OK, This is not your typical roadside dog, but he's an attention-getter! Looks like he means business, doesn't he? The real dog portrayed in this story is a much kinder, gentler biting dog.
This story started with a group of galpals doing their Saturday morning thing, JRA (just riding along, as any bike shop guy can tell you is what is ALWAYS happening just prior to disaster striking) on Colonel Glenn Road, when a red chow-German shepherd mix came blasting out of a yard toward one of the riders. I was asked not to name names, so we’ll call this totally fictional character “Karen”. Fictional Karen got all defensive and yelled sharply at the dog, causing the pup to rethink her plan and drop down the line to our not-so-fictional victim, whom we will call “Vic” because in crime dramas, you must have a “vic” and a “perp”. In this case, we know that the perp’s name is Lady, because Lady immediately chomped on Vic’s calf, causing a rather nasty and painful wound and initiating the chain of events that was about to unfold. Fortunately for you, the reader, I was able to obtain an exclusive graphic photo of the bite. Lucky you!
This was a big bite on the petite calf of our unfortunate victim.
After the attack, Vic coolly maintained control of her bike and made her way to a nearby gas station. The station attendant was sympathetic, someone called 911, and a customer announced that he was a nurse and volunteered to bandage the wound. Two of Vic’s companions were also nurses, but Good Samaritan was soon at work with the service station’s first aid kit, cleaning the wound and pulling the edges together before wrapping. Another helpful customer announced that he was packing a .45, and kindly offered to go down the road and dispatch Lady. There is just no end to the friendliness of Arkys when it comes to helping a damsel in distress, but it was decided that Lady didn’t deserve dispatching in spite of her bad behavior.
The first response to the 911 call came in the form of the volunteer fire department. I’m not sure what they expected, but they were Johnny-On-The-Spot and I’m sure their enthusiasm was appreciated. Next came an ambulance and EMT’s. The EMT crew had a trainee along and it was soon decided that the cleaned and bandaged wound needed disinfecting, so the bandages were removed, the bite disinfected and fresh bandages were applied. Next came the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department. I was surprised to learn that there actually is a leash law in Pulaski County. That fact seemed lost on a neighbor who insisted that it was "the law of the land" that country dogs run loose and that the responsibility for this event fell largely on the riders for travelling the road on, of all things, bicycles. That position did not sit well with one of Vic's companions, so it may have been a good thing that the lawman was present. On the other hand, it might have made a better story had the clueless neighbor been beat up by a girl. The dog's owner was not at home, so the deputy was going to stick around for awhile to see if Lady's master would arrive in time to get a citation. I'm not sure how that chapter of our saga ended, but our victim got her leg wound stitched up. Lady did 10 days in quarantine, was deemed healthy and returned to her owner.
Our victim was very concerned about the scar that the wound would leave. I took a glance at the shape and suggested a flying monkey tattoo. It might serve to scare off the next dog. After all, everybody is afraid of flying monkeys. She thought she might go for a snarling dog.
Many cyclists have a real fear of dog attacks, but I must say that this is one of the few real attacks that I've heard about first hand. Most dog encounters involve a crash, either caused by contact with a dog or by a panicked rider losing control of his bike in the course of evasive actions. I asked our victim where Lady was during all of the after-bite activity. She said that Lady just returned to her yard and was really a sweet dog. Being a dog lover, I was pleased to hear that attitude, though the owner needs a lesson in responsibility. Very few dog/bike encounters involve really vicious dogs. Most dogs are either protecting their turf, following a chasing instinct or, as is the case with many hounds, just delighted to have somebody to run with.
Advice on dealing with dogs while riding is easy to come by, but here are my strategies:
First, I just call them and talk to them like they are my own. "Hey, boy, you stay in that yard..."
If they come running out, I tell issue sharp commands, like "No! Go Home!" The next escalation of this is to roar like a mad man.
Dogs seldom require more discouragement, but while going through the verbal arsenal above, I have usually drawn my water bottle. I have never had a dog keep coming after a good squirt from the bottle, and the "what the hell" expression as they stop in their tracks can be priceless.
Though offering your tootsies to Cujo is counterintuitive, I've also been told that extending your foot toward the dog enlarges your perimeter and is seen as a threat. The same goes for reaching out over the dog with your bottle in hand.
Dogs can definitely be a problem for cyclists, but they usually don't mean any harm and a little understanding of dog behavior can be helpful in dealing with dogs out on the road.