October 28, 1988
Dogs Just wait for bicyclers to come along
If one single Chihuahua ever grew to 150 pounds, all
mankind would be in grave danger. It's no wonder that
most Chihuahua owners give their pets bold names that
bespeak the little rascal's immense self-image.
for the bike rider is nearly always the same. You're
riding in front of a nice little house where a nice
elderly lady in a sun hat waves and then turns back to
her yard work. Faithful to the last, Grandma's
watchdog decides it's time to fulfill his duties as
bouncer. Oh, holy terror. Here comes Hercules.
years old, gray-haired and toothless, the Chihuahua
tears across the yard yelling obscenities in a voice
that sounds just like one of Donald Duck's nephews,
but don't be fooled. He'll stop at nothing. If
you're in the midst of a steep climb, you're dead
meat. I have witnessed Chihuahuas that could make 15
mph in short bursts, and we're talking about an HO
scaled toy here. If that was a real dog, he could run
assaulted by a Chihuahua, I always wish I had brought
along a big mirror. I'd like to stop and give Hercules
a glance at himself. "Look here, fool! You weigh two
pounds! Yes that's really you. Now aren't you
Nope. I had
one run me completely across the highway before I
could outdistance him. I had to keep moving over
because he was determined to climb into my spokes. It
must have been his plan to knock me down before he
mauled me beyond recognition. What the Marines should
really be looking for is a few Chihuahuas to teach the
recruits what macho ought to be.
Dogs just love bikes
From the beginning, dogs have been enthralled with
mechanical things that move. As Gary Larson depicted
in The Far Side, there is no doubt in my mind that a
stone age dog chased the first wheel down a hill.
Also, most dogs don't like strangers. A passing
bicyclist provides a dog with a rare opportunity to
pursue two interests at once-a mechanized stranger.
large, most barking dogs defend the property line.
They'll chase you a short ways past the house and then
break it off. The only exception to this rule is the
countrified farm dog that hasn't the vaguest idea
where the property line is, and doesn't care. He'll
chase you to the next county and then get in some
rabbit hunting on his way back home.
To me it's
all a part of the game. A big fast dog gets the ol'
pulse pounding. Still, there are some folks who use
dogs as an excuse to not do any bike riding at all.
Bunk. The fear of dogs is a myth. A person on a
bicycle has a dog at a disadvantage if the person just
pays attention to the dog's every move.
just keep moving in the direction you were heading to
start with. If a dog ever turns you around, your bike
riding days are on the decline. You'll avoid this
road or that one, because of a dog. That's not
Lesson in dog defense
simply want to race. Watch what the dog does, and
don't ever let him brush your front wheel. Swerve
or use brakes to prevent this. If it looks like the
dog actually wants a piece of your leg (which is
rare), kick him right in the mouth. You can do that
as many times as is needed, as long as you stay on
the bike and keep moving forward. He has to
approach you to bite you. Your leg is the only
flesh he can reach. Your leg is your weapon. It's
simple. That's the Dog Defense package in a
nutshell. It requires no special tools.
I have seen
Dog Defense taken to the wildest extreme. I did a
bit of riding about 10 years ago with a man who had
a morbid fear of dogs. He had a can of mailman's
mace on his handlebars, and full strength ammonia in
one of his water bottles. A pooch inside somebody's
house could bark and make the hair stand up on the
back of this man's neck.
the guy showed up bragging about his latest dog
tool. He pointed to a genuine police nightstick
attached to his luggage rack with bungee cords. I
could tell right quick that this was the one plan I
simply had to see in action.
evil gleam in my eye I led the way as we pedaled
toward Chester County. At the time there were about
30 bike-chasing dogs living there. I referred to it
as the Dog House. Whoever lived there had the
largest private collection of yard dogs in the
world. I coughed and made lots of extra noise as we
approached the place, just to make sure the dogs
knew we were coming. Sure enough, they scrambled.
The big ones were tromping all over the little ones,
and the slow ones dug in hard to catch up. They all
converged on the road in a huge cloud of dust,
barking and howling and yammering.
instinctively stood up from the saddle and sprinted
to get clear of all the madness. Just before I had
time to turn around and enjoy the show, I heard a
sickening thud amid all the commotion, and then a
had reached around behind his saddle to get his
genuine police nightstick, but he got all tangled up
trying desperately to jerk it loose. He went down
hard right square in the middle of that pack of
dogs. When I turned to look, the dogs, all two
dozen of them, stood around him and his bicycle in a
big circle. The wheels on the bike were still
turning aimlessly after the crash. The dogs were
all looking at one another rather stupidly, as if to
say, "What do we do now? We never CAUGHT one
before!" After a moment the dogs all milled quietly
back into the yard as though nothing out of the
ordinary had happened. My pal rode back to Rock
Hill nursing a knot on his noggin. I think he
canned the nightstick-idea.
Bicycling is a novel way to learn little known facts
about dogs. First of all, no dog will ever order a
cup of coffee. Life itself is plenty invigorating
enough. I know an old bird dog that likes to sleep
out by the road. I could easily ride right on by
without disturbing him, but I think he sleeps by the
road just in case something great happens, he might
not miss it. So, I accommodate him by making some
extra noise when I'm approaching.
As soon as
one eye opens, his legs are already carrying him in my
direction. It's one fluid motion. I try to imagine
myself being sound asleep, and then running full speed
three seconds later. I think about this some mornings
as I slap the snooze alarm for the umpteenth time.
everybody already knows that if the family is all out
in the front yard, Rover will show off even if he
doesn't normally chase cars and bikes. What happens
next however, is powerful medical evidence that is
widely overlooked. As soon as Rover reaches flying
speed, every member of the family will scream the
dog's name at the top of their lungs. In all of my
days I have never seen a dog stop or even slow down.
Dogs are deaf. They just can't hear. Not a lick.
In closing, my helmet's off to all the laid back dogs
in the world. These guys are the college grads of the
canine family, the shade tree potatoes in the face of
madness. They twitch one ear and smile as you go by.
I swear I thought I heard one say, "Nice bike," as I
passed him. In a way I have to feel sorry for classy,
well-behaved dogs though. I just wish they knew how
much fun they're missing.
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