Can we talk about dogs please

Actually, can we talk about dog owners please. I am scared of dogs. Let’s just get that out there. No particular reason as far as I know. I like dogs. If we had more time at home we’d have a dog and I am generally fine with dogs I know. However, dogs I don’t know freak me out a bit (a lot). I didn’t grow up with dogs. Horses and cats I can read, sheep I learned to understand but dogs I find harder to gauge. I have a really simple plea to dog owners: Please accept that some people are scared of your dog. It doesn’t matter how friendly it is, accept that some people cannot read your dog, cannot tell whether it is friendly or playful or aggressive and attacking. Please accept that it is your responsibility to have your dog under control, completely under control. Please realise that it is not my responsibility to hurdle your dog on a footpath, for me to stop mid run so your dog doesn’t get over excited or for me to work out how I can get round you and your dog without getting tangled up in the lead. It’s yours.

Today was going to be a good run. We were doing a 45 minute run with a magic mile. Neither of us felt great but I was just nicely settling into a rhythm of the faster mile and thinking that I felt pretty strong and could push a little more maybe as we passed a woman with 2 larger and 2 smaller dogs. One of the small ones was on a lead, the others were ‘free range’. The woman was busy looking at her phone and texting or whatever. She and her dogs were taking up the entire path which was, at this point, wide. We moved to the other side of the path but two of the dogs in particular were quite excited about us running. I was getting anxious but tried to keep going and ignore them. I tripped over the little one. Kept going. Kath pretty much ran into the bigger one as it veered right in front of her and then turned to look at me. The little one got under my feet again and when the bigger one came towards me I freaked. I stopped and said ‘Sorry I can’t run with the dogs around me like this’. Kath asked the woman to get her dogs under control. She simply replied ‘If you’d just kept going it wouldn’t be an issue’. Kath pointed out that we couldn’t keep going because her dogs were tripping us up. All the while the little thing was jumping up at my leg. She got her dogs over to her and snapped ‘Well are you going to go then’. We set off again but my systems were on high alert and I couldn’t run sensibly. I went too fast and then had to walk and couldn’t breathe and was all tense…

We abandoned the magic mile. I was grumpy and upset as we walked for a while but then thought, well, I’m out, I’m running, this doesn’t have to be a disaster. Kath also kept encouraging me and in the end I decided to try and run some more of the hills on the course. When we turned off over the canal to head up to the former golf course I didn’t stop just after the bridge but kept going up a bit. After a bit of a walk I tried another bit of hill, then another little walk and then more hill. I began to feel more positive about the run. We stopped to feed Dino and then plodded home. I was determined to run up Ilkley Road again and made it – with a new personal best on that stretch.

So all is fine really but I am still cross with that woman and her dogs. Particularly because I then saw in a Facebook Group that someone  was bitten by a dog while out running yesterday and someone else in that group hasn’t run since May following a dog incident. What is striking is that every dog incident I read about shares one thing – the owners are totally unconcerned. Usually the runners is blamed or dismissed as dramatic and always always always there are excuses like ‘Well he doesn’t bite’ or ‘She’s friendly’ or ‘She just wants to play’. It also occurred to me that there is one road/track that could really usefully extend some of my routes that I don’t run because I know there are dogs on that route that get out and are not under control.

So, dog owners. I am more than happy for you to be out with your dogs. I am also happy to stop and walk past you if you have a nervous, young or excitable dog – but you do need to communicate that to me and you need to have the dog under control and with you for that to work. I don’t give two hoots whether your dog is friendly or not, I don’t want it anywhere near me when I’m running. I don’t want to hurdle your small dog or be pushed off the path by your big one. I don’t want to have to untangle myself from your lead because your darling pooch has run circles round me. I don’t want to have to buy a new pair of pants because your dog has clawed a hole into my current ones and I don’t want to have to use gallons of stain remover to get the paw marks out of my gear.  I just want to use the footpath to run my run and leave you and your dog(s) to your day. Trust me, my heart rate is high enough when I am running, I don’t need you or your dog to send my system into flight mode.

To that woman on the canal bank today: Thanks for nearly ruining my run. A year or so ago you would have done. Today though, I am proud – not only did I run the hills, I’m also mentally so much stronger than I was!

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