Release the hounds!!!

Once a week, I try to take my dogs out for The Big Walk. The circumtances change based on the season and the weather and the window of time I have to put into it, sometimes it’s hiking trails, sometimes it’s just neighborhood stuff. I’ve recently started exploring the system of greenbelts right around me and it’s a great combination of being new enough to feel like we’re getting away, undeveloped enough that there are cactus flowers and weird plants and rocks, and it’s close enough that we don’t have to build in any commute time. It’s been a great way to maximize our Big Walking.

My daughter decided at the last minute that she didn’t want to come, and I was a little disappointed but it’s easier to find out she doesn’t want to be on The Big Walk before we leave than while we’re out, so it was all fine. When she didn’t come with us, my oldest and largest dog, Watson, refused to budge, so he stayed, too. He sensed that this was The Big Walk anyway and probably just didn’t feel like it, no worries. So I turned my iPod back on (Cannibal Ox) and headed out.

We passed the railroad tracks and were in unfamiliar territory before 10 minutes was up, and it was beautiful. Sunny and warm, but it had rained some the day before so everything smelled great. Lots of little lizards darting across the path, and the tumbleweed crop looks about ready to break off and blow away, pretty cool. I’m on a totally unfamiliar stretch of greenbelt that will eventually lead to a playground I take my daughter to. Another 10 minutes or so into the path, I realize that we’re being hunted.

Up ahead on the left, there are two big-ass dogs hunched down and growling and hair-sticking-up. They’re watching me – the brush is too high for them to see Sheba and Ruby at my side. My dogs, as usual, are leashed, and they don’t know what’s up ahead yet. I realize some craziness it about to go down, so I fumble with my iPod to shut it off, and I dig in a little with my shoes so I can get some traction in the sand/dirt. In the 2 seconds it takes me to get straight, they’re on top of us.

My first thought is that some other owner is out walking with them and they just ran ahead, so I figure I’ll yell a little and the owner will materialize from around the bend in the path and pull the 2 big-ass dogs off, and we’ll pant and laugh about it and go our own ways. After about 40 seconds, I realize that there’s nobody coming, and I’ve got 4 fairly large dogs to try to control.

Ruby’s my smallest dog, maybe 37-38 pounds. Sheba’s the next biggest, she’s about 60 pounds. They’re both well over 10 years old, we don’t know exactly since they’re both off the street, but we know they’re at least 10 just from how long we’ve had them. The pair in front of us was made up of a pretty purebred-looking Weimeraner that was at least 110 pounds, and this really thick and evil looking red dog that was at least as big. So my dogs add up to maybe 100 pounds after they’ve eaten, and the ones snapping and foaming at us are well over 200, maybe closer to 250.

Ruby instantly tangles up my legs and gets behind me. No problem, I don’t want them fighting. Sheba is instantly frustrated by my attempts to keep her close with the leash and does this dog-yoga move and slips out of the leash. There’s a crazy circle of dog violence where she jumps between the big-ass dogs attacking us and she just goes for it. I can’t tell exactly what’s happening between the snapping and growling and yelping and foaming, all 10 feet from me in knee-high brush, but one step forward reveals that she’s going NUTS and the 2 big-ass dogs are getting the worst of it. It ends after about 30 veeeerrrrryyyyyy long seconds with her chasing them off and still growling and lunging at them. I’m amazed, either one of them was twice as big as her and they looked pretty young, but there’s still some spunk left in my old Jersey girl.

She snaps out of her furor and jogs back to me. I look her over and can’t find any evidence of the fight outside big frothy deposits of enemy-dog mouth foam. I get her collar back on her and we walk away. The 2 big-ass dogs have casually made their way to a little pinon or juniper tree and sat underneath it, kind of hiding and kind of watching us, it seemed like a pretty familiar spot for them. So I figure it’s probably over, territorial dogs are less likely to attack you while you’re leaving their territory, but I haven’t taken my eyes off them.

I’m still in early stage adrenaline mode, which for me is eerie calm. I just want to get up to the playground to check my girls over more thoroughly and give them some water and let them sit in the shade for a bit. Then the big dogs rush us again.

They’re a little farther away this time, so I have a little more than 2 seconds. I’m still very calm and I look easily around for some kind of stick and at the same time maneuver Sheba so she’s caught between my knees so I can grab her if she tries to break free and fight again, and I already know Ruby’ll just tangle my legs up and hide behind me. I spot a survey stake about 3 feet from me, casually lean forward and pluck it from the ground. The dogs are in front of us again, taking turns lunging and foaming and snapping at us.

I’m a genuine animal lover and have a special soft spot for dogs. I live with 3 rescued street dogs and 2 mix-breed kittens, etc.. But my love for my own dogs is much greater than the love I have for savage knee-snappers engaged in unprovoked attack on me or my family, so I know what I’ve got to do. I take a couple swings with the stake, and I connect with the Weimeraner on about the 3rd try. A survey stake is more like a yardstick than a baseball bat, but it got my point across, and it yelped and jumped back about 10 feet. Still made plenty of noise, but it was just background noise now. That REALLY pissed of the thick red demon dog and it increased its frothy snap-lunges. At that moment, I had the profound insight that this was some kind of crazy shit I was involved in right here, and my back sweat ran cold and the hair on my neck stood up. That’s probably the onset of adrenaline stage II, and that gave me the burst of nerves to speed up my defense, and I managed to crack the red dog alongside the head. It also yelped, and the 2 of them instantly decided to just move on. They jogged easily back to their hiding spot to wait for some kids or little old ladies to attack. As they jogged off, I noticed for the first time that they both had on nice looking collars and tags, and I got my first taste of anger about the situation – they weren’t wild dogs or street dogs, they had a home and someone had set them loose to hunt me. On the walk back, I made a note of the street nearest where it all happened.

I got the girls home and got them some water and checked them over, they were basically OK, kind of stiff and tired, but no visible injuries, so I considered us fortunate. I got on the phone with our local security office, I figured they’d write it in a book or something. Ultimately wouldn’t do much, probably, but at least they’d have some other complaint on file when someone eventually got killed. I guess it was a pretty feeble first response, but my priority was just to make sure my guys were OK, and I could deal with any other follow up, i.e. the county animal control or the cops, on my own schedule. Not 30 minutes had passed when the security guy called back. He’d gotten other complaints recently and decided to follow up to see if he could match the dogs up with some owners, so he had driven to where I described and walked out onto the greenbelt. They attacked HIM, too.

He located the owners, it was one of the houses right off the greenbelt, and they couldn’t have cared less. So not only are they setting their big-ass dogs out to roam freely, if there have been previous complaints, that means they’re doing it knowing fully well that the dogs are pretty likely to attack anyone going by. I’m sorry for what will eventually have to happen to those dogs, none of it is really their fault, but when someone angrier and better armed than me goes to deliver their own justice after some future incident, I’ve got no sympathy for the owners. If I’d had my daughter with me, I don’t know what would have happened, and if I’d had my big dog with me (or my big dog AND my daughter), I can’t imagine how I would have had even the tiniest bit of control, and someone would have been hurt. I don’t even want to think about what would happen with some little old lady and her poodle.