Dear Neighbor, I'm writing this to you as an apology for all the times I've seemed rude and couldn't explain why. When you rounded a corner, saw me with my dog and called out, "Hi there! Cute dog!", only to watch as I scurried across the road and waved, I'm sure you thought I must be crazy! When we met in the corridor a few days later, and I called my dog to me, spinning on my heel and walking away, you probably thought I was the height of rudeness. For those, and all the other times, I'm sorry.
The truth is, it was never about you. I was only trying to keep my dog feeling safe. She can be very anxious, and gets easily upset when people and dogs come too close. That statement might seem odd, because my dog now looks like the definition of obedience. The way she glances up at me, walks nicely and listens to commands makes her look like she takes on the world with practiced ease, but you can't see how long a road has taken us to this point. Or how easily one overstepped boundary could turn her back into the bolting, straining, skittering ball of nerves she was just a few months ago.
I've built my dog's world for her, making it predictable, working out routes and times for walks where she won't encounter scary things, laying the foundations of obedience in the house, taking care to observe her body language - in short, I've had to dedicate more time to helping my dog than you might think possible. The price for progress has been in how people like you perceive me.
Reactive and anxious dogs need their space, and we owners can't always explain at the same time as giving it to them. Sometimes we have to do what's best for our dogs regardless of the cost, because we can't expect the rest of the world to fit in with their special needs. It's my job to keep my dog feeling safe, and to help her continue to learn to cope with life's experiences.
I know I've confused you and hurt your feelings, I can tell when we meet without our dogs. No easy exchange of pleasantries there. And I don't expect you to go out of your way to help me or my dog. But please, accept this apology. I hope, next time you see me feeding my dog treats as we watch you from a distance, you can make more sense of our strange behavior.