Friday, August 15, 2008

"Pet" Peeves

I like dogs... most of the time. Dogs, however, do not like runners. Maybe it's the quick movements. Maybe it's the sound of the foot strike combined with heavy breathing. Maybe it's my Zebra Print Marathon Girl Skirt that makes them think something wild is on the loose and after them. Whatever it is, dogs go into fight or flight mode when confronted by a runner. And generally there is no "flight".

Let me paint a picture for you from my morning 5 mile run.

I leave my house and cut through the park and out the back gate of the neighborhood onto the canal. There is a woman in front of me running with a golden retriever on a 5-6 ft leash. The dog is responding to her vocal commands and runs close to her on the left side. As I pass them on the right, I notice the dog is wearing a working vest so clearly it is being trained for work, is obedient, and therefore is a rare site on any running trail. I smile and say hello to the woman as I pass and continue safely on my run.

2 miles later: There is a wide sidewalk with a picket fence on the east side, 10-15 feet of grass on the west side before the curb drops off onto the 4 lane city street. I am running on the west side of the sidewalk heading south. A quarter mile ahead I see an overweight man with a small dog on a flexi leash. (For those who don't know... a "flexi" is a retractable leash with about a 20-30 foot leash span.) The dog is zig-zagging back and forth over the sidewalk. I begin to assess the situation. The dog runs to the grass. Thinking the owner will follow the dog's lead, I move to the east side of the sidewalk. The fat man doesn't move. So now, the man is on the sidewalk with the leash extending 20 feet across to where the dog is running in the grass. I quickly determine that no good will come of this situation. Either I am going to trip on the leash and likely break something as I hit the cement, or the dog will chase after me (and clearly the owner has no control over him). So I dash through the grass onto the asphault and run facing oncoming traffic until such time as I have passed the offending couple and can safely resume my run on the sidewalk.

Maybe no one else is annoyed by this. Every day runners encounter dogs off leash or owners that are unwilling to control their dog on a leash. I however am annoyed. My significant other has been bitten multiple times when he's been out running. You will never see me get within 20 yards of a dog when I am running. Dogs do not like runners. I have pepper spray that I carry when running in the dark. Maybe I should just start carrying it all the time. Then, when confronted by a situatin like this I can stand my ground whip out my spray and show the dog (or the owner?) which side of the sidewalk I plan to run on. Don't think I will? Try me.