01 October 2005

No More Flight

Inspired by temperate and clear weather, I decided to walk an extra loop (for a total of four) of my street today. At the top of the hill on my first lap, a thigh-high yellow dog noticed me and started charging directly at me. I slowed down and stopped, my feet planted firmly.

"Stop!" I yelled at the dog when it was about ten feet from me. The dog didn't stop, so I followed up with my best alpha-dog, "NO!"

The dog paused and then sauntered over to me in a more friendly fashion. A black dog, also sizable, ran into the street towards me until a man behind it called something and it stopped. I let the yellow dog sniff my knuckles while the man corralled the other dog.

From his driveway, the man grunted a quiet, "Hi." There was no "They don't bite," "You have nothing to worry about," or other assuring phrase, so I kept my eye on the yellow dog while he pulled the black one back down his driveway. I wasn't even sure if the yellow dog also belonged to the man. It bounded down the street and into the next yard.

My heart was pounding and my adrenaline was still up: I was ready to fight if need be. I did a short loop at the turnaround and headed back down the street. The yellow dog started charging again.

"Max!" the man called. The yellow dog looked up the street at his owner, but then bounded off again. The man kept calling his name coaxing him further up the street, and then got slightly better results with his dog whistle. I kept moving forward cautiously.

I finished the loop at my house at the bottom of the hill and decided one loop was enough for now. I walked up and down the stairs of our deck a few times instead.

To appreciate my response better, know that I've had myriad encounters with unleashed dogs, an early one ending in a trip to the ER for me. And now, more dog stories:

A SHOW NO FEAR BREAKTHROUGH: (February 25, 2001)

So I'm on my Sunday walk to get the paper. I decided to take a detour through a nearby neighborhood (nicer than mine) that's a big loop: basically lots of little duplexes with little yards and porches. Several student types out, feet propped up, having breakfast.

As I entered the final stretch, a rapid succession of high pitched yelps filled the air. Two small dogs, as tall as dachshunds though not as long, ran towards me. A quick survey of the yard confirmed my gut feeling, no leashes.

Maybe it was the heat; the sun had decided to break through the clouds making it hot even though I was wearing shorts. Ankles and legs bare, I was ready to stand my ground. Or maybe it was the fact I completely towered over these dogs. In any case, I gave them each a stern “No.”

Usually my instinctual response would be to think the phrase, “Show no fear,” often followed by super speed sprints and rapid tree climbing. (I grew up next door to a vicious German Shepherd, and I still sport a forehead scar from a dog one of our tenants had.)

My breakthrough today was that I actually felt no fear. The phrase didn't even come to mind. I looked at these dogs and knew I could take 'em if I had to. Of course in retrospect, I think dogs are one of the animals you're supposed to act submissive around, but to get below the eye level of these pint-size pooches would mean lying flat on the ground. Not happening.

They'd nearly reached me when two voices emerged from behind a dark screen door. “Buttercup! Trixie! NO!” The dogs broke their pursuit and returned to the door for their reprimands.

I hollered a “thank you” into the darkness and walked on never breaking stride.

BLACK DOG: (10/iv/02)

Without looking, I extended my right arm, snagged the door as it was swinging open and pulled it shut. As usual, I was running late for work but not as much as I had the few days previous.

A black mid-sized dog I'd seen before was strolling the parking lot. “Show no fear,” my dog mantra, crossed my mind, but for once, I wasn't nervous. The dog was watching me as I came closer to it and my car.

Within the animal kingdom, are you supposed to stare down dogs or look away so as not to provoke them? Bears and mountain lions, they're the ones you're supposed to get big for, I think. I looked away and kept moving towards my car.

When the dog started approaching, I immediately looked at him and took a more rooted stance. I was still a couple steps from my car and had yet to unlock the door. Baring his teeth, he started to growl. Instinctively, I growled back and then added, “Don't even think about it.”

I turned to my car, did not drop my keys, and got in while he stared at me. Once the engine started, he trotted off. As I pulled out, I saw him lying innocuously on the ground a few houses over.

This may not be over but I will win.


  1. Great dog tales - You hang in there grrrl!

    I've had some unpleasant encounters myself. Like that one time I was on my bike(!) and this huge yellow beast just lounged at me and rammed me and my bike into a parked car. I thought my final hour had come. But the ulgy thing desided to let me live.

    The owner of the dog didn't even raise an eyebrow, did nothing to stop it, apologise or communicate in any way. I stod there shaking with my left thigh and leg covered in stinking saliva from my viscious attacker...

    IT'S THE GODDAMNED DOG OWNERS that should be put away... (there, I said it)

  2. Thanks! I'm glad it's not just me, though I'm sorry to hear of your bike attack. It is the owners that drive me most crazy as well. This guy at the top of the road is letting his dogs think their territory includes the top half of the street and into the woods behind where there's construction. Some of our neighbors also drive really fast, and Max just bounds across the road without any thought. I wouldn't want him to get hit, but it's a distinct possibility.