TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

This morning, I took my little doggies for a walk. We went our usual route, passing the usual homes and usual dogs - some yappy, some fierce, some indifferent, some scared of US.

Peppep in particular thinks SHE is a huge pit bull and is very aggressive and fearless toward even the biggest and meanest dog. She's a scrappy little girl, let me tell you! Eva on the other hand is scared of everything -- even a leaf blowing by startles her.

In one yard we always pass lives a huge German Shepherd. He always comes to the fence (the fence is not really a fence but made of thick iron bars) and barks at us, but the bars of the fence seem more than close enough together that there would be no way he could really get us -- they are spaced about 5" apart and he is quite a bit wider than that -- so none of us ever really paid him any mind.

Well, today when we passed the German Shepherd's yard, he stuck his head through the bars of the fence and barked very fiercely at us. The hair on my dogs' backs went up and they freaked out, especially Eva who is of very nervous temperament. I just said to them, "It's okay, let's go."

But just then, the German Shepherd very forcibly squeezed himself through the bars of the fence, hopped down to the sidewalk, and very nonchalantly sauntered over to us. He was so cool and casual about it, as if to say, "Yeah. I'm bad, and I'm not in any hurry to get you."

I shouted "GO AWAY!" but he just turned around toward my dogs and started nudging them with his nose. I scooped them up in my arms and hurried away -- knowing better than to run, but walking briskly and with authority. The Shepherd followed along behind, jumping up on me and trying to get to my dogs. I kept yelling at him to go away but he just ignored me.

The street we were on, LaBrea Avenue, is a busy four-lane boulevard divided by a grass median. I figured if I crossed the street, the dog would stay on his side of the street. But he followed us right across, and in fact nearly got run over several times because he was circling around us as we crossed the street and not going in a straight line.

When the traffic cleared on the westbound side, I ran across to the sidewalk and the Shepherd just kept following right behind. On that side of the street is an apartment building with about a 4-foot-high embankment fronted with a masonry wall about six inches wide at the top with a foot (or so) deep flowerbed at the top. I stuck my doggiess up there and told them to stay. They were trembling and panting, obviously scared out of their wits. Even usually fearless Pep-Pep. They seemed to be able to sense that we were all in danger.

The Shepherd charged over and jumped up on me. Peppep, still scared but ever the bad-ass, jumped down from that 4-foot-high wall and charged after him. I screamed "NO" at her and picked her up, set her back up on the wall, and ordered "STAY!" She did, but I could tell she did not want to. She wanted to protect me.

I turned back to the big dog and shouted very loudly at him, "BAD DOG! GO AWAY!" He would turn around and walk a few steps but then come back and try to jump up onto the embankment to get to my dogs.

I did not know what to do. He was a HUGE dog and there was no way I could take him on if he really got aggressive. And he was getting agitated, yipping and whining as he tried to reach my dogs. So I scooped them up again and just started walking, trying my best to ignore him. He followed right behind, nipping at my ankles and nudging me in the back of the legs with his nose. He did not seem mean -- I think maybe he just wanted to play with my dogs, but I was not taking any chances.

When I got to the next corner, I saw an older Black lady sitting in a Mercedes at the stoplight. I called out to her, "Do you have a cell phone?" She got a startled look on her face and said, "Yes." I said, "Could you please call the police for me? This big dog is trying to get my dogs!"

She hesitated for a second, then it registered that we clearly were in trouble. She said, "Come get in the car."

(Keep in mind, I did not know her and she did not know me -- I've never even seen her in the neighborhood. But she was willing to take a risk to help a stranger in need.)

She unlocked her doors and I scampered over and got in. The very second I closed the door, the big Shepherd - who had followed us of course - just went ballistic. He started snarling and barking, and jumped up on the side of the car bumping against the window with his nose.

The lady yelled "Good Lord Amighty!" and she floored it. We took off around the corner and she said, "Where do you want to get off?" I said "Hauser" (2 more blocks away) and she drove over to that corner and stopped. We were both shaking, and well, I guess I could say, figuratively, "as white as a sheet!" I thanked the lady over and over and said, "You certainly are a guardian angel. I REALLY appreciate this." She said, "Well, God bless ya sonny, I am glad I could help. I hope y'all will be okay."

We all got out of her car and headed home, all three of us shaking and very traumatized. I thought I was going to throw up.

When I got home I called the police to report what happened. A couple of officers came by and seemed, overall, disinterested in doing much about it. I kept reiterating that the dog was very big and fearless, and while not violent toward us was being very aggressive. I said they should talk to the owner of the dog and let them know what happened, and that they should better secure the dog. AND get ID tags for it, as it had none. They said they would stop by and if the owner was home, "would talk to him."

I don't think anyone was home -- if they were, they were deaf because I was making plenty of noise out there --- yelling at the dog, and also yelling up at their windows, "HELLO - HELLO - " but no one came out.

You know, it's the darndest thing. I ==ALWAYS== take my cell phone with me when I walk the dogs. The one time I did not, THIS happened. I can only say, THANK GOD that a guardian angel DID come our way.

So, "all's well that ends well" but, as I entitled this story ... it was ...

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT.

 


 

Postscript:

Dogs - especially the really smart ones like German Shepherds - can fool you. They someties make-nice until they know they have the upper hand.

Back in my early adulthood when I lived in Annapolis, Maryland, I was a water meter reader for the Anne Arundel County Public Works. I had all sorts of dog encounters, most of them benign if sometimes unnerving. I did find that most dogs were friendly and all the barking and carrying on was just letting you know who was boss. Or, in most cases actually, were just happy to see ya. Nearly always, once you'd kneel down and speak happily and nicely to them, they would become your best friend. With exceptions, of course.

You CANNOT "read" a dog - the ones that seem nice can turn on you once you intrude into their territory, and the ones that seem the most bent on eating you alive are sometimes the friendliest of them all.

One particular encounter has always stuck in my mind that taught me just how intelligent and cunning dogs can be.

I was out walking a meter-reading route one day. I came along to a lovely house on a big corner lot, with a chain-link fence all around it and the ubiquitous "BEWARE OF DOG" sign on the gate. I tapped the gate with my meter key, jiggled the fence, called out "Here doggie, here doggie, yoooooo-hoo" etc., etc....... No dog in sight, which usually means the coast is clear. If they're out there they're most likely, by that point, right in your face letting you know who's boss.

So I opened the gate, entered the yard, closed the gate, and kneeled down to open the water meter cover. The meter vault was right along the line of the fence, so my back was to the house (a poor choice that I never repeated).

I took down the reading and plopped the meter box cover back into place. Just as I began to turn and stand up, I heard a very low, very soft "gurrrrrrrrrrrrr" right behind me.

The hair on the back of my neck started tingling and I slowly turned my head around. Not three feet away from me was the biggest, strangest-looking dog I had ever seen. It looked like a cross between a collie and a llama. And it had very big teeth.

And wasn't in a good mood.

Every time I would make even the slightest move, he would inch closer, showing his teeth and growling under his breath. I was literally trapped in that yard and knew there was no way I was going to be able to escape in one piece.

So I just very slowly lowered myself back down and sat there. And sat there. And sat there.

Finally, at least an hour later (if not longer - time did come to a standstill), the meter reader crew leader came by in his truck. He saw the predicament I was in and exercised the very poor judgment of starting to laugh. (I got him for that later.) But when he realized I was not moving even an eyebrow, he quickly became concerned and got on his 2-way to call for help.

He got out of his truck and started walking up the sidewalk toward me. Bad move. When he did, the dog suddenly lunged at me. I jumped up and brandished the meter key (a thick iron rod about 2 ft. long and 1/2" in diameter with a notch on the end to lift the cast-iron meter covers) and used it like a "sword fight," poking the dog in the chest very hard with it. That barely stopped him and he lunged again and bit me on the arm. Fortunately it was wintertime, and I was wearing a thick coat and several layers of shirts and thermal underwear. So I had to escalate my defense by cracking him across the skull with the meter key. Well, THAT stopped him.

I didn't hit him hard enough to kill him but I could have, and it was only his good luck that I didn't. And I would have been fully within my legal right to do so. But I don't like hurting animals and was even sorry to have done that much harm.

He let out a loud yelp and ran around the corner to the back yard. I got the hell out of the yard, jumping right over the fence, and just then two Animal Control guys got there. They had stout ropes and nets and mace and all sorts of stuff, and went back around the back of the house. They came back carrying the dog between them like a corpse -- but he was not dead, just very dazed.

Well, to cut to the chase, the dog turned out to be a Russian Wolf Hound, a variety I had never seen before, nor since. In my opinion, it's an ugly dog. The head is long and pointy, and well, it looks like a cross between a collie and a llama. (I also just found out when googling that it's also called a Borzoi.)

The feckless owner -- who, as it turned out, was there the whole time, cowering inside behind the curtains -- was extremely annoyed that I hit poor Thumbelina and injured her. (The dog was a bitch, as it turned out, just like the owner). She had the VERY poor judgment to try to sue me and the Water Department. You can imagine how far that got.

The happy ending for Thumbelina was that she was not really hurt -- I didn't even break the skin. She just had a very bad headache for a couple of days, and surely developed an even-more-rotten attitude toward meter readers!

What really made an impression on me in all of this was how incredibly sneaky she was! She did not show up until I was in the yard and vulnerable. And she knew it! She was very clever about waiting until she knew I was trapped to make her presence known. And again, it wasn't with a lot of yapping and barking and hopping around -- she could not have been more dramatic and heart-stopping than by the way she just let out that low, soft growl practically in my ear!

{{{*SHUDDERRRRRRRRR!*}}}

I -still- get cold chills thinking about it!

And THAT, along with several other similar incidents as a meter reader (like the time a nasty jumbo-sized poodle ripped out the seat of my pants), is why I don't mess around with dogs I don't know.

-ooOoo-

Another bizarre dog encounter that sticks in my mind is the time I was standing at a bus stop in Hollywood one weekday afternoon, near Hollywood and LaBrea right around all the touristy stuff.

As I stood there, I saw a big mutt dog trotting toward me. He was shaking his head and slobber was drooling out of his mouth and he was licking his lips and snapping his jaws. I thought maybe he had eaten something that had gotten caught in his mouth. I was just about to try to help him when an LAPD cruiser rolled into the scene.

The cop spoke on his loudspeaker to me, "Get up on the bench - the dog has rabies!" Well up I hopped, my heart pounding. The dog was actually oblivious to me, however -- he just kept trotting along, paying me no mind whatsoever.

Now, how or why a rabid dog ended up on Hollywood Boulevard, and why it was being pursued by a cop in a squad car, is a mystery I was never able to solve.

When I got home, I called the LAPD to find out about this. I was quite angry about it actually, after I had had time to process what had happened, because it seemed very strange - and stupid - that the officer had not taken more proactive steps to protect me and the other people who were out and about. He was just rolling along in his cruiser watching the dog as it trotted down the street.

Suppose it HAD bitten me?

It's experiences such as these that have taught me to be very careful around dogs. I love 'em to death, but am also a bit wary of ones I do not know because, really, they can be very unpredictable.

 

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