Have you ever had a less-than-friendly encounter with a dog on a run?
I’m a dog person.
It doesn’t matter what breed, color, or size it is — your dog is likely the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. (That face! Those ears! That wagging tail! What a cutie!) If you’re out and about with your furry friend, I’ll likely tell you as much. I might even smile and make a schmoompy face at your dog. (Who’s a good boy? Who’s a gooooood boy?!?)
I often see my neighbors walking their dogs while I’m running — a husky named Charlie lives across the street, and a pit bull mix named Oreo lives around the corner. Two Chihuahuas can often be seen scampering along the canal with their elderly owner, James. Sometimes, in the winter months, I’ll even take one of my three dogs along with me for a mile or two, panting in unison as we traverse the roads and trails of our neighborhood.
But yesterday I was reminded that not all dogs are friendly to runners — and their owners are sometimes worse.
It started, as all my runs do, with a groggy plod down the street in the early-morning darkness. The five-mile loop I had planned was something so familiar to me, I could do it in my sleep. (To be honest, that morning I kind of was.) As my watch buzzed to signal the end of my warmup and the beginning of my first speed interval, I moaned loudly and cursed my coach’s name to the sky. Out of the darkness, I heard a loud noise in reply.
“Umm…hello?” I peered down the road, “Anyone there?”
From the shadows, a muscular black dog emerged across the street and stood under the glow of the lamplight. We sized each other up with wide eyes, not knowing what to do next. Finally, I began backing away slowly. In response, the dog barked and took off in my direction.
Well, then. That’s one way to get an interval workout started.
As I sprinted away, leaving a trail of fear-laden obscenities, I looked over my shoulder to see a man on a BMX bike following us.
“Help!” I cried. “HELP!”
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The man dropped his bike to the ground and took off running, yelling and startling the dog. He grabbed the dog by the scruff of his neck, restraining the dog from pursuing me further. I slowed to a walk, breathless and clutching my chest. I turned around and cautiously made my way back to the man to thank him for his help in wrangling the stray animal.
“What the bleep is WRONG with you?” Bellowed the man. I stopped in my tracks, stunned.
“You scared my dog!” The dog in question had a retractable leash attached to his collar. I looked at it, dangling from his chain collar like a cheap plastic charm.
“Your dog?” I squinted, confused. “It’s not a stray?”
“Yeah, man! I was walking him and he saw you and took off. You made me fall off my bike!”
“Wait,” I stammered, dumbfounded and openmouthed, “you were walking him? On your bike? With that leash?”
The man reached down and grabbed the retractable leash. “What the bleep is wrong with you? You can’t scare my dog like that, man!”
The anger vein in my forehead throbbed. Though I’ve never wanted to hit another human before, in that moment I wanted to release the Kraken: I can’t scare YOUR dog? You’re “walking” Cujo here in the dark, with a glorified clothesline on a pocket-sized bike. What the bleep is wrong with me, “man?” What the bleep is wrong with YOU, man? YOU ARE AN IDIOT. I WILL RUIN YOU. I WILL DESTROY YOU. I WILL STRANGLE YOU WITH YOUR MORONIC LEASH. I WILL WEAR YOUR FACE AS A HALLOWEEN MASK. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME … MAN?
The dog snarled again, snapping me out of my rage fantasy. I peered down my nose at the dog’s owner, plotting my next move.
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“I’m going to turn around and run this way.” I stated firmly. “I suggest you and your dog go somewhere else.”
I resumed my planned run, hitting the rest of my run’s intervals fairly easily, fueled by rage (and a little bit of fear of seeing Cujo over my shoulder again). As I stepped onto the canal pathway to begin my cool-down, I saw James and his two Chihuahuas, tugging at their pink leashes to greet me.
“Good morning, Susan!” James waved.
I smiled broadly and returned the greeting, happy to be reminded that most dog owners are like James. As I crouched down to scratch the two tiny dogs between the ears, I couldn’t help but revert to my schmoompy ways:
“Who’s a good boy? Who’s a goooooood boy?!?”
About The Author:
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke