Good Dog, Bad Owner


“The thing is,” the male deputy said, “this area looks like a town, but in reality you’re in the country.” He paused. “In the country, we shoot bad dogs.”

“But this is not a bad dog. It’s a very bad owner,” I protested. I had just told him and his partner of my morning trauma when a neighbor’s dog attacked Sammy and me.

“Unfortunately you can’t shoot the owner.” The female deputy offered a small smile.

It’s not the first time the big black dog has acted threatening toward us. His name is Bo and he defends his territory whenever we stroll by his yard on our morning walk.

Like most dogs do.

Like Sammy does from behind the fence whenever another dog comes close to our property line.

But that morning, Bo didn’t just growl and snarl, he attacked and had Sammy’s throat in his giant locked jaws.

Bo’s owner likes to keep him off-leash when she gardens in her front yard. She has never bothered to train him, so he ignores her shouts of “stay” and “come.” My best friend called the sheriff’s office earlier in the summer when she dog sat for me. Bo got too close and his owner didn’t listen to my friend’s repeated requests that she leash her dog.

Sammy’s no angel. He’s a rescue dog with hang-ups that includes chasing cars, picking fights with other dogs, and barking excessively at birds flying over our house. He’s strong and can drag me down the block when he chases after a dog or a squirrel. I control him by using a pinch collar.

I’ve asked Bo’s owner several times to use a leash on her dog. Each time she said that since Bo only has a problem with Sammy, the problem is mine, not hers.

Well, I made it her problem. After watching Sammy struggling for breath in Bo’s choke hold and earning several bites and scratches of my own when I fought him to release my dog, I had enough. I called the sheriff’s office.

And that’s why there was two very nice officers in my kitchen. The male deputy recommended carrying pepper spray. “It doesn’t actually hurt dogs,” he explained. “They don’t have tear ducts, so it doesn’t sting them. It just confuses their scent, and so they stop.”

I love dogs. My heart ached over the thought of pepper spraying a dog because its owner is irresponsible and won’t listen to reason.

I thanked the deputies as they leave and promised I’ll consider pepper spray. But I wasn’t. I’ve never been scared of dogs. I grew up with them. In our neighborhood there are several dogs running around loose and when I speak to them with authority, they back off.

The next morning, a yellow lab that I’ve never seen before surprised me when it rushed out from behind a building. It snarled and barked, getting closer and closer. My heart beat increased and blood pounded so loudly in my ears, I thought my head would explode. The dog slunk away after I yell, but I was too worked up, too afraid to continue the walk.

The second morning I didn’t take Sammy out. “I’m late for work,” I told myself.

The third morning my bruises were swirls of ugly yellow and purple. They covered my right thigh and I had a few on my left arm. That day I stopped by the store on the way home from work and bought pepper spray.

It’s been more than a week since Bo attacked. I haven’t seen him or his owner.

I walk Sammy every morning again. I take down his leash and watch his excited twirls and yips as he runs to the door. I tie the poop-bags on the handle of his retractable leash and then make sure the pepper spray is in my pocket. Maybe I’ll forget about it in a few months, but right now its weight pulls heavily on my clothing.

I miss the walks when I listened to music and strolled through the neighborhood with relaxed arms and legs. The walks worked wonders to loosen my stiff neck and hips, the banes of a writer who spend too many hours in her office chair.

Now I walk with my free hand close to the pepper spray pocket, shoulders high and tense. I’m constantly on the lookout for dogs that may attack because their humans don’t keep them behind fences or indoors.

Bad owners. Very bad owners. I wish I could spray them instead of the dogs.


About Asa Maria Bradley

2016 Double RITA finalist, romance author, news junkie, physics instructor, and diver. Loves Norse mythology, ranch dressing, and cop shows. Lives with husband and rescue dog of indeterminate breed in Pacific Northwest. Represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Writers about sexy modern-day Vikings. More at and @AsaMariaBradley.

Posted on October 20, 2014, in Auth: Asa Maria Bradley, Dogs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. You are not a bad owner. I had to speak harshly to one of my neighbors about his dogs getting out. I don’t know where he put them, but the dogs aren’t around here any more.


    • One of the owners in our neighborhood had to put down their “friendly” lab when he attached school children waiting for the school bus. The owners tried to argue that if the kids just stood still and didn’t run around, the dog would remain calm.

      Seriously bad owners in that situation.


  2. Maybe third time’s the charm. I’m cursing at my phone – fingers too clumsy, so am switching to the laptop. Dogs who bark at me like they think I’m think I’m their next meal scare me almost into a heart attach. And I had wonderful dogs as a child. As an adult we had a half black lab-half wolf we called Wolfe after the poet 🙂 Sadly he’s no longer with us. But while I firmly believe human owners are responsible for their dogs, I also think bad dogs need to learn manners. Since it doesn’t hurt them, I’m thinking the pepper spray is a good teaching tool.


    • I feel a little bit like I’m spanking other people’s children because their parents didn’t teach them manners. 🙂 But you’re right Susan, if the owners didn’t teach their dogs good behavior, then the pepper spray surely will.


  3. As someone who has walked with you and Sammy in your neighborhood, I remember thinking how brave you are and how well behaved Sammy is because it seemed like almost all your neighbors had barking dogs and bad owners. I walk my dog like a silent ninja, trying to avoid every living thing in my path. You and Sammy can’t avoid it. 😦

    I’m glad the officers were supportive but I wish they arrested the bad dog owner or give her a hefty fine or something. I know that is not reality but wishful thinking but… that leads to creative writing 🙂


    • I thought about our walk when I wrote the blog. Remember that brown lab that came toward us, that owner still hasn’t a clue. Last time I was out walking and his doggie approached us, I gave him a stern talking to about having to spray his dog. He probably thought I was crazy, but I’m not taking any more chances.

      Ps. Love the silent ninja visual I got while imagining you and Riley out for a walk in the wee hours of the day. 🙂


      • That guy is the pure definition of a bad dog owner. We all pleaded with him to get his off leash dog. I couldn’t believe that Jamie was brave enough to grab the dog by the collar to try to pull him away. Still, that guy just stood there and wouldn’t help us 😦 To this day, that memory still bothers me. I’m sorry to hear he hasn’t learned his lesson.


  4. So sorry to read this. What happens if you pepper spray the owner?


  5. Oh geez. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. You might consider carrying a nice hefty walking stick. A stick gives you distance and more mass which can help ward off a charge before it gets going: “You shall not pass!” Plus, that sturdiness can give you your confidence back, and as you already noted, having confidence is one of the best ways to convince a dog not to challenge you in the first place. Hopefully, your neighbor got the message that the behavior isn’t acceptable and you’ll do what you have to do to make it stop.


    • A lot of the other dog walkers in the neighborhood carries sticks. I’ve tried using one, but Sammy is obsessed with sticks. He spends the whole walk anticipating me throwing the stick for him to retrieve and forgets to pee and poop. 🙂

      Maybe if I got a big Gandalf-type staff…hm, I’ll have to consider that.


  6. When I was a child I lost my very first dog in a dog-to-dog attack. Traumatic for a 7 year old to watch. So I’m hyper-sensitive to this sort of bad-dog-owner behavior. Sorry to hear this happened to you and Sammy. Is carrying bear spray legal in Washington?


    • Hi Jamie. Wow, I don’t know if I would be able to get over seeing my dog killed at the age of 7. That must have been horrible.

      I looked into bear spray as well, but the container is much larger and it turns out it’s the same ingredients as the pepper spray I chose, capsicum. So, if I have to use it, the owner should be able to just rinse the dog’s face to get rid off the spray.


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