I live right on the border of a national forest. The trail system attracts a lot of dog walkers. A LOT. Dozens and dozens of cars pull up every day and discharge their dogs into the meadow that marks the start of any given walk. If it’s a Honda Element, I can count on at least four dogs piling out; sometimes up to six. If the Element owner is meeting a friend for a walk, chances are we’re now up to eight dogs for two people.
Running into a party with eight off-leash dogs can be frightening for both me and Geardog. Face it, we as humans don’t understand dog language and we don’t know why some dogs get along while others don’t. If something were to happen in an 8-against-1 situation, there is nothing at all that a mere three humans could do about it.
Dogs don’t like to be crowded or surrounded. A working dog like Geardog does not like his human to be charged or menaced, so he really gets his guard up when dogs come racing over from a distance, which is exactly what happened today: three dogs bombed over, running 200 yards away from their human. They stopped approximately 30 feet away, one with its hackles up, barking, clearly fearfully aggressive. The human did nothing.
I put my bike down, already having called Geardog to my side, and stood there with my hand on my bear spray canister, watching the other dog as it continued growling and barking with its hackles up. I knew if I tried to ride away, the dog would just approach us from behind, which is a really bad situation. The human stood there on the trail 200 yards away, fruitlessly calling. Two dogs eventually returned to her, but the most aggressive one stayed, holding its ground.
Eventually I lifted my hands in a “WTF?” gesture to the human. She started walking over, bringing the other two dogs with her. Sigh. I noticed that none of the dogs had a collar. The human walked over, didn’t move to catch her dogs, and just kind of…looked. Eventually I said “hey, catch your dogs and go!” to which she said “your energy is AFFECTING her!”
That was the wrong thing to say to me, sparkly headband hippie chick.
What followed was an unpleasant verbal exchange that I’ve no need to recap in detail. Basically it left me extremely exasperated with this person, who found it to be no problem at all for her dogs to face me and Geardog off. She blamed my “energy” for her dog’s fear aggression, and claimed that the dog was “a puppy” to excuse its behavior, which is also the wrong thing to say to me. If the dog displays that sort of behavior when it’s “a puppy,” that’s a pretty unfortunate indication of what it will be like as an adult dog. The only really noteworthy part of the conversation was the part after the ‘energy’ comment – at which point I lost patience and told her to get ahold of her dog or I would pepper spray it. She met that with a really amazing, very practiced, wounded look and a breathless, “How about some COMPASSION?!? You fucking BITCH!”
This makes me LOL. There’s your compassion, honey.
Anyway, she took her dogs, not without difficulty and a lot of swearing (I refer you back to the “no collars or leashes” situation) and I proceeded on my way.
About 90 minutes later I was pushing my bike through a thicket of Gambel oak due to an unfortunate route choice. Geardog had ranged a few dozen feet ahead and I had just let him go, having not seen a person for at least 60 minutes and being a tad preoccupied with my task. Unfortunately, I heard a voice up the ridge, clearly calling a dog from close proximity. I immediately recalled Geardog to my side and finished huffing my way up the overgrown trail. I topped the ridge to meet an older gentleman with a yellow lab. He was calling her to heel position, to which she clearly didn’t want to go; yet she obeyed rather well and stayed by her owner’s side.
I greeted the man and apologized for my dog’s intrusion. The man explained that he was trying to keep his dog isolated due to the local outbreak of canine influenza. I said that I understood and we hashed out a quick plan to pass each other on the trail without allowing canine contact. He mentioned that he had specifically chosen this trail so that he wouldn’t meet any other people; which made me laugh as that was precisely why I had chosen that route as well. We passed without incident, he thanked me for my courtesy (in those words, too!) and we went on our separate ways.
Why are some things so hard and others so easy?