Posted by Doranna
Mr. Leash is Your Friend
Well, Mr. Leash is my friend. Especially when Mr. Leash is on other peoples' dogs. And I swear I wrote this before the events of the 21st and my previous blog, when Connery was attacked by the Giant Schnauzer. Honestly honestly truly. I even wrote it before the comments I saw in my SFF Net hang-out, wherein folks bitterly spoke of dealing with just this issue. It's simply one of those serendipitous things...
So how familiar is this scenario? You're out for a walk. Maybe you're on suburban sidewalks; maybe you're on a national forest trail, or maybe it's somewhere in between. You catch a glimpse of someone walking their dog--usually one of the larger versions. And then you catch a second glimpse, and your uh-oh alarm goes off, because you see no sign of leash between owner and dog.
Sure enough, the dog comes bounding your way. And what comes next? Come on, let's all say it in chorus: "Don't worry! He's friendly!"
Well, guess what: I'm not. And plenty of people have reason to feel the same. They're allergic; they don't like dogs; they're terrified of dogs; they've been attacked before, or they're just plain having some quiet time. Me, I love dogs--heck, I train and compete with them--but the stark truth is, I should never have to deal with anyone else's dog running at me without express invitation.
Okay, now imagine yourself out for that walk, and this time you're not alone. This time you have your toddler (in a stroller or not, your choice). Or you have your small-to-medium dog, properly leashed. And here comes that "don't worry, he's friendly" loose dog, with the owner some distance away. Okay, so you can be convinced he's friendly. What about that toddler? Does the toddler cry out? Scream? Dash away on unsteady legs?
Make herself look like prey?
What about that small-to-medium dog? You can bet that dog is excruciatingly aware that he's vulnerable and contained, while the other dog is loose and at full advantage. So does he bristle? Posture? Bark warning? Scurry around at the end of the lead in fear?
Make himself look like prey? Make himself look like a challenge?
And now...just how friendly is that loose dog after all?
The point is--again--none of us should ever have to wonder. If we're in an area with a leash law, then we should never be faced with that moment of concern. Whether the dog is actually friend or not is completely and totally irrelevant. The dog should be at its owner's side, obviously controlled, never giving cause for concern.
As it happens, I have been attacked, and badly bitten as well. When I was three, there was that serious bite by a second-hand family pet with an as-yet undiscovered history of abuse (she came from family friends, who afterward fessed up to why the dog might be a tad reactive). And when I was a teen, a passing German Shepherd launched a full-bore "When Animals Attack" moment my way; that one involved the ER and the police.
And of course, you all now know of Connery's history. He's a 25lb dog, and because of his jaunty, upright tail carriage, his cheerful trot, and his masculine arched neck--all traits of a good Beagle--he's been a target. A Mastiff on a long, insecure line; a loose, Dane-sized wolf-hybrid...both times, my dog survived only because I did all the right things and put myself in harm's way to do it--and because we were lucky. Things still could have gone terribly, terribly wrong for both of us. In both cases, the owners took the dogs and literally fled the scene while I was still gasping for breath. (And now, since I wrote this, the Giant Schnauzer who this time laid teeth on Connery, but it still could have been so much worse.)
So maybe it'll be understandable that I have recently acquired a professional-strength, long-distance pepper spray with a clip-on holster. No, it won't replace common sense, and it won't replace doing all the right things. (And it won't even replace luck, as I've discovered.) And yep, I might just have to deal with a snoot full of pepper spray if the wind blows the wrong way. But if I have to choose between a dead companion and a snoot full of pepper spray, guess which one I'll choose?
To get deadly serious--and I mean literally--one can turn to the local-to-me case of Harold Fish and Grant Kuenzli. Kuenzli's dogs charged Fish, who had a pistol on hand in case of mountain lion approach (not an unknown issue on some of our mountain trails, ironically exacerbated by dogs walked off-lead whose playful movement draws the lions in). Fish shot into the ground to spook them off--and Kuenzli attacked.
Now Kuenzli is dead and Fish has been sentenced to ten years. The whole harrowing incident is here in Fish's words at his sentencing, which very well sums up the confusion, the fear, the desperation, and the horror of what transpired. That he was convicted has more to do with legal dancing over recently changed self-defense laws and certain trial strategies than anyone's disbelief that things transpired other than how he describes them, and everyone's got their own opinion about the whole thing, but there's one thing for certain:
None of it would have happened at all, had those dogs been leashed.
As a follow-up on Connery, in case you haven't seen in his LiveJournal--we did attend a local trial this past weekend (and have another more distant, unfamiliar trial coming up); the first day was miserable for both of us, and both our runs were plagued by his fears and my emotional reactions to the whole situation. But with the supportive help of the local clubs, we got a second wind on Sunday and that amazing little guy came back to Double Q in the high-90s heat, finishing his Master Agility title along the way. In fact, you can see that run, the first (rather large file) video I have of us (courtesy of a friend) at this link: Connery's MX Run. And yes, all that baying he's doing is a good thing! We're gone again next weekend and I expect to go through the Saturday acclimation and confidence-building all over again, but have wistful hopes for a happy dog on Sunday...