When I used to walk Happy and Scout, our 100-pound-plus Labrador retrievers, I was often annoyed by the little-dog walkers we’d encounter, who acted as if mine would engulf theirs like Jaws off the beach at Amity Island.
Now that Happy and Scout are somewhere over the rainbow bridge, and I walk our Cairn Terrier rescues, Nutmeg and Nora, nearly every day, I appreciate how those little-dog owners felt. That’s because most dogs we encounter are substantially larger than Nutmeg and Nora. Many dogs just want to be friends, like the two neighborhood Newfoundlands, but others are better to be avoided.
For some time now, we’ve been walking past a home with two black labs that scratch at their door like maniacs as they send a ferocious notification that we’re treading on their turf. This has made me wonder if we should avoid that street. Well, now the answer is affirmative.
That’s because last week, as we rounded a well-foliaged bend a block from that house, we came face-to-face with the labs and their owner. The man struggled keep both dogs under control as they strained against their collars and harnesses to get at my dogs. Then, one of them broke free and charged at Nutmeg and Nora. I have never heard the pitiful, frightened sounds come from those pups in the two years we have had them. The offender snarled and snapped at each of my dogs as they wrapped their leashes around my legs. Meanwhile, the owner was unsuccessfully grabbing for his dog’s collar.
“You need to get your dog,” I said, helpless to even pick up my dogs because of the leashes wrapped around my legs and my reluctance to get bitten.
“I know,” he said. “But I don’t want to lunge at her and make it worse.”
I think what saved the girls was the confusion between me trying to untangle us, the man trying to grab his dog, his dog trying to grab my dogs, and my dogs squirming and shrieking.
Finally, my legs became unbound enough that I could resume walking, and I said calmly, “Let’s just walk,” to the girls. They were still busy trying to dodge the bigger dog’s advances, but it seemed to me that if we just could get some momentum walking away, it would give the owner the opportunity to grab his dog’s collar. It worked.
“I’m sorry,” I heard him say as we got our coordination back and headed down the street.
“It’s okay,” I said. “They’re dogs.”
But it wasn’t okay. It didn’t have to happen.
As we walked away, Nutmeg and Nora continuing to check behind them, and I thought about how it was a wonder that my dogs weren’t bleeding. I don’t think the bigger dog actually was able to make contact with either of Nutmeg or Nora, and I can’t find any injuries on them.
You know, when we had Happy and Scout, I never, ever considered walking them together. If one tried to take off after a rabbit (or a little dog), I knew I would not be able to restrain them. This caution takes its roots from an experience I had when I was eight-years-old. I was walking the family dog, and he took off after a rabbit, dragging me down the gravel road. I didn’t want to let go of him, because I knew we’d both be in trouble (I had walked farther than I was allowed), but I finally had to. My injuries sent me to the emergency room, and the dog was taken to the pound.
While I realize that all dogs need exercise, it’s very clear that I need to protect Nutmeg and Nora (and myself) from aggressive dogs that are off-leash. So the day after our unfortunate encounter with the two labs, I stopped in at Big Woodies on Peach Street and picked up some pepper spray. The girl behind the counter explained the different types they offered, and I picked the one that I think will work best for us. I hope I don’t ever have to use it, but it will be in hand if I need it.