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This afternoon I had a deeply unpleasant experience with a dog and its owner

January 7, 2010

Given the serious snowfalls we have had recently, I took advantage of today’s fine weather to take a walk along my local canal with my camera to grab some shots of frozen water and snow laden trees. By far, most of the people I met were pleasant and friendly, but one encounter has left me fuming and very angry.

I have no idea what caused or prompted the incident, I was close to home and walking along the canal towpath. I met and passed several people and shared morning greetings with each of them. I noticed a man ahead with a dog and expected the usual pleasantries when we passed. Imagine my surprise then, when at about 50 feet away the dog started running towards me, barking and growling. I wasn’t initially worried as I seriously didn’t expect it was me it was concerned about. It wasn’t until it was 20 feet away that I realised that I was its target. Fearing what was to happen I stopped and took a defensive stance, legs spread and arms up and ready to defend myself. The dog stopped right in front of me and immediately barred teeth and started growling as well as barking at me.

I have no real interest in dogs and have not had a dog at home since I was a child. Since I grew up in Zambia, the dogs we had were guard dogs and not pets, so they never came into the house and we never treated them as members of the family, we owned them for a purpose and that purpose was not companionship. Most dogs I came across growing up were this sort of dog, very few were pets in the true sense. As such I have a deep suspicion and nervousness of any dog that acts aggressively towards me. I have always been told that dogs can sense our fear and there is no doubt that I would have been showing fear as at this point I had no idea what was about to happen and I was concerned for my immediate safety. That may be why the dog continued its aggression towards me but certainly will not explain what caused its initial charge.

The dog was medium sized I guess, mostly black with some white patches on its face, belly and feet. My wife thinks I have described a Collie, but is confused because she does not believe a Collie would act in such a way.

Regardless of what dog it was, I was now in a face off situation, the dog snaring, growling and barking. Me defensive and watching the dogs mouth intensly for any sign of an imminent bite that I would have to react to. I never took my gaze off the dogs face and I could hear the owner calling something but could not make it out, I was aware he was getting closer but I never looked up to see how fast his progress was.

Thinking that the best form of defence is attack, I went on the offense and shouted and screamed at the dog, stepping forward to show it that I was not going to be frightened off. What I really wanted to do was kick the dog and throw it into the canal, but at this point I felt sure that the owner would be apologetic about the behaviour and all would be sorted as a misunderstanding. How wrong I was.

The standoff felt like it lasted ages, but was probably less than a minute. The owner eventually arrived and started shouting at me, accusing me of prompting the attack by shouting at his dog and acting aggressively. What on earth was he doing when his dog charged me?

With the face off now switched to the owner, the dog stopped and placed itself behind its owner, so the owner was now between us. I was now able to pay attention to the owner, so I tried to explain to him calmly that it was his dog that initiated events. This fell on deaf ears and so I gave up being nice to him and a full on offensive verbal exchange ensued. By now I was extremely angry and actually contemplated swinging my camera at his face. I am sure a Nikon SLR has enough weight to cause a serious injury. I didn’t and we each turned away and started in out own directions.

With our backs to each other, the dog took its chance to give me another bout of teeth bared snarling, which pleased the owner, who went on to make a comment about it defending him from me and so it all must have been my fault. More verbal unpleasantries followed.

At no point during the whole exchange did the man talk to his dog, or touch it, or handle it in any way. The focus of his attention was always me and he not once assured or reprimanded the dog, as we parted I heard him get out his phone and make a call, he had still not said anything to the dog.

When I did arrive home, some 10 minutes later, not having assaulted anyone or their pet, I was furiously angry at how someone could fail to control their dog in the first place, and then when their dog becomes aggressive, utterly fail to take any action or responsibility.


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