Running Peeve #2: Off-lead Dogs
This peeve, truly a pet peeve, involves pets of the canine variety. Not to be culturally insensitive to dog owners, but off-lead dogs scare the bejesus out of me while running. Let’s be clear: I love dogs. I own two bulldogs myself—one raised from puppyhood, the other a rescue…neither of whom, surprisingly enough, run (okay, no bulldogs run but if you ever happen to meet a bulldog that runs, please let me know. That shit would crack me up.).
Most pet owners who walk or run with their dogs unleashed utterly trust their dogs. They do not expect their perfectly calm and focused pooch to startle at a runner coming up from behind. They do not expect their fully obedient dog to bark at a runner headed toward them. They do not even consider the possibility of their sweet, affectionate hound lunging with no warning at the throat of said runner, ripping out the carotid artery of this potentially dangerous creature with their sharp canines, spurting the human threat’s dark red blood all over the pavement, to protect their person whom they love without boundaries. I, said runner/potentially dangerous creature, on the other hand, do.
As a runner, I take responsibility for my own body and well-being. Car drivers may not see me, cyclists may not see me, horses or dogs may not see, hear or smell me…so I try my best to be aware in advance of any obstacles or dangers and steer safely around them. When I see a dog, any dog on or off lead, I slow down. If it’s not obvious, I ask the dog walker which side they would like me to pass on. If the dog owner has no control over their dog, I have no routes for safe passage. I would rather turn on my heels and change direction than chance a leg or throat on the judgement of some random person who, for all I know, could be a wily serial killer that uses their dog as a weapon to immobilize innocent victims. Not a likely scenario, but, please once again see the part about taking “responsibility for my own body and well-being.” I have to consider all the options.
I recognize this running pet peeve will raise some dog owners’ hackles. However, as a dog owner, I know unequivocally that any dog can bite, even if not all will during their time on earth. Having been a runner and known runners who have had off-lead dogs bark at them, chase them, run at them, or some combination of the above, I’d rather see owners err on the safe side. Most do. Many keep walking calmly with their dog on leash as I run past. Many move with their dogs to the side of the path for me. Many stop, even kindly sit their dogs as I run by. I will continue respectfully to give dogs a wide berth and I know most owners will reciprocate because who knows? I just may be that random runner who happens to be a wily serial killer.
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