Dogs and More Dogs Back to Bike Stories // Back to the Weeville Home Page
Note: The first story I wrote about dogs got more laughing feedback than any other column I ever did, so I felt compelled to do a second one, and probably too soon, at best. This one kind of just sat there. I could have done several more stories all about dogs, but this one felt more like filler when I never heard a peep from anybody about it. So this was apparently enough about dogs taking up a whole column.
The Herald March 31, 1989
Let me tell you of dogs
Riding laps around the neighborhood is made more interesting by the local dogs.
First there is the bloodthirsty Irish setter who guards the lower corner. The first time by, it's a tense struggle between man and beast. Fortunately for me, this dog is as old as Methuselah. By the time I've made five or six laps, she has faded to a point where she sits under a shade tree and verbally threatens me as I scoot off. Vicious snarling and blinding speed melts into a placid, "Woof."
Further up the hill and around the curve lies the puzzling case of the neurotic beagle. Whenever he jumps me from behind a bush or across the street, the noise he makes is horrendous. The howling and yelling and baying sounds for all the world like the poor dog is hung under the big hydraulic lift at the service station. He makes quite a scene.
The thing that puzzled me for so long was that he'd never behave the same way twice in a row. Once he might chase me making that hideous racket. Three laps later, he might see me coming and run toward the house like he was afraid. Occasionally he would sit next to the road and visibly smile as I went by. He had me so confused that I would talk to him out loud, "All right, beagle. What's it gonna be this time?"
One day I came around the curve and almost fell over in amazement at what I saw. There in the yard, lined up like ducks in a row, were three identical beagles. The first one saw me coming and ran toward the house in fear. The second one sat right where he was and smiled. The third one jumped up and chased after me howling bloody murder. It was one of life's greatest moments -- the solving of a mystery.
The three beagles might have conspired to play a big joke on me. If they did, it was the best case of dog teamwork recorded to date. Teamwork is already what makes dogs infamous in the eyes of cyclists. As a rule, the pack will follow the lead dog's example of poor behavior, and from that point on they are all a bad influence on one another.
The lead dog is usually the one that sees you coming long before the other dogs do. He'll charge down to the roadside and stop right there, barking madly over his shoulder for help. Here come his buddies hustling around the corner of the house, embarrassed that they let ol' Rover show them up again. This time they'll redeem themselves.
Right now is a real good time to sprint, if that is possible. If you can scatter the pack with speed alone, you're home free. Otherwise you're faced with some trying moments while you kick dogs away and attempt to keep moving forward in all the dog-induced chaos. Eventually the dogs will realize they're a long way from the house and they'll peel off as a group. So far (knock, knock,) I haven't been mauled although I have been the subject of many dog mob scenes.
The closest I have come to being damaged by a dog was during an unexpected exchange with a peaceful Pekingese. He was running down the street ahead of me, apparently trying to get home in a hurry. He didn't even know I was coming when I started to pass him on his right shoulder. When I pulled even with the dog, he panicked and made a break for the curb. He ran directly into my front wheel. My internal gyroscope screamed "crash," and I leaned to my left to try to stay upright.
There we went down the street, a bicyclist and a Pekingese propped against one another like drunken buddies. In the final analysis, the dog was losing because my spokes were letting his fur have it. The fur was flying, the dog was yelling, and I still didn't know if I was going to crash or stay up. Finally we got separated, the dog howled all the way home, and it was weeks before my pulse returned to normal. The moral of the story could be, watch every dog closely and don't take one for a ride in your spokes.
Always on watch
Every cyclist has a built-in computer of sorts that watches for small objects in the pavement, keeps up with traffic flow, and sweeps the area for dogs without a conscious effort by the rider. The ears usually give the first warming of a rambunctious dog. A jingling tag or the scrape of toenails on the pavement are a dead giveaway every time, even before the dog has barked. The one time, I had a dog defeat this logical sequence; it almost scared me to death.
It happened during my trip to the Gulf Coast, as I rode through Slocomb, Ala. From out of nowhere I suddenly got two big barks very close to my left leg. My brain instantly told me that the dog was at least 4 feet tall, going at least 40 mph, and had crossed a wide and very busy street to attack me from the left.
I whirled around in the saddle to get one dying look at this monster, but there was nothing there. A second later he barked again, but this time he was much further down the street. I faced straight ahead and there he was - a huge Doberman hanging out the window of a car that had just passed me. The dog was waving at me with the great big tongue, and the driver of the car was looking in the rear view mirror having himself a real belly laugh at my startled antics.
I love dogs. They personify one of the reasons I ride. That is, you never know what's next.
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