RICHMOND, Va. — An otherwise uneventful day at the picturesque Maymont park became fraught with unease when suddenly a bright green tennis ball flew through the air just above the luscious grass, followed immediately after by an untethered German Shepherd Mix sprinting after it.
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Just a few yards away, Church Hill resident Gregory Brauer instinctively grabbed for his two year old daughter and pulled her clear.
“And as the dog caught up to the ball,” Brauer said, “suddenly this voice comes belting out from far away ‘Oh, don’t worry, Hank’s a big ol’ baby, wouldn’t hurt a fly, probably,’ and my sobbing daughter and I are just dumbstruck.”
That unconvincing voice of reassurance came from Richmond local Tim Splatten, the owner of Hank, a three-year-old German Shepherd. Despite obvious signage requiring all pets to be on a leash in public, Splatten reassured other visitors that his dog was well-trained and could likely behave properly without a leash.
“It’s not a big deal,” Splatten explained. “I’m, like, pretty sure that nothing is going to happen. He went through the 30-minute training course at PetSmart last year and got a C+, and he almost always comes when commanded. I also put five dollars in the Maymont donation box in 2016, so it’s as much our park as anyone else’s.”
Though Hank returned the initial thrown ball to Splatten without incident, witnesses described a range of displeasing behavior from the beautiful four-legged descendent of wolves, including digging in the Japanese gardens, urinating on the Dooley mausoleum, and chasing Midlothian resident Mandy Wilson as she pushed her infant son in a stroller, causing them to crash into a crepe myrtle before the dog finally heeded Splatten’s call.
“Put your fucking dog on a leash,” Wilson shouted as she dusted herself off. “This isn’t the fucking dog park, you prick.”
“See,” Splatten said, “he came back when I called, only took like seven or eight times. Why would I put a leash on him? It’s not like he ate her baby.”
After the 45-minute ordeal, Splatten called for Hank several times and they headed out the front gates, but not before the 80-pound dog had a rather large bowel movement that Brauer found several minutes later with his foot.
“Fuck that guy for making me not like dogs and for ruining these flip-flops.”