My good blog-friend Bijoux wrote a post a while back about her aversion for dogs, which jogged my memory banks for a story or two or three from my own young life (doesn't everything?). . .
In theory, I like dogs; I really do - loyalty and obedience, and all that (and, as a father of eight human children, I appreciate obedience where I can get it. . .) But my actual history with those of the canine persuasion is a good deal more, um, checkered.
One of my earliest canine memories goes back to when I was 2 or 3 years old, when a dog bit me on my hand. I remember almost nothing about it (including anything I might or might not have done to provoke the critter), except my crying, and my mom washing my hand in the bathroom sink. After that, I vaguely recall being a bit more fearful of dogs than the average, but thankfully, it hasn't carried through my whole life, by any means.
When I was in high school, my best friend had a dog - a fat little beagle/basset/dachshund whose stubby legs weren't long enough to keep his corpulent belly off the floor, and whom the family had dubbed 'Hippo' (I think his actual name was 'Tiffy', or something like that, but my buddy only ever called him 'Hippo', so Hippo he was, as far as I was concerned). Hippo was one of those 'doorbell dogs' who came running to the door in full threatening bark-mode whenever the doorbell rang. If someone was expected, and coming to their house for the first time, my friend would often say, just before opening the door, "No! Down, Hippo! Don't kill!" thus leaving the arriving guest a second or so to contemplate on the words 'hippo' and 'kill'. Then he'd open the door, and the guest would collapse in laughter (or relief) at the thought of this little sliding ball of pudge inflicting any harm on anything.
I'd sorta like to be 'dog people', but we really aren't. When 1F was a toddler, we got a little black lab puppy, and I'm pretty sure we ruined the poor thing, just being overly harsh with it, and making him timid. By the time we sent him back to the animal shelter, his snout had broken out in puppy-zits, and we were looking at an amazingly hefty vet bill to get them treated.
We did get one solid benefit from that poor little dog, though - he taught 1F not to go into the street. She had just learned to walk around the time we got the dog, and she was enjoying the independence that bipedal mobility afforded her. So we were training her and the dog to stay out of the street roughly simultaneously. So when the dog would drop his paws over the edge of the curb, we'd swat him with the proverbial rolled-up newspaper. The dog wasn't too bright, and he ended up on the receiving end of quite a few swats. 1F, though, was a clever girl, and she saw what happened to the dog when he went in the street, and she reasoned, plainly enough that, if you go into street, Mom and Dad will whack you; and she wanted no part of that for herself. We never had an issue with our daughter running into the street - she could run on ahead of us by 50 yards, and when she got to the curb, she'd stop on a dime and wait for us. So, you know, there's that. . .
I've spoken frequently about my bicycling hobby, and anyone who rides very many miles at all on a bicycle will sooner or later be chased by a dog. There was one dog, whose house was toward the end of one of my regular rides, so I was usually a bit tired by the time I was riding past his house. This dog was smart. Devious, even. One of the first times he came after me, he was hiding under the porch, and I, having no clue that I should even be concerned about his presence, was riding along, minding my own business, when out of nowhere, this black-brown streak of noise and teeth was sprinting across the lawn, and in no time, he was at my heels, and I was in full-panicked sprint mode. He chased me for a hundred yards or so, then trotted back to his porch, content in his own mind that he'd taken care of such threat as I posed to his master's security, while I waited for my adrenaline levels to return to semi-normal. After that, virtually every time I rode past that house, he'd run on me, coming from a different angle every time. One time, I rode onto his stretch of the road, vigilantly scanning the left side of the road, where his house was, when he ambushed me from the right. Damn thing. . .
A riding buddy eventually showed me how to use my frame-mounted pump to great dog-proofing effect. When I'd be chased by a dog, I'd unclip my pump and just point it at the dog. A few 'hunting-type' dogs would take it for a gun, and immediately back off. If the beast persisted, it looked to him like a two-foot-long stick, and he'd guage his distance to stay just out of range. I'd raise my arm to swing the 'stick' at him, but the pump had another foot or so of length tied up in the pump-stroke. So when I'd swing it, it would get longer as it swung, and often as not, crack the animal across his snout. A few whacks like that, and they didn't chase quite so threateningly anymore. One time, in the fall, I was riding past a house, and the owner was in the yard, raking his leaves, when his dog bolted after me. As I sprinted for the sake of the continued structural integrity of my ankle, the owner yelled at me. "Do me a favor!" he called. "Kick him right in the head!" Well, OK, since you asked nice, and all. . .
Another time, I was out on a ride, and maybe 15 miles from home, or so, when a long-legged dog came loping up alongside me, and just ran along with me, at an easy gait, for mile after mile. When we got to be a few miles from where he'd first joined me, I began to get concerned that he was getting to be quite a ways from home, so I broke into a sprint, to try and lose him, but nothing doing; that dog could simply outrun me, if I put it to the test. So I just kept riding, and the dog loped along, five feet or so off the roadway, as if he thought we were riding buddies, or somesuch. Finally, we got back into the city where I live. I rode up over a steep freeway overpass, and down into the city neighborhood; I had maybe another half-mile to go before I was home, when suddenly, my canine companion peeled off and disappeared into the neighborhood, never to be seen again. I'll never know if he was running away from home, or back to it, but he just buddied-up with me for 15 miles, about an hour's riding.
When our kids were small, we had several, uh, 'adventures' with neighborhood dogs. At one point, our next-door neighbors 'inherited' a dog from a deceased relative. It turned out that the dog had been rather severely abused by his previous owner, and in the course of it, he developed quite a mean streak. His favorite trick was to hide behind trees (or under porches, or wherever was handy), and then charge after an unsuspecting child, fangs bared, barking loudly and aggressively. One time, he took after 1F when she was maybe 6 or 7, on her way to school in the morning, and scared her to where she had to come back home and change her clothes. I had a talk with my neighbor, and the dog was more effectively constrained after that.
Another time, when 1F was maybe 2 years old, we were visiting friends of ours who lived out in the country, and they had a collie who loved to run in their fields, but was getting on in years, and a little cranky. We had actually ridden our bikes out to their place (towing 1F along in a little trailer), maybe 30 miles or so one way, and we were getting ready to get back on our bikes for the ride home. 1F bent down to pet the doggie good-bye, and the dog gave her a nip full on her face. It wasn't a serious, angry, I-mean-to-tear-you-up bite, it was just an annoyed, 'leave-me-alone-kid' nip. But it left four little puncture wounds, two on each cheek. When I heard her crying, and saw blood on her face, you can well believe that my paternal protective instincts kicked in, and I was all over that dog, kicking it again and again, while our friends' kids cried, "Daddy, he's killing our dog!" Quite a scene. Perhaps amazingly, our friendship survived. Jen got 1F cleaned up, and she was fine, if rather seriously frightened. I think our friends had to have the dog put down not long afterward. . .
But the story that prompts the title of this post happened a few years later. We were still living in the same house, the one just previous to our present house. The block we lived on, and a block or two in any direction, was pretty dense with school-age children, and in the summer months, there would be any number of games going on in the street, pretty much from one end to the other. Somewhere in there, a family moved in around the corner from us, and they had a rambunctious and aggressive dog that they were either disinclined or incompetent to do much about controlling. In the first couple weeks after they moved in, there were several episodes of the dog breaking loose on a warm, sunny afternoon, when there were a few dozen kids playing in the street. The dog woud go barking and running around, threatening the kids, and throwing our little corner of urban serenity into a tizzy. After the dog had run amok for a few minutes, its owner would saunter around the corner, calling its name, and, when she finally saw her dog, she would exasperatedly try to get the dog to come to her, which, of course, the dog was disinclined to do, and it took several more minutes before the dog could finally be brought to heel, and order restored.
After a few such episodes, a couple other neighborhood dads and I urged our new neighbor to get a better handle on controlling her dog, and we were told, in so many words, to pound sand. So I called the city's Animal Control desk, and informed them of the situation. I also asked what I, as a citizen, was within my rights to do, as far as threats to my own person, or those of my children; I was told that, if the dog attacked any of us on our own property, I could take whatever measures I deemed necessary to stop the dog from attacking. I thanked the person and hung up.
Sure enough, within a couple days, the kids were out playing in the street again, and here came our canine aggressor, right on schedule. I went into my house and got my baseball bat, then stood on my sidewalk whistling, and calling, "Here, boy!" The dog stopped and looked at me, not sure what he should do. For several seconds, he wavered between coming toward me, or resuming his chasing of the neighborhood kids. He took a couple steps in my direction just as his owner came sauntering around the corner, as she always did. When she saw me standing in front of my house with a baseball bat, she began to shriek at her dog to come to her, which only confused the dog even more, but it did give her time to run to her dog and rescue him from evil me and my baseball bat. As she led him back home, she directed some choice words my way. To which I simply said, "Take care of your dog; don't let him chase our kids, or you will lose him."
And you know, things were much better after that. . .