It’s been what seems like years since I’ve lived in my parents home, though it’s not been that long. Their little rancher is nestled between two other houses on what was once a cow pasture. We often like to joke that even though we are surrounded by Hallowed ground, the only ones to probably have died in their yard were some cows. But that’s not the point here…
If you travel to the other end of my parents’ road, you find a development nestled between farm country and the small town we always called home. In that development is where my grandmother lives now that grandpa has passed. Since it is summer here and we are a dog-loving family, Mom and I often park at Grandma’s to take the dogs for a long walk through the development. (There’s no sidewalk where my parents or I live, and I’m grateful for the wilderness and isolation that surrounds us sometimes. Walking dogs is not necessarily one of those times.)
Today we walked through the neighborhood like any normal summer day. Though Mom started off by trying to walk my big girl Zoey and I walked the three smaller dogs, we quickly switched back to our normal ways (me with my two dogs, and mom with her’s). We were almost done walking when we started to hear barking. Right beside us there were these two dogs fenced in a backyard that would not stop yapping their jaws at us. Imagine this: a farmer’s fence for horses (three slats and some poles to hold them up) but made of white plastic, much shorter (about 4 feet high), and with no wire or mesh to keep dogs from getting through in between the slats. Behind the fence were these two dogs and a pool, which ironically, was surrounded by an 8-10 foot fence. As we continued to approach, just trying to pass quickly, things got a little haywire. So many things happened at once, I don’t know where to begin…
Mom’s dogs got scared and yappy, so she walked them to the other side of the road. My two decided to be the barkers and protectors, so trying to pull them across the street was a losing battle. There’s nothing like trying to fight with a muscular 60 pound giant and a 20 pound mini terrier. So I decided to move them slowly along the sidewalk on the same side as these other two massive dogs. In all of the mayhem, all I can tell you is that they were massive, much more muscular and strong than even my Zoey is. They were colored brown and black and reminded me of a mix between a bulldog and a boxer, though bigger. Fatter. But muscular. And scary.
The larger dog was clearly just barking for the heck of barking at people who were too close to his fence. He/she didn’t seem to have the energy or the motivation to try much harder than walking along the fence line and letting out some vicious-sounding barks. The smaller dog acted rabid, like it was out for blood. Within seconds, it had its front legs up on the top rung of the fence. It’s back feet quickly followed up to the second rung. In my mind, I just kept praying the dog wouldn’t jump over… or fall over for that matter. A loose dog with my two dogs would have been horrible, maybe deadly.
As I continued to move along the sidewalk, the smaller of the beasts kept running alongside me, climbing up the fence, and then (thankfully) back down again. It took what felt like five hours (but was probably only a few seconds) for it to start slinging spit and snot, it was that upset.
Then there comes the lady who I thought would save the day. The owner popped her head out the back door. I figured no person living in a quiet neighborhood would want their dogs barking their heads off at some poor stranger who was just trying to enjoy a peaceful walk. I myself would never want my dogs making more noise than necessary. Plus, after the second time her beast jumped onto the fence, I thought her brain would kick into paranoid mode and try to come and get the giant thing off the fence and into the house. Sometimes humans are disappointing…
The reality of the situation is that I kept moving and her dogs kept snarling. She stood at the door watching. I finally yelled to her asking if she planned to come get her dogs. Her response was, “They’re in my f***** yard and I don’t have to f***** do anything with them. It’s your problem.” Boy was that the wrong response…
Now before I explain this second part of my story, let me just say that never in my life would I ever want to kill any being. Besides maybe a mosquito or an annoying fly, I tend to get pretty upset about death. Like the time I hit a squirrel with my car because it ran out in front of me… I called my mom bawling my eyes out. Or the time when my husband and I were dating and he told me about how he hit a deer? I about got sick with terror. I cannot even stand to see the carcasses of ANY animal on the side of ANY road without feeling kind of sad for them. Sometimes I even send them a mental “I’m sorry.” So I am a complete animal lover. I mean, I don’t want to cuddle up with a gator or a snake, but I’m all for animals, especially dogs. So this lady not wanting to take care of her own dogs or try to help me prevent injury for them or my own? It didn’t sit well with me.
I responded. Simply. Loudly. Firmly. And I told that lady, “Fine don’t come get them, but if it jumps the fence, it’s dead.”
(I honestly just got shivers thinking that thought again as I was typing it…)
Let me explain this though. I have a massive 60 pound giant schnauzer, who’s breed is known for their strength, their aggressiveness, and their protectiveness of their owners above all else. Now I’ve never seen Zoey use her aggression on anybody except her brother in our own home (go figure), but I knew it was a possibility that if a strange dog started attacking her, she was easily going to start attacking back. Then there’s Jasper, my 20 pounder. He’s more scared of the world than most dogs I’ve ever met. But Jasper and I quickly bonded when I rescued him from a very bad situation and gave him a steady, constant home filled with love. So while his bark sounds like a chihuahua choking on a french fry, I’m not above realizing that he would do anything to protect me. Again, he’s never ripped into any dog, but he is not scared of standing by my side, almost stalking me at the dog park, just to make sure no one else comes too close.
Then there’s this thing that I laid in my pocket. It’s funny really; I hadn’t been carrying it with me, but my mom and I got started talking about this missing college girl yesterday. During our conversation, mom told me that my grandmother was really worried about me running on my own. Mom assured her at the time that I always run with my dogs, but when I heard about her concern, I thought maybe I better follow my husband’s directions and actually be prepared to protect myself should I fall into the same type of fate this poor college girl has.
I thank God right now that the dog never made it across the fence. Because even though I threatened to react if it had acted upon me or my little family, I know now in my heart that I’m not sure I could have let my dogs attack it or that I could have pulled the trigger.* I’ve spent most of the day contemplating this situation I ended up in and realizing that had anything more happened, no good outcome would have occurred. I’ve also felt like crying and having a complete meltdown at the realization that any of us (canine or human) could have been hurt. And while most people might not believe me, I was just as concerned for those two giant things in that backyard as I was for my own. Because I’m an animal lover.
We did manage to get away before the dogs climbed the fence. My dogs immediately went back to their walk as soon as they knew we had passed danger. We paired back up with my mom and her pups to continue our walk home. But it just didn’t sit right with me. I just kept imagining that same situation happening with somebody else. Like another older person walking their smaller, less menacing dog. I kept seeing in my mind the dog climbing that fence and reaching the other side. I kept picturing someone like my mom or my sister with their small dogs unable to do much when faced with an attack of that kind. And more than that, I kept seeing that dog in the middle of the road, hit by traffic or attacking some poor child who was walking on their way to school.
Maybe my mind had taken over at this point, but I feel like all of those thoughts and all of that fear were pushing me to do something more. So I did the only thing I thought I could do and tried to get the owner some education. I called our county’s dog warden and left a message on his machine. I explained the entire incident and told him that while I didn’t have any charges to file or anything like that, I was concerned that the fence was so horribly low for such large dogs. I didn’t know if there was some kind of law about that or not, but I know that I had an 8 foot fence before I even thought of bringing Zoey into our home. I also didn’t know if there was something that could be said to the owner about the dangers that could have easily become realities in those few minutes.
The warden finally called me back about an hour later, and all I learned was that the dog has to physically escape it’s barrier and touch public property before the police or the warden or anybody else can really do anything. To some extents, I get that. I don’t like people telling me when my lawn needs mowed or where I can park my cars on my own property, but this made me even more distraught.
We have so many laws and rules in this world that don’t make a ton of sense. We work hard for our money, but have to give to welfare and social security, when I probably will never see a lick of money from either of those places. By the time I’m old enough for social security, it’s probably not going to be a thing. But I do it anyway because it is a law. What I don’t understand is why so many things are laws that don’t improve the lives of many… or any at all. I could go through a whole list of them that are in my mind right now, but my point is this: What is the point of having laws when the laws simply lay out what to do after an incident occurs? The warden even told me to keep his number handy and call him back if the dog ever makes it over the fence. He didn’t offer to talk to the lady or educate her on the laws or the dangers that could occur. He didn’t suggest anything else for me to do either.
I get it; as a government employee, you can only do what the government instructs, but I tried so hard to make sure that nothing happened, to keep my anxiety in check, and to protect my family without (hopefully) hurting anyone else. Yet here I sit knowing that, besides never walking that road again, there’s nothing I can do to help protect her animals or mine. And more fearful than that is the thought that I’ve never been so close to protecting myself with force as I almost came today.
Please, if you are a dog owner, or an animal owner at all, please try to protect your dogs not only from the attack of other people’s animals but from attacking on their own as well. There’s nothing scarier than realizing that I would have had to make a quick second decision about how to save a bunch of dogs because of lack of action on the part of one woman. And while maybe some of you do not tend to care for your animals as much as I do (since I treat mine like my children), I still beg of you to take them indoors or have complete training and control over them whenever they are outside barking, being disruptive, or even trying to climb fences! Without laws there to guide us, we have to come together as a society and make these ideas work together as a group without the influence of government forcing us to do what we should already know is right.
To the woman who cussed me out today, I hope you know that I had control of my dogs and that your’s were my main concern. Because nothing comes between my dogs and me, not on their part or on my own. And I wasn’t trying to be bitchy if that’s how I sounded, I was fearful.
*Yes, I have followed all of my state’s laws and carry a pistol with me for protection. It’s sad that in this day and age, I feel the need to protect myself in this way, but I’ve never once used it. And while many gun activists and enthusiasts will say I am stupid for saying so, I don’t even carry it loaded. There’s a magazine if I need it, but I’d have to take off the safety and cock the thing before I could actually fire. I NEVER intend to use this weapon unless I am truly in fear for my life, so any gun comments can just stay to yourselves. Thanks!