I’ve been walking with dogs for a while now, usually with two or three … up to seven at a time, as I posted last February in “Andi of the Seven Dogs.”
Now I carry a big stick. I no longer greet dogs and offer my company on walks. I even walk past puppies, looking up at me pleadingly, holding up a frozen paw. I no longer let them snuggle in my lap for a few moments to warm their tiny feet. There is the danger that they will follow me to unfamiliar territory.
A few days ago when I was out walking, a couple of dogs I recognized bounded over to meet me. I greeted them and was about to continue on my way when an unfamiliar, large chocolate lab mix approached. He barked aggressively, head lowered, fur ruffled. Two more dogs joined the group. Suddenly, I was at the centre of a pack of dogs, barking and nipping at my mitts. Was this some instinctual, primitive hunting collective?
A man came out of a nearby house and walked down his driveway towards me.
“I am so sorry,” he said as he grabbed the lab.
“No harm done,” I said as I continued my way. Since that day, I’ve noticed this particular dog chained up by the house.
I am not afraid of dogs. My last dog was a 110 pound malamute, and before that, a collie-shepherd mix.
Then it happened again. Yesterday, I took a shortcut across a vacant lot. Two dogs, I recognized from my summer walks approached me; a Siberian husky with pale blue eyes and a husky-shepherd and maybe coyote mix.
They followed me, nipping at my mitts, playfully I thought at first. I continued along, but had the sensation of being stalked. When I turned, they were at my heels, single file, heads low, hackles up. They nipped at my mitts from behind. I waved my arms and spoke to them firmly and assertively to go away, but they just stood still and glared at me. I continued to walk and they continued to stalk. Then I felt teeth gripping my calf. Fortunately, I was wearing leggings under my jeans, and wind pants, otherwise the dog would have drawn blood. I admonished them again and they slinked off. This was clearly predatory behaviour. When a wolf takes down a moose or deer, they will go for the leg tendons first, to lame the animal before final kill. I am more angry than alarmed.
There are children playing in snow banks. Maybe this is why dogs are generally not acknowledged. Perhaps I was encouraging them by speaking to them kindly?
I stopped by the shop and tell Andy, who had warned me in the past about the village dogs. He found a cane for me to walk with.
Was it the sudden unseasonable cold? The muskrat fur on my mitts?
From now on, I walk softly and carry a big stick.