We had an unpleasant encounter this morning on our usual walk. It was quiet and cold, so I let Clover off the leash, and she leapt and raced after squirrels as we strolled with Gus along the path. Mark and I were, in fact, congratulating ourselves on how good Clover is, so reliable off the leash, unlike Gus, whose instinct is to dash off and stubbornly resist coming when he's called (he gives us the side-eye and smiles). A man appeared up ahead, walking toward us, and when he saw Clover, he froze. She froze too. She didn't come when we called her. The man started yelling at her, clapping and lurching (in an apparent attempt to scare her away), and she started barking at him, as I ran toward her to grab her. Every lurch the man made sent her skittering away, barking. After I had grabbed her, he started yelling at us, "YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF LETTING A DOG LIKE THAT LOOSE! THAT DOG ATTACKED ME, I'M CALLING THE POLICE, I'M FOLLOWING YOU TO YOUR CAR AND CALLING THE POLICE!"
We were so taken aback, trying to get away/explain/apologize/contradict him all at once. A runner had come up just as this all happened, and she magically calmed the man down. I didn't really hear any of what she said (I was hustling away with my attack dog), but Mark did, and he talked to her later in the parking lot to thank her. She said something like, "I can tell you're really scared and it felt like you were being attacked," all while assuring him he wasn't, in fact, in any danger, or being attacked. She was a magical stranger, sympathetic to us and yet so kind to this man.
(We are typically so careful about letting dogs off the leash, truly. I always try to see things from the perspective of people who aren't expecting a dog, don't like dogs, are afraid of them, are unfamiliar with them, etc. I feel terrible about it, and simultaneously annoyed.)