I am an animal lover.
I am also kinda scared of dogs.
When I was about 8, a German Shepherd chased me down and bit me on the ass when I was walking to the post office. I had to run and jump up onto a parked police car to get away from him. Funny story now but at the time it was pretty upsetting. I outgrew the fear for the most part, but it still hides in the corners of my brain – cropping up when I am outside and vulnerable like I was that day outside of the post office.
As one might imagine, this subtle dog phobia makes running outside a bit of a challenge.
I have been trying to get back in my running groove after a weird weeks-long slump. A few days ago the weather was decent and I decided to take an early evening run. I used to do this several times/week last year but ever since the Sherry Arnold case I have been uncomfortable running in the dark – I do live in a quiet subdivision with little crime but still. So off I went.
It was a good run. So good that I chose to take a lap around a further part of the subdivision. I don’t always do this. There is a one-mile loop that goes in an oval out and back from my front door that I usually do, but heading out into the other part of the development adds another mile. I enjoy running out there more than the regular loop – after a mild hill it flattens out for a decent stretch and there isn’t much traffic.
However, as I came down the hill leading back to my loop, I saw a man with his dog. The dog was a German Shepherd. Yeah. This made my pulse quicken twice as much as the running had.
Now, usually when I encounter someone with a dog while I am running I either cross the street or give them a wide berth as I pass at a pace that is very, very hard to maintain for long. Why the wide berth? Because I know dogs on leashes can actually become very territorial of their location. I also know that most people think they have control over their dogs when on a leash but honestly, some situations can trigger a dog to behave in a way that is beyond controlling. (I know this because once I was walking our very bad Doberman a few years ago and a neighbor stopped to comment about him and his striking looks – the dog had always been fine with new people so I wasn’t concerned, but when the man asked if he could pet him and I said yes the dog jumped at him with a snarl. Totally unexpected.)
As I came up behind the guy with his dog, I called out “is it okay if I pass?” and both the dog and the man jumped with fright. Apparently my breathing and heavy running is not as loud as it seems to me, because he didn’t know I was behind him. Of course jumping in fright because a stranger is running towards your master is not a great situation for the dog. So I gave them all of the road and had to run superfast uphill, even though the dog didn’t even bark or pull at his leash.
Right after this section is the steepest hill of the loop. Sometimes I can make it to the top without stopping. Sometimes not. This time, still keyed up from adrenaline, I ran all the way to the top and celebrated silently at my victory over both the hill and the German Shepherd.
Then I saw the pit bull. Not on a leash. With nobody around. Fuck.
I really, really want to be an advocate for all animals but honestly all the dumb assholes and hillbillies and gangsta-wannabe-thugs have bred the shit out of these dogs, creating a sort of hit-or-miss mix of pit bulls that have over-run shelters. Pit bulls have a bad reputation because people have RUINED them. It is not the dogs’ fault. It is a fact. One more piece of human shame we have to carry on our backs. I know there are nice, decent pit bulls out there – but those pit bulls are typically cared for by nice, decent people with a rider on their homeowner’s insurance. And those pit bulls are probably not out at night, running through a neighborhood alone.
I did what I had to do – I stopped running. My glorious, comeback, take-that-you-big-hill run. I crossed the street. I walked.
The dog followed me.
I kept walking away from it, until I felt like there was enough distance between us that I could safely begin running.
I ran the entire way back, which was only about 1/4 mile to my house.
I averaged a 13-minute mile because of all the walking. Whatever. I’m not really running for time anyways.
Maybe I need a treadmill.