I met the most awful man today. He was walking his dog off the lead and so was I, and when I saw him in the distance he had all the hallmarks of trouble: unsteady on his feet, flat cap, one dog, walking stick. I always put our guys on the lead when I see people like that, so I leashed up all five dogs and started to walk towards my car. The man leashed up his dog and continued to stand right where he was, on the path between me and my car. I then realised he was shouting something at me, but I couldn't hear him. He started to gesture with his stick and I figured he wanted me to walk the other way. When I got within earshot I called "I'm just trying to get to my car, it's right there."
"You and your car can wait!" he shouted, "you stay there while I walk on."
"Do what you like then," I said, and set off to make a wide circle around him. Then he called something else after me and I stopped.
"Excuse me?" I shouted.
"You've too many dogs. You can't hold all those dogs on the lead at the same time."
I looked down at the dogs I was holding on the lead all at the same time, quite comfortably, and said, "I'm doing just fine, thanks. If I couldn't hold them I wouldn't walk them together."
"It's against the law to have that many dogs."
"It's not. It's against the law to have more than three unmuzzled greyhounds."
"You're breaking the law. And you can't control those dogs."
By some miracle, my dogs were not only under control, but were actually just walking along patiently. They weren't even barking at the guy, never mind straining at the leash.
"I'm controlling them fine," I said. "You're the only one around here having a problem."
"If they come near me I'll take the stick to them," he said, and as if to prove his point, he hit his own dog with his stick.
"If you touch my dogs with your stick I'll have the guards on you," I said in a very stern voice, "and there's no need to hit your own dog, he's not doing anything."
"Mind your own business!" he shouted at me.
I swear to god this is exactly what happened. He told me to mind my own business.
"Oh, do you know what?" I said, "just fuck off, you narky old bastard." (I'm not especially proud of that, but I was shaking with anger now and I needed to blow off a bit of steam.)
I walked off towards the car, him still calling after me that I had too many dogs to control and that he would call the guards on me. When I had all the guys piled into the car, I watched him for a bit. He hit his dog several more times, not savagely, but hard enough for the dog to be worried. He really could barely walk and he certainly couldn't manage a dog. He kind of reminded me of what my dad would be like if his health was a bit worse and he was a bit more narky with strangers. I know that mobility difficulties and unexpected circumstances can make people edgy and defensive, and that can cause them to become aggressive, but this was beyond the pale. I considered going after him and taking the stick from him, but then I would be the bully and I didn't want that.
The sad thing is, if he wasn't such a horrible old bollocks, I would have offered to walk his dog for him.
In the interests of balance, I should also point out that I met four other people today who were out with their dogs and we all had a lovely time, with dogs running around together and barking and a bit of chatting among the people and so forth. If the thing with the man had happened at the start of the walk instead of the end, the effect of his sour old personality would have been dissipated by the friendliness of the others. Oh well.