I’m running along a forest path. I round a bend and see two dogs: an Alsatian and some kind of Doberman cross. Barking aggresively, they bound towards me.
I consider my options. I could turn and flee. This is the most immediately appealing idea but I realise it would just make me a more attractive prey and only delay my savaging by seconds.
I could dive into the bushes but the same would apply.
I decide to face them down – to try to psyche them out with my very humanness.
I stick out my chin, quicken my step and up my pace. The distance between us closes rapidly.
When I first started writing this column a friend said, “You should do one on dogs. You know, haha, bloody dogs!”
I nodded and smiled but dismissed the idea. The whole ‘man’s best friend is a runner’s worst enemy’ thing didn’t chime with my experience. Since then, though, I’ve had good reason to reconsider.
Back in the woods, these two vicious-looking bastards are almost within pouncing range. They don’t seem the slightest bit bothered by my humanness.
Meanwhile, I’m feeling around 90% less brave. Suddenly their owner appears, sees what’s about to unfold and gives a shout.
The dogs are instantly reminded that they’re not supposed to hunt people, even if they are running. The Alsatian returns to its master while the Doberman vanishes into the undergrowth in search of something it is allowed to chase. I smile my relieved thanks to the man as I pass.
I like dogs. I would own one myself were it not for my wife’s “furlergy” and the fact I could never pick up a freshly laid dog-egg with my hand in a plastic bag without throwing up.
I encounter dogs on most of my runs and there’s usually a stepping-over/swerving-round incident. This is OK. Everyone knows dogs have terrible spatial awareness.
But while most will ignore us runners completely, even to the point of veering blindly into our path, there’s always one who will view us as a plaything, or a prey-thing.
Big dogs loose in the woods can be scary but it’s pointless being sizeist when it comes to assessing canine risk.
I once had to sprint from a tiny Yorkie that had morphed from an old lady’s companion animal into a spitting, cross-eyed hairball of frenzied psychosis as I ran past.
It pursued me, intent on murder, until it outran the length of its extendable lead and was brought up short with a throttled yelp.
It was “breedism” that got me into trouble in my most bizarre dog-encounter. When a large poodle bounced up to me as I ran in my local park, I thought: “You’re a poodle, for Pete’s sake. What can you do?” I quickly found out.
It positioned itself right behind me and repeatedly placed both forepaws on my heel as I lifted my foot at the start of my stride. I stumbled three times before turning on the dog and shouting, “Go away!”
But only a yell from its owner, who was almost helpless with laughter, brought my ordeal to an end.
The dog was laughing too, I know it was; tongue lolling, mad eyes rolling. It had done this before. Upending runners was clearly its party trick.
What was it my friend said? “You know, haha, bloody dogs!