Thursday, August 06, 2009

What Would Mikey Do?

Tuba City Dog
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Finishing a fourth lap on the Powell High School track and making note of the extremely slow pace, I was determined to run at least eight laps before heading home. Dusk was settling in along with its cooling temperatures and I found myself pondering, “Why bother if this is as fast as you can run?”

The answer came within seconds. Something like, “Well, you do this because the day may come that you have to really exert yourself and if that happens, you’ll be better off.”

It was a Monday evening and up to that point I was the only one at the track. A half lap later along the backstretch, I noted three people entering the facility and their three dogs—two medium-sized, a third was miniature. All three were off leash.

Watching the dogs to see if they would notice me, I’d gone through this routine before without incident. However, it’s likely that the arriving party hadn’t planned on anyone else in attendance and probably hadn’t seen me from the other side of the track in the dimly-lit setting. Nevertheless, I proceeded with my running. Entering the turn, one of the dogs noticed and headed directly for me. I don’t remember if it was barking, but I slowed as it approached and said in a normal voice, “Hey there pooch,” and extended my hand out so it could take a sniff or two while still maintaining my shuffling—all seemed well as the dog passed in front of me.

But as I went by, the dog circled back around from behind and took a bite at my moving leg. It’s mouth grazed over my calf with the snapping sound of a jaw closing rapidly. Stopped, I turned to confront the animal and found it growling and barking in a very hostile manner.

Perhaps I should have simply held my ground or backed away slowly. Who knows what will result when such events rapidly unfold. And every dog is as different as is every person. Nevertheless, I chased after the dog (a technique that has worked in the past) resulting in its temporary retreat, but it returned when the pursuit ceased. The commotion summoned the other dogs and the frenzied showdown was on.

In a matter of seconds, we were in the openness of the football field with two canines circling like sharks on a swimmer in open water. (The third and smaller dog wasn’t of concern despite its threatening behavior as well.)

It wasn’t long before the owners were calling their dogs off, but to no avail. The dogs may as well have been deaf at that juncture. It appeared the owners were completely caught off guard by the presence of a stranger as well as the aggressive behavior displayed by their pets.

It seemed like five minutes had passed, but one should never trust the estimate of time lapse by another who is thrown into a tumultuous event such as a multiple dog attack. Nevertheless, there I was, ironically exerting myself beyond my wildest dreams just minutes after pondering the importance of being in shape.

Too bad I wasn’t in better shape.

During the encounter, I managed to do several things though: communicated with the owners (in not the most civil manner mind you), kept the dogs at bay with kicking feet and fist (connecting on occasion, but not effective in thwarting their attack) and intentionally travelled toward the fence in front of the stands so the attack could be limited to 180 degrees instead of 360.

After the owners finally gained control of their dogs, exhaustion was my next battle, yet free to finally leave. Naturally I was furious about what had just happened especially as I took inventory of my injuries—a deep gash on my index finder and a hyper-extended thumb. The owner approached me requesting we talk about what just happened. In my mind, the only talking required now was with the police along with his name. After several requests, he reluctantly gave his name and I retreated for home while looking closer at the splayed index finger that eventually would require a visit to the hospital and a few sutures.

Walking home in the evening’s soft summer air, I felt pretty lucky given the other possible outcomes.

* * *
My opinion of dogs has not changed regarding this event. Like people, some are good and some... not so good. Although I was furious when it unfolded, I’m not too resentful to the owners of these animals now. And dog attacks won’t cease because the details of one particular conflict were spelled out here.

Nevertheless, here’s how it is from my corner of the ring... my hope is a formidable fine will be produced for the dog owners—short of their pets being destroyed. There’s no need for anyone to lose a member of their family in this case. Beyond that though, it’s likely that there are many dog owners out there who view their pets in the same light as those parents who think their children never get in trouble or never do wrong. Such thinking is dangerous in either case. If we really love our pets as we shamelessly contend, let’s make sure we do everything we can to protect our neighbors from such offenses, before they start asking themselves, “What would Michael Vick do?”


Anonymous said...

There are no bad dogs, just bad owners.....

Morgan said...

This is said often, but certainly a dog's disposition isn't a 100% reflection of its owner, is it? If so, perhaps we should "put down" the owners when Fido is bad.

Anonymous said...

It's never all black or white, but certainly "good" owners would have better control of such "pet Velociraptors" so I vote for putting the whole damn clan, people and pets down ... humainly of course.

Morgan said...

Nice to see you maintain some degree of sensitivity there Frank.

On another note: just back from court. Along with my particular interest related to "dangerous and viscious animal(s), I sat through the entire court to listen in on teens who were appearing because they had violated alcohol laws (imagine that), another who had a traffic violation, an adult who had been cited on disturbing the peace and a vandalism follow-up regarding a youth.

Sitting in on the dog attack court case, the defendant claimed ownership to the dog attack and thus pleaded "guilty," but did say that as victim, I acted "overly exaggerated" to the dogs which led to the frenzy. I doubt he saw the initial contact that evening that started the chain of events. Nevertheless, perhaps I did act as he has accused. But how would I know? Only someone who is familiar with a particular dog(s) would know what is the proper way to act as the result of an "excited" dog as they approach a total stranger. This same response has worked in fending off other dogs in the past and the same location.

Anyway, the defendant doesn't have the money to pay the medical cost that I've absorbed as a result of this. Surprise, surprise. He has lost his job and is only making about a third of what he used to make.

It's the same story everywhere in America, isn't it?

People have enough money to feed and care for three dogs, but not enough to take care of medical bills resulting from their attacking dogs. Probably not much different than an uninsured motorist who is at fault.

Might this be a setting where a national insurance plan would help everyone involved in a case like this?

Pat said...

Sorry to read about this. First off, I am a dog owner. Second, dogs do not belong on the HS football field/track, ever. Imagine being tackled and landing face first into a St. Bernard pile … yuck.

I suggest next time that you simply stand your ground if possible. Don't run, they are predators and will chase because prey run. Summon up your best John Wayne and claim your space.

Strange dogs = no touch, no talk, no eye contact.