.

But if you need a little more convincing, here is a prime example of what I’m talking about:

One of my favorite warm weather pastimes is to get my Jill Scott on and take long walks around my mixed-income Philadelphia neighborhood. Not to sound cliché, but there is really something special for me about being out in nature – no matter how sparse it is in urban areas. Most times it means crossing the avenue into the West Side of my neighborhood, where not only the major park trails are located, but the majesty of some of the mini-mansions, which inhabit the neighborhood, create a nice visual scene during my stroll.

Anyway, I was out having one of my walking therapy sessions when a heavyset white woman with jet-black hair and equally dark black sunglasses, comes walking towards me on the opposite side of the pavement. With her is a chocolate lab, who thankfully was on a leash. As we neared the moment when our paths would officially cross, I prepped myself to share the awkwardly pleasant smile that usually occurs during these interracial meetings. Instead, she put her head down like she didn’t see me. No biggie for me, because I wasn’t really trying to talk anyway. However, as she walked by, her dog walked over to me and started sniffing my leg. He was so close to my leg that I could feel his breath through my black yoga pants. I fully expected for her to tug at the dog’s leash and pull him closer to her in the same guarded fashion she had exhibited to me personally moments before. However, she did nothing. And the dog, I guess realizing that I was cool or whatever, moved on to other smells on the path.

“Yo, that is f**king rude as sh*t,” is what I yelled at the passing lady and her dog.

Granted, my reaction might be a bit jarring to some. I mean, the entire interaction lasted no more than a few seconds. And it should also be noted that I don’t fear dogs – I always had them as pets growing up. I even ran a dog walking business for a short while. However, I personally find your white sister’s lack of decorum equally jarring, particularly having the audacity to not only avoid eye contact with me, but to think it was okay to then let her dog invade my personal space.

Now I know that some of you white folks out there reading this might think I am being a little too sensitive. It’s only a dog. And you can’t help a dog being a dog, including the smelling things. Some of you might even be preparing to type that right now in the comment section. However, do know that you do not have the right to dictate somebody’s supposed comfort with a strange animal–because that’s what your little Fluffy is to me–a stranger, and a stranger with fangs and the ability to leap. And while your dog might be loving and caring to you and your friends and family members, there’s no telling how it feels about me. For all I know, your dog could be racist against black people.

Or your dog could have entitlement issues.

There is something extremely paternalistic and authoritative in thinking that your dog has more of a right to a neighborhood or sidewalk than I do; that he has a right to inspect me and then give me clearance to pass by you; that he could do this without provocations or even permission. In fact, his owner doesn’t even have to say a word, because unlike the chocolate lab, I am a stranger here. A foreigner, or worse, an intruder. Even as we live in the same zip code and pay taxes into the same city coffers, this woman’s decision to allow her dog to sniff my leg and invade my space gives subtle confirmation that I do not belong there.

I guess all this should come as no surprise, as historically speaking, some white people have been using dogs as weapons against black people for quite a long time. Like the time when your people used dogs to track down and torture enslaved black people who had escaped. Or how your people used dogs (along with water hoses) on black youth in the 1960s during the Birmingham Campaign. Or just like the time your people bred dogs called the “Boerboels,” which are a combination of several attack breeds (including Rottweiler, German Shepherd and Doberman), kept for the specific purpose of keeping the native South Africans away from your people’s colonized property (including mines and farmland stolen from the natives). Heck, we don’t even have to go that far back in history as a report from last year tells us how your people’s law enforcement agencies, particularly the Los Angeles Sheriff Department Canine Special Detail, has managed to dramatically increase its police dog bite rate among minorities over the last eight years.

What I am saying is that within this so-called innocuous gesture of letting your dogs freely invade the space of people, especially black people, exist some very real racial motivations, and therefore, dangerous aims. This includes the belief that your dog has more value in life than I do. And while I am not at all surprised by these subtle agencies or twisted beliefs, I am no longer willing to concede to this dehumanizing behavior. That is why this “letter” is not so much of a plea to your decency, but rather a statement of intent.

Basically, this letter is a last chance to get your dogs in check. It is also an opportunity for you good white folks with good non-racist dog etiquette to spread the word to your socially dysfunctional brethren that they should really cut it out as they are ruining it for the rest of you all. If those of you with bad dog etiquette don’t take heed to this warning, I will be forced to bark on you like you’ve never heard before. Plus, I do have dog mace.

You have been warned.


Your friend,




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