I enjoy walking through Beebe Woods in the morning, and I often walk other wooded areas such as The Knob in Quissett. I often encounter others who are walking with their dogs, some on leashes and some not. The unleashed dogs are typically very well-trained animals that either ignore other walkers entirely as they walk by with their owners, or are trained to heel instantly at their owner’s command. Despite the leash law, I have no problem at all with such well-disciplined animals.
This Monday morning, however, I came upon an unleashed dog as I rounded a curve in the trail in Beebe Woods. This was a huge animal, and its owner was nowhere in sight. Almost immediately upon seeing me, this dog ran at me and began jumping up, striking me playfully with its paws and its nose.
I’m 75, still able to walk wooded trails without much difficulty, but this massive dog could easily have pushed me hard enough to fall down. I was able to put my arm around a small tree trunk to keep my balance, as I hollered for the owner. After 15 seconds or so, the owner came walking around the bend. He called, but the dog was not responsive and just kept jumping up at me. When the owner got to where I was standing, he was able to restrain the dog.
I was not hurt at all, but then I noticed a large gob of sticky, foamy dog slobber on my faux suede jacket. I asked the owner for a hanky to wipe the worst of it off but there were so many smaller gobs on the sleeves, I couldn’t wear it to my office. Fortunately, the jacket is washable in cold water, so I went home and left it in the washing machine with a note for my dear wife Adrienne, who was out running errands, asking her to wash it while I was at work.
I don’t own a dog, but I have friends who have dogs, including excessively playful dogs who jump at strangers and lick them. So I knew this huge dog coming at me was just playing, and I laughed instead of becoming angry or afraid. But what if it had been someone else, someone totally unfamiliar with dog behavior? What if it had been someone else who would respond with panic instead of laughter as this huge animal lunged at them with no owner in sight? What if it had been a small child, and a parent had to physically intervene?
I was not injured or bitten, but because of the dog slobber, it was a huge annoyance. If I had been injured, however, I would not have been as sanguine, and I would have called 911 on my cellphone to have the owner charged with a leash law violation. I would also have filed suit for money damages if I had been bitten or had broken a bone from falling.
Dog walkers should keep it on a leash or stay with it unleashed only if it is trained to respond instantly to a voice command. Never just let an unleashed dog get out of your sight on any wooded trail, because you never know who may be coming around the bend.
Richard K. Latimer