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.