It was late November and too warm to snow. Brenda* and I were chatting and walking our dogs in the Oberbort, Gstaad's affluent neighborhood. Behind dark green evergreen hedges, mammoth chalets stood vacant, their shutters closed, as they are for most of the year. My dog Bizzi was free to roam and sniff the scents under every tree and bush. Brenda kept her aging and deaf terrier on a leash.
We were deep in conversation about the beauty of life, when we came upon a chalet that stood close to the road. A gardener was trimming the hedge in front. All of a sudden, a woman appeared from behind that hedge. She had immaculately coiffed shoulder length grey hair.
“Do you always walk your dog off the leash,” she asked me in perfect English.
“Uh…” I managed to utter. “Yes, uh… sometimes.”
“Well, I have a very dangerous mean dog,” the woman said. “You're lucky he’s not out today.”
I didn’t know what to say. Brenda and I kept walking.
“Is your dog mean?” the woman asked me, as we passed her.
“No,” I said.
“Well, you should keep your dog on a leash then,” she said.
“You should keep your dog on a leash,” I retorted, my back now towards her.
A door slammed behind me. We walked a few steps in silence.
“We are on a public street,” Brenda said. “She cannot tell us what to do on a public street, and if her dog attacked ours, she would be the guilty one.”
“Yes!” I said. “She was wrong to threaten us.”
We walked in silence a little longer.
“Was Bizzi on her property?” I asked. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Yes, he was,” Brenda answered. “Just a little. I think he just went about a meter in.”
“Then, why didn’t she just say say so?” I said, feeling my cheeks flush.
I then realized that the woman had been trying to set a boundary. She had been upset with good reason. My dog had crossed her property line. Had she said: “Please keep your dog off my property,“ I would have apologized and moved on. Instead she had asked me a personal question (which I had answered - mistake #1), and then she had threatened me with her nasty dog (which I had managed to ignore), and then she had given me unsolicited advice, telling me how to walk my dog (which I had copied and thrown back at her - mistake #2).
In the future, I will remember to walk Bizzi on a leash whenever walking through the Oberbort or when I am distracted. Most importantly, I will try to keep my serenity when dealing with angry people.
*name changed to protect privacy