This morning when I was out for my walk, on my usual route, listening to an enjoyable audiobook and not expecting anything out of the ordinary, I saw a dog out of its yard. It was a husky and I have watched it on other days, chasing around with another that is apparently its sibling. They never barked or jumped at the fence as I walked by – in contrast to an older white chow-mix in the same yard that was always quite aggressive. That one had even nipped at me one day when the owner was taking the trash out to the street and the gate was open.
I tried my usual tactic with the young husky: no eye contact, keep moving at a normal, unhurried pace, and stay calm. It came closer but with tail wagging and not a bark or growl that I could recognize over the sound of the book in my earpieces. “Keep walking,” I told myself, though I sensed her close behind me. I tried not to jump when I felt her nose sniffing my hand. The dog decided to walk along with me, past several yards and on down the gravel road until my turnaround at the midpoint of my route. She turned around too and we headed back towards her yard. Then I saw the her two companions heading in our direction: the husky and the chow. Fortunately “my dog” went out to greet them and they all started playing chase in the road ahead of me. That’s good, I thought. Distract your little friends and then all of you go and jump back into your yard so I can pass!
With the attention-span of a flea, however, they all decided to walk along with me. I kept glancing at the chow. She was the only one that occasionally barked at me. Should I pick up a stone just in case? Is there anyone in their yard at this hour to help me if she decides to bite? And if she does, will the others join in? Will I have a pack attacking me? All these thoughts were flitting through my head until I returned to my original plan: Keep walking and don’t let them feel your fear. Focus on the book…
The story of a naval battle in the Mediterranean actually took my mind off the possibility of being bitten by one, two or three dogs. I kept moving and soon I was passing the home where they belonged. I heaved a sigh of relief when the chow leaped back into the yard- but I kept watching sideways to see if she hopped back out to follow the two youngsters who were still accompanying me. She didn’t.
I thought about what helped me to “be not afraid” as I continued my walk in the direction of home. The signs of friendliness: a wagging tail…a kind of “smile” on the face…a general goofy swagger instead of a deliberate confrontation. The little mantras: Keep walking, don’t tense up, breathe! The recollection of how these techniques had worked for me in the past. The willingness to let the dogs come along and do their own thing – which was none of my business.