Friday, September 17, 2010

Going to the dogs

It was supposed to be a peaceful walk. I even left my ipod at home so I could just focus on the sounds of the night, maybe meditate a little bit (if you can technically meditate while moving) on what God has been teaching me and de-stress from the day. That’s what I was looking for last night when I started my walk around our neighborhood about 8:30. It was a little late, but I stayed close to the house. Turns out, being within 20 feet of your house does not ensure safety.

I’m not the kind of person who dislikes animals. My family has an unfortunate history with pretty much every pet who made its way into our home, but I like animals. We just don’t have the time or desire for a pet right now. However, we are pretty much situated in the middle of pet crazy neighbors who think that if one dog is good, five is even better. That’s fine with me, but I do believe that leash laws and pick up your own animals’ poo laws still exist. So I am never too happy to find my foot in a vaguely recognizable mess within my own yard, and I was especially perturbed when a dog came running towards my toddler last week leaving her the option of being attacked or jumping into the road. The owners were right behind the dog holding the leash. Unfortunately, if the leash is not attached to the dog, it doesn’t work. Who knew? Dennis grabbed Wren in enough time for the dog to realize it was a three on one fight and for its owner to jog over, put that pesky leash back on its collar and giggle. No harm, so I grumbled a little and forgot about it.

Then last night I encountered Cujo. Walking on the sidewalk across the street from my house, I heard a dog barking and growling and then felt it breathing on my left calf. It had jumped out of a dark alley and was inches from my leg looking for a reason to strike. I’m seven months pregnant, holding my car keys and pretty much frozen to the pavement at that point. I cannot remember what to do if a dog attacks, or how to keep one from attacking. All that keeps going through my mind are the bear safety videos Dennis made me watch before we went hiking in Oregon. I vacillated between rolling into a ball and playing dead and trying to find a tree to climb. That’s all I could remember, and I couldn’t get straight in my head which one to do when because I got bored halfway through the videos and told Dennis all I had to do to be safe from a bear was run faster than him. So, for some reason I put my hands in the air like I was being arrested and backed away saying stop in a relatively calm voice. I made eye contact, decided against it, looked at the pavement, kept backing up and realized Cujo was following me, still growling. This dog was not huge, maybe up to my knees, but it had teeth. If it can bite me, I don’t really care how big it is. Plus, it was not in a particularly good mood, so I was not having positive feelings about this situation. And I’m not sure how good my fighting skills would have been since it’s getting hard to punch around my ever expanding belly. The car keys seemed like an option, but that’s all I had. I kept backing, and when I decided to back into the street and try to get to my house, it didn’t attempt to come with me.

Once I made it to the hallway, fear evaporated and anger replaced it. This was supposed to be my relaxing walk. This is my neighborhood. I pay HOA fees! Why do I have to worry about dog attacks? Maybe the owners didn’t know the dog had escaped from its yard, and that’s the only thing that kept me from leaving a message on Animal Controls emergency line. Most of the other walkers had disappeared by the time I was chased into my house, so I figured the owners would realize Cujo had escaped the next day and deal with it before he amputated anyone’s leg.

The thing is, Wren likes dogs. I don’t want to teach her to be scared of them, but we do teach her that you don’t run up on them or touch them. We ask permission from any owner before we go near them because I understand that people can be as threatening to animals as animals are to people. I’m just looking for the same thing and really hoping the poo, leash-less animals, and attempted dog attacks don’t escalate. All of this has happened in about a two week period, so I’m praying it is a coincidence and not a sign of things to come. I don’t want to be the person who reports someone’s dog. I also don’t want to be the pregnant woman in the hospital unable to receive very much medical treatment because I’m pregnant. What happens when a dog bites you and certain antibiotics and pain meds can’t be used due to risks to the baby? Not finding out the answer to that question would be great. And even worse than that, I don't want to be the mom of a child who is attacked by a dog. My mind won't even go there.

I’m trying to think as a Christian how I should handle this, and I know it’s probably to talk to the owners personally first. However, I don’t have the ability to link the poo with the correct dogs DNA, and I am not going around a blind alley corner to find out whose yard Cujo resides in. We’ll see. I’m attempting another “relaxing” walk tonight, but I may have my pepper spray in hand this time. I don’t usually carry it because I’m just stupid enough to accidentally spray myself, but I’m willing to take that risk if Cujo goes into full attack mode. Maybe I need to find an indoor relaxing activity.

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