Sometimes my faith in humanity is shaken. I tend to believe that all people are pretty decent, normal human beings (as in, sharing my moral code, which is pretty much Do unto others and you would others do unto you. Cliche, but workable). But sometimes...
I went to the river today, after filling out my I9 and taking some pictures of campus to share.
There I am, sitting on the bank of the river, watching people float by on rafts and innertubes, kids playing by the shore, adventurous birds swimming downriver.
There is a woman supervising two child-like adults swimming. She occasionally asks me nervously if she has a spider on the back of her shirt. She never does. She sits mostly quietly, reading some book with large print and squinting through her reading glasses, tolerating the good-natured teasing of the two in the water. One, an older man, is wearing neon green shorts and a shirt proclaiming that Red Robin be voted President. The other, around 20 years old or so, is pretending to be a dog, throwing sticks for himself to go fetch out of the current.
There are two children playing loudly in the shallows, shrieking and throwing handfuls of water at one another. Both have garish yellow lifevests on and beige swim trunks that are too large. Several times, the audience one the shore is treated to an eyeful and a raspy-voiced woman yells at the kids to pull up their drawers. I assume she is their mother.
Finally, there is a couple that appears to be training their young black lab, Java. Their method seems to be related to constant anger at the dog, at other people, at each other, and at the river. Java, in my opinion, is performing beautifully. I overhear that she is 18 months old, and is a trained service animal. I assume seeing eye dog, but neither of the couple handling her is blind, as evidenced by them playing catch with each other with the dog's tennis ball. The woman misses a catch and Java dives into the river after the ball, earning shouted threats and repeated COME HERE. COME HERE, DAMMIT, as she struggles against the current, prize in her mouth. Java reaches the woman on the shore and stands playfully, dripping, proud. The woman yanks the ball from the dog's mouth and angrily tells Java to SIT, as the man shouts COME HERE. Java, indecisive, does neither, but stands alertly, eyes trained on the ball. The woman growls and smacks Java on the snout: Java whimpers and looks the woman in the face. SIT. Java sits. DOWN. Java lies down. The woman gets angrier and stamps her foot inches from the dog's front paw. ALL THE WAY. Java puts her head on the ground, still looking up at the woman's face. Damn dog, the woman grumbles. She drops the ball in front of Java's face. Java comes up into a half crouch and snatches for the ball, earning a kick from the woman. The kick misses and the woman grabs the dog's ear and forces her to lie down again. LIE DOWN, I SAID. The man, far away, shouts GIT at the dog and hurls a large stone into the river. Java strains to go and get the rock, but the woman has her ear. Irate, the woman lets the dog go and walks angrily to the man, yelling about authority and undermining and damn dog and all sorts of things.
The raspy-voiced woman collects her children and leaves.
Java is in the middle of the river, looking for the rock. She's paddling furiously, but the current is carrying her downstream. The man throws her ball in the river. GIT. GIT IT. Java looks, finds the ball, and begins swimming back to shore. FASTER, the woman screams. Java is fighting the current faster, leaping ahead occasionally like a seal, but still losing ground. This infuriates the man.
Another dog owner has arrived with his border collie mix and innocently throws a ball for his dog.
Java's man jokingly calls for Java to "git" the new ball... Java immediately drops her ball and swims back out for the other. Obligingly, the border collie rescues Java's ball, which the owner finds amusing, handing it back to the angry woman, who is nice to him, but turns huffily to the man. Java retreives the second ball and is making progress back to shore. FASTER, comes the command, and she obediantly churns faster, holding her own against the current and making a slow drift to the shore. She finds her feet and surges through the water in big arcing splashes to come to the man's feet. He scowls at her and shouts at her to DROP IT. She doesn't want to. DROP THE FUCKING BALL. Java does. SIT. LIE DOWN. Java lies down, but the man is angry that his dog "stole" the other dog's ball. ALL THE WAY. Java is still partially in the river and doesn't want to, as her head would be underwater. The man hits her in the snout.
I am mildly outraged. Java was following commands.
The woman shouts at her boyfriend not to hit the dog because it's her father's. The man lobs the retreived ball through the air to the border collie owner, who catches it. His dog is playing with his children now, and he has been watching Java and her people with disapproval. He points out that Java was being perfectly obedient to her commands. The angry man is angry at this, and kicks at Java again. She creeps forward to the shallows and puts her head on the ground. The border collie owner calls to his children. It's time to go.
The woman has made it upriver to the man and the dog. She grabs Java's collar and drags her out of the river with it. Java wheezes and immediately sags to the ground once the woman drops her, looking upwards at the woman's face. The woman is upset and yells unintelligibly at the dog, who eventually puts her head on the ground and looks away. This angers the woman more: she snatches Java's choke collar and drags her up to standing with it. Java whines a little and scrambles to her feet, still not making eye contact. The woman grabs Java's muzzle and forces the dog to look her in the face.
The man gestures urgently towards an opening in the forest. An older man appears, wearing a faded hawaiian-print t-shirt and ragged shorts. The angry woman drops Java's head and is suddenly all smiles. It's her father, come to play with his dog at the river. He greets the couple, who are miraculously no longer angry, and says thank you to them for watching Java for a couple of hours.
I wonder if he knows what they do to her when he's not around.
Java is now the most precious animal. Everyone in the group is excited when she retrieves a ball thrown across the river (literally: the other shore) by the older man, and she is praised. She adores him. Once, the woman's control slips when Java is frolicking in the shallows. GIT she commands, pointing at her feet. STOP MESSING AROUND. The older man frowns. That's enough, he growls at the woman.
He must know.
The angry woman storms upriver with her angry man, and the older male sighs and thows a ball half-heartedly for Java. She gives him a dour look, leaps, gets the ball from the shallows, and returns, offering it to his hand. He steps farther back and chucks the ball a fair distance downstream. Java dives in and goes for it. She's getting a little tired and it's taking her a while to swim back to shore. The man sighs again, shakes his head a little and walks down to meet her where she should come ashore, which is where I'm sitting.
I ask him if Java is his. He says yes, and that he apologizes for his daughter. I ask him if he lets them take care of Java often. He looks out at the river where Java is swimming stolidly back and tells me that Java is a Post Traumatic Stress dog, usually given to veterans. She's 18 months. I nod some, and he tells me that dogs belong with veterans because humans are inherently animalistic and evil. Veterans are more evil than most, and thus should have dogs. He quotes me numbers about jails and taxes while Java clambers up from the river. He takes the ball from her and gives it a gentle toss into the woods, where she disappears in the undergrowth.
I stand up and collect my things. Java emerges from the woods with her ball and looks at me once, in the eyes, before leaping into the river.
The angry couple, upriver, are walking back, angrier, and drinking from a soda the man added to from a flask.
The older man tells me that all criminals, no matter what, should receive the death penalty.