Who pays to clean muddy paw prints? Dear Labby advises

Dear Labby,

The other day I was walking my toy Poodle on leash. A woman reached down to pet Lily, and delighted for the attention, Lily jumped up and landed a slightly muddy paw on the woman’s jeans. The woman seemed very upset. She said something like, “I didn’t realize this dog was dirty!” and marched off. What did she expect when she reached down to pet a dog who’d clearly been walking outside? Couldn’t bring myself to offer to dry clean a pair of jeans, yet doing nothing didn’t seem quite right either.


My Excitable Sweetie Soiled an Unsuspecting Passerby

I agree, M.E.S.S.U.P.: It’s ridiculous to dry clean jeans. (Even the really expensive kind with pre-ripped knee-holes that look like they’ve been run over by a tractor.) That said, people are clueless. They’d never dream an encounter with a cute little lap dog could result in soiled slacks. Many who don’t have pets of their own expect dogs to be well behaved, not to mention freshly bathed, at all times.

In this case, the woman saved you the trouble of having to respond by not sticking around. Maybe if she’d been wearing a wedding dress, I’d have advised running after with an armful of sani-wipes. But I’m guessing her outburst was just momentary irritation, and going on your merry way was perfectly acceptable. Hopefully she regained perspective the minute a fire truck raced by.

In the future, however, a pre-emptive strike is your best bet. At the first hint of enchantment with your pup, warn would-be petters about Lily’s jumping – and let them know you can’t vouch for the state of her paws. Next step: Teach Lily to sit. Or lie down. Or roll over. Or any behavior that’s incompatible with jumping. That way, when the Jean Queen struts by in her two-hundred dollar denim, all you have to say is, “Lily, fall to the ground in disbelief!” Voila – no Febreze needed.