Dogs Chase Bicycles            Back to Bike Stories  //  Back to the Weeville Home Page

The Herald  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.

The scenario 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.

Twenty-six 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 162 mph.

Whenever I'm 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 ashamed?"

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.

Small or 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.

Above all, 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 living.
 
Lesson in dog defense

Most dogs 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.

One day 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.

With an 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.

I 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 weird silence.

My buddy 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.

Little-known facts

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.

Also, 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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